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Will trans activists back down after this court verdict?

Transgender people have significant rights in the UK. We have our own protected characteristic — gender reassignment — but that covers us against less favourable treatment; it does not permit us to defame others and get away with it.

A major new ruling punishes online abuse and harassment of women.

Transgender activists who think they can libel and defame women with impunity were served notice earlier this week when a High Court judgment awarded damages of £45,000 to a women’s rights campaigner who is known publicly as Jean Hatchet.

For far too long, far too many people — mostly male — have hidden behind transgender-identification in order to bully, harass and intimidate women who stand up for their sex-based rights. The website terfisaslur.com documents the sickening and ongoing tirade of abuse against women, slurred as “TERFs.”

But this case was personal. On 10 October 2018 – almost three years ago – defendant Shanu Varma published two tweets:

  • “Now you know where @jeanhatchet’s fundraising has gone !
  • “I raised this with her as my boss donated £1000 to her charity but the charity apparently only received a much smaller amount so she blocked me”

At the time, Hatchet was fundraising for a domestic violence charity. Those tweets attacked her integrity. Like me, Hatchet is a teacher; our careers depend on our reputation.

Hatchet told UnHerd that, “for more than two years my reputation and my work for women has been dragged through the mud since Shanu Varma’s tweets.” She was in no doubt why she had been singled out:

“This happens to feminist women on a regular basis because of our views on single-sex space for women which are perfectly legitimate and worthy of respect. It is a legal reminder to those aggressive trans activists and others that women not only “won’t wheesht” but sometimes they will also make you pay for the lies you tell about us.”

Jean Hatchet

The bill is eye-watering. Including costs, Hatchet’s calculation reached £115,595.40. But the accusation was serious — theft — and public defamation. Transgender people have significant rights in the UK. We have our own protected characteristic — gender reassignment — but that covers us against less favourable treatment; it does not permit us to defame others and get away with it.

False accusations can be made in ignorance, but a rapid retraction and apology usually averts legal proceedings before they start. This case has been ongoing since 2018. If trans rights are human rights — and I think they are — then trans responsibilities are also human responsibilities. They include the obligation not to defame others, including women like Hatchet who “won’t wheesht” when their rights are under threat.


Debbie Hayton

* This article was first published by Unherd on 30 June 2021: Will trans activists back down after this court verdict?

By Debbie Hayton

Physics teacher and trade unionist.

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