Rishi Sunak throws pathetic ‘I know what a woman is’ dig at Keir Starmer in House of Commons

Rishi Sunak outside Downing Street

Rishi Sunak launched Prime Minister’s Questions with a transphobic dogwhistle, attacking Keir Starmer and the Labour party’s record on women’s rights by claiming to know “what a woman is”.

PMQs kicked off on Wednesday afternoon (26 April) with East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton asking Sunak if the Labour party is in a position to lecture the government about women’s rights. 

“Yesterday, the Opposition grabbed a crude headline about teaching boys to have respect for women,” the Conservative MP said.

“An important issue, as I am sure the Prime Minister will agree — but given that the Leader of the Opposition apparently does not know what a woman is, that he will not stand up to defend women in his own party who voice views on women’s rights and that, according to his own Front Bench, he failed to prosecute rapists when he was Director of Public Prosecutions.

“Does my right hon. Friend think the Labour party is in any position to teach anyone about respect for women?” 

He added: “Is irony dead?”

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In response, the Tory prime minister said Starmer’s record on women’s issues is “questionable at best”. 

He continued: “And before Labour start preaching about this issue, they should work out the answer to one very simple question: I’m certain what a woman is, is he?” 

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Both Sunak and Starmer have been questioned by the media on the definition of womanhood in recent months, with trans rights shaping up to be a key battleground for the next general election. 

Conservative MP Lee Anderson stated in February that the Tories will have to fight the election on a “mix of culture wars and trans debate” in order to win, as they no longer have Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn to rally voters. 

At the beginning of April, Starmer came under fire for “throwing trans people under the bus”, after an interview in The Sunday Times where he said: “For 99.9 per cent of women, it is completely biological … and of course they haven’t got a penis.”

Following this, Rishi Sunak was questioned in an interview with ConservativeHome about Starmer’s definition. 

The PM sought to distinguish himself from the Labour leader, saying in his view “100 per cent” of women do not have a penis. 

“As a general kind of operating principle, for me biological sex is vitally fundamentally important,” he said.

“We can’t forget that and that’s why we need to make sure – particularly when it comes to women’s health, women’s sports or indeed spaces – that we’re protecting those rights and places.” 

The government could change the definition of ‘sex’

Increasing debate around the definition of ‘woman’ comes as the government is potentially considering changing the definition of sex under the Equality Act. 

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Also in April, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) issued advice to the government stating that changing ‘sex’ to mean ‘biological sex’ would offer “greater legal clarity”

The advice was issued after women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch sought the watchdog’s support in “clarifying” sex for the “effective operation of the Equality Act 2010”. 

The advice was controversial, with trans activists concerned such a change would alter the legal protections they have in their day-to-day lives. 

Internal conflicts have also been revealed under recently released minutes from the EHRC’s Scotland committee. 

The minutes show members did not wish to see the definition changed, as they believe it could “diminish” trans rights and damage the EHRC’s reputation as a human rights organisation.

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