September 2021

A joint statement by Scottish women’s organisations on women’s sex-based rights and the Scottish Government’s proposal to reform the Gender Recognition Act

Introduction

This statement has been issued by 14 Scottish grassroots feminist and women’s rights organisations in response to the Scottish Government’s announcement that it intends to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA)[1]. The First Minister offered an assurance that this new legislation will “not… remove any of the legal protections women currently have”. We welcome that commitment to women’s sex-based rights. However a central feature of the proposed Bill is the introduction of sex self-ID and we do not believe that this can be compatible with the retention of existing women’s rights and protections under the Equality Act 2010. We use the term sex self-id instead of gender self-id because the most significant aspect of obtaining a gender recognition certificate (GRC) is that it allows people to engage in the legal fiction that they have become a member of the opposite sex, despite the biological impossibility of such an action. This contributes to widespread confusion, which makes it increasingly difficult to name, define or identify women, or to protect our single-sex spaces. We therefore call on all MSPs to reject this Bill in its entirety.

We would like to take this opportunity to make clear what the Scottish Government would need to do to ensure this commitment to women[2] is kept.

We demand that women’s voices and experiences are heard and inform any legislative change.

To date the Scottish Government has predominantly engaged with a small selection of publicly funded trans-rights and women’s sector organisations, none of which consult with or claim to represent women’s views. Any legislative change must include meaningful engagement with a wide range of grassroots women’s rights organisations and take fully into account the needs of women.

Any changes to legislation must ensure that protections for women on the basis of our sex are strengthened, rather than weakened.

We oppose sex self-ID as it is detrimental to the overall interests and the sex-based rights of women. It would fundamentally transform our legal, political, social and cultural landscape with no objective assessment or analysis of the consequences for women and girls (or boys).

Removing any medical requirement from the process of obtaining a gender recognition certificate (GRC) would open up the process to abuse[3]. It would be at best naïve and at worst criminally negligent to deny that predatory men will take advantage of any opportunity to gain access to women and girls when they are at their most vulnerable.

Additionally, removing medical diagnosis would remove protections and essential support to individuals considering transition but for whom this may not be the right course of action to deal with the distress they are experiencing.

In recent years, the Scottish Government and many other public organisations, including Police Scotland, the Scottish Prison Service[4] and the NHS[5], have operated an informal process of sex self-identification, effectively turning single-sex spaces such as hospital wards, prisons, youth hostels and changing rooms, sports, awards and women-only shortlists into mixed-sex provision. These decisions were undertaken with little or no consideration for the effect on women, especially in prisons. The Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments in these cases are usually not fit for purpose.

Increasing amounts of official data, which ought to record the protected characteristic of sex, are now being collected on the basis of someone’s self-declared gender identity (for example, Police Scotland recording male rapists and sex offenders as ‘female’[6]). This seriously compromises the integrity of the data and makes it even more difficult to develop policies to overcome the disadvantage, oppression and discrimination faced by women.

This self-ID by stealth ignores and undermines the protections offered to women by the Equality Act, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, CEDAW and elsewhere.

We believe everyone should be able to live their lives in safety, free from discrimination or harassment. However, we oppose the introduction of any measures increasing the rights of males who identify as women or other genders to access women’s spaces, services and occupational roles on the basis of such professed identity as this is incompatible with the sex-based rights of women.

The Scottish Government must maintain single-sex spaces for the dignity, privacy, physical, emotional and psychological safety of women and girls.

There has long been a widespread recognition of the need for women-only spaces and facilities. Excluding the entire sex class of males from such provisions for women has, until recently, been entirely uncontroversial, despite the fact that not all males are predatory, violent or present a danger to women. It is a proportionate way to protect women and girls from the minority of males who do present a threat. Furthermore, the exclusion of all males as part of helping traumatised women is a proven feminist approach within the MVAWG (Male Violence Against Women and Girls) sector.

Some males who say they are not men now wish to be given an exemption from this general exclusion. Yet male patterns of offending behaviour do not vary according to gender identity[7] and trans-identified males also retain male physical and social advantages. We believe this is neither fair nor safe for women, and therefore there is no case for allowing them privileged access to women’s spaces and facilities.

The Scottish Government must therefore:

  • ensure single-sex spaces, facilities and other provisions are fully protected;
  • strengthen the rights of women to create and access them through clear guidance;
  • ensure in-depth and thorough Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments are carried out, especially in sectors and services where sex self-ID has been introduced by stealth ahead of legislation, so that public bodies in Scotland are not potentially in breach of their Public Sector Equality Duty.

The Scottish Government must guarantee that the human rights of women, including those to freedom of speech and assembly, are not adversely affected by legislative change.

We believe all people should be free to define themselves in whatever way they choose. But we reject the demeaning implication, outlined for example in the Gender Representation of Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018, that being a woman can be reduced to a series of pronouns, the name on a utility bill, a haircut or a dress.

Whatever label an individual chooses, the law must acknowledge that men cannot literally become women and women cannot literally become men. Women should not be compelled to act as though this is so, whether in our personal, professional, social or sexual lives.

Conclusion

We call on the Scottish Government to drop its plans to introduce sex self-ID and ask all MSPs to vote against such a Bill as it would have a hugely detrimental impact on women’s rights to safe single-sex spaces and freedom of speech.

[1] https://www.holyrood.com/news/view,gender-reform-bill-to-progress-after-review-of-consultation-is-2

[2] For the avoidance of doubt, in this document the word ‘women’ always refers to females unless the context makes clear otherwise.

[3] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/letting-criminals-self-identify-gender-putting-women-at-risk-8560wzkqt

[4] https://forwomen.scot/03/08/2021/the-status-of-women-in-scotland-prisons/

[5] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nhs-greater-glasgow-and-clyde-withdraws-trans-advice-for-female-only-wards-5xmgxndd6

[6] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/rape-suspects-can-choose-to-self-identify-as-female-vfl678tg6

[7] https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/18973/pdf/


Last Updated: 30 October 2021
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Signatories

Frontline Feminists ScotlandWomen Speak Scotland
Sole SistersWomen Matter
Keep Prisons Single SexLiberal Voice for Women
Yes Women’s PledgeLabour Women’s Declaration
Conservatives For WomenIndependence for Scotland Party (ISP)
Brodie’s TrustAudacious Women Festival
National Network of Scottish FeministsWomen’s Human Rights Campaign (Scotland)

Aberdeen (City and Shire) FeministsArgyll Feminists
Ayrshire FeministsBorders Feminists
Clackmannanshire FeministsDundee Feminists
Dumbarton and Helensburgh FeministsDumfries and Galloway Feminists
Edinburgh and Lothians FeministsFalkirk Feminists
Fife FeministsGlasgow Feminists
Highlands and Islands FeministsLanarkshire North Feminists
Lanarkshire South FeministsMoray Feminists
Perth FeministsRenfrewshire Feminists
Stirling Feminists
Not for Sale in Scotland

Supporters

GC Men Scotland

Individuals

Lisa RandallJillian Nicol
Victoria RichardsMiriam Berlow-Jackson
Marjory SmithFiona Martin
Nina GriffithRosemary Griffin
Fiona MacdonaldGordon Dangerfield
(Scottish Solicitor Advocate)
Angela JukesLiz Panton
Stefanie MosesEileen Gilpin
Pauline CurwenLiz Elkind
Donald DickieLinda Hamilton
Tracey HynanJoanna Young
Mary MacCallum SullivanEurig Scandrett
Margaret Lynn HamiltonMaureen Beaton
Claire GowerDeborah Dudley
Jeannie MackenzieCarrie Jarvis
Ian MillerMairi MacIver
Margaret ParisAnn Hall
Catherine GillespieAnne Trevorrow

In the MEdia

North Edinburgh News

Comments

“I fully support this statement and commend all the organisations for working closely to send this strong statement. I hope Scottish Government takes note.”

“I wholeheartedly support these women’s organisations in asking the Scottish Government to look again at the SelfID proposed under a review of the GRA. 51% of the electorate in Scotland are women – adult human females and I absolutely object to the definition of my sex category to behind redefined to include men who insist on being called women, even though there is no biological evidence to prove this . Dressing up as a woman will never make them women but they want access to women and girls spaces, Women/females absolutely object to this. If you were so certain that the women of Scotland will agree to this then why don’t you do a consultation with adult female women who live in Scotland, not organisations and individuals with vested interests. Women are not giving up on this and your party will be very foolish to pursue a policy that WILL put women at risk.”

“I will be proud to sign this declaration calling on our elected representatives to scrap the GRA review. I believe the introduction of ‘self-id’ is dangerous in many respects. I expressed this in my response to the consultation exercise on the GRA reform.
It does nothing to help people with gender dysphoria who need specialist mental health care and not immediate affirmation. Autogynephilia among men is a condition that needs to be more widely recognised and treated. The fact that the cult of trans ideology seeks to stymie any discussion should be enough of a red flag to our government to halt the Bill and take much more time to explore the potential consequences. There are plenty of cases in Canada and America to be examined. Cases of men self-identifying their way into women’s prisons and shelters where they go on to assault and rape female inmates.”

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