September 20, 2023 - 4:10pm

An Arts Council England (ACE) employee who won an employment tribunal over her gender-critical views in June has this week settled her case. Denise Fahmy made the announcement on her CrowdJustice page, which raised a little under £50,000 before the judgement. Saying that “any people working in the arts are deeply affected by the intolerance within the sector,” the feminist expressed “hope” that “my case has helped shine a light on that.” No settlement amounts were specified. 

The June tribunal unanimously ruled in Fahmy’s favour, concluding that her claim of “harassment related to the protected characteristic of religion or belief is well-founded and succeeds”. At an internal online meeting in April 2022, colleagues alleged without substantiation that staff at advocacy group LGB Alliance were “openly discriminatory” and “transphobic”. When Fahmy defended the group’s work, she was targeted with similar language, called a “parasite” who, in her words “needed to be stamped out”. 

Supporters of the group and the gender-critical movement more broadly were also labelled “neo-Nazis, homophobes and Islamaphobes”. In May of the same year, a petition was circulated among ACE employees on the staff intranet, attacking those who believe that gender is predicated on biological reality. Part of it read, “this cancer needs to be removed from our organisation. Hatred of others for their differences should not be tolerated.” Fahmy claimed that she was held up as a “threat” who needed to be “re-educated” over her views.

She eventually felt compelled to resign before the final employment hearing took place. ACE’s status as a publicly-funded body meant that the defence for the case was paid for by the taxpayer. In 2022, the organisation distributed a little under £900 million in public money.

Fahmy follows in the footsteps of Maya Forstater, who last year won her case against her former employer, the Center for Global Development, after a three-year court fight. Forstater’s gender-critical views were ruled to be a protected belief under the law, and this year she was awarded over £100,000 in compensation for loss of earnings, injured feelings and assorted damages.

In her statement this week, Fahmy claimed that, “thanks to Maya Forstater, people that believe sex is binary and immutable and cannot change should no longer be harassed at work for saying so”. Concluding, she said that “I will continue to fight for freedom of expression in the arts”.

Responding, an Arts Council England spokesperson said:

We respect the findings of the judgment and are sorry that despite the actions we took at the time, a member of our team experienced harassment at work. We are committed to making sure that similar instances do not happen again, and that we are an organisation where every staff member, no matter who they are, or what beliefs they hold, is treated with dignity and respect.
- Arts Council England

Speaking to UnHerd this afternoon, Fahmy disclosed that she will now be setting up a new organisation, Freedom in the Arts, alongside the dancer and choreographer Rosie Kay. “We’re looking to stand up for artists who meet with intolerance,” she said, “so that more women in the industry feel comfortable with coming forward.”

is UnHerd’s Assistant Editor, Newsroom.