Stifled free expression in first-world countries is now a human rights matter for the United Nations.

A UN human rights office is concerned that citizens in the “Global North” (e.g. Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand) have a “shrinking space” for debate on issues of gender and gender identity.

“I am concerned by the shrinking space in several countries in the Global North for women and feminist organizations and their allies to gather and/or express themselves peacefully in demanding respect for their needs based on their sex and/or sexual orientation,” wrote Reem Alsalem, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls.

The issue of biological males identifying as women to compete in women’s sports and access female-only spaces like pool changing rooms and women’s prisons are contested topics in the Western world.

Alsalem states she is “disturbed” that trans activists smear women’s rights advocates as “Nazis” or “extremists,” which she sees as “a means of attack and intimidation with the purpose of deterring women from speaking and expressing their views.”

According to Alsalem, women who oppose the idea that transwomen are women experience “censorship, legal harassment, employment loss, loss of income, removal from social media platforms, speaking engagements, and the refusal to publish research conclusions and articles.”

She continued, “In some cases, women politicians are sanctioned by their political parties, including through the threat of dismissal or actual dismissal.”

Recently, in Sheffield, England, Green Party candidate Alison Teal was suspended for criticizing self-ID policies that allow men to identify as women to access female-only spaces.

Earlier this year, women’s rights campaigner Kelly Jay Keen-Minshull, also known as Posie Parker, had tomato juice thrown on her by an “anti-fascist” during her “Let Women Speak” tour stop in Auckland.

Closer to home, British author Joanna Williams was supposed to deliver a presentation this month titled “Sex, Gender, and the Limits of Free Speech on Campus” at the London, Ontario public library for an academic freedom group. However, the public library cancelled her speaking engagement due to potential violation of the library harassment policy and other unspecified risks.


  • Lindsay Shepherd

    Lindsay holds an M.A. in Cultural Analysis and Social Theory from Wilfrid Laurier University. She has been published in The Post Millennial, Maclean’s, National Post, Ottawa Citizen, and Quillette.