Bristol SU backs down over demand for women’s groups to admit men

Biological males can be refused membership of all-women university societies under the Equality Act, Bristol Students’ Union (SU) has conceded.

Bristol SU disciplined feminist group Women Talk Back! (WTB!) after it barred men, including men who identified as women, from talks on rape and sexual abuse.

Following an internal investigation, WTB!’s president Raquel Rosario Sánchez was forced to step down by the SU, and the society ordered to take an “equality, diversity and inclusion” course.

Equality Act

According to The Daily Telegraph, the SU claimed that societies could not “restrict their membership to cisgender women” and must accept “all who self-define as women”, in keeping with its own byelaws.

affiliated clubs and societies may lawfully offer single sex services

But when a number of WTB! members took legal action, the Union backed down and amended its policy.

It stated: “In accordance with, and as defined in, the Equality Act 2010, affiliated clubs and societies may lawfully offer single sex services and be constituted as single sex associations”.

WTB! was invited to “re-apply for affiliation to the Union” and to set out in its constitution “the Equality Act 2010 definition of ‘women’ being ‘a female of any age’ instead of the byelaws definition”.


Responding to the U-turn, Rosario Sánchez said: “Through our experience, we’ve inspired the first recognition of single-sex societies as lawful in academia.

“Our story is about young women using their voice to make positive change that benefits all students, regardless of sex.”

Rosario Sánchez filed a bullying complaint against Bristol University in 2018, after transgender students targeted her for chairing an event to discuss proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act.

After a 16-month disciplinary process, the university dismissed her case and took no action against any student.

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