An Oxfam staff training document says “privileged white women” are supporting the root causes of sexual violence by wanting “bad men” imprisoned.
In the wake of sex scandals that have rocked the charity, Oxfam has produced guidance which states that: “Mainstream feminism centres on privileged white women and demands that ‘bad men’ be fired or imprisoned”.
Accompanied by a cartoon of a crying white woman, it adds that this “legitimises criminal punishment, harming black and other marginalised people”.
It advises staff to read a controversial book which concludes: “Mainstream feminism is supporting, not undoing, the root causes of sexual violence.”
Oxfam said that the training was voluntary, and the views are not presented as its own but designed to help staff understand the issues.
However, the charity was warned on Wednesday night that the document, compiled by its LGBT network and seen by The Telegraph, could breach equality laws as it suggests reporting rape is “contemptible”.
The four-week “learning journey” recommends that staff read Me Not You: The Trouble with Mainstream Feminism, a book by Alison Phipps, a professor of gender studies at the University of Sussex.
Summarising the book’s central premise, the Oxfam document says white feminists need to ask themselves whether they are causing harm when they fight sexual violence.
It then links to Prof Phipps’s Twitter account and a thread which summarises the main themes of the book, including: “White feminist tears deploy white woundedness, and the sympathy it generates, to hide the harms we perpetuate through white supremacy.”
Naomi Cunningham, a discrimination and employment law barrister, says the document may breach the Equality Act, which bans harassment in the workplace on the basis of sex.
“The message seems to be that a woman who reports a rape or sexual assault to the police and presses charges is a contemptible ‘white feminist’,” said Ms Cunningham. “I think any woman could make an arguable case that this has created or contributed to ‘an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment’, which is how the Equality Act defines harassment.”
Learning About Trans Rights and Inclusion was drawn up in 2020, whilst Oxfam was still reeling from sexual exploitation scandals in Haiti and Chad.
The charity suffered further blows in April this year, when a female aid worker quit alleging that there was a “toxic culture” and her sexual harassment complaint had been ignored, and it faced separate allegations of sexual misconduct in the Democratic Republic of Congo.