On 14 January 2022, WSS requested a meeting with Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, to discuss women’s and girl’s rights in Scotland due to the SNP’s proposed reform of the Gender Recognition Act.
On 24 January 2022, we were disappointed to receive a response explaining that due to the volume of meeting requests the Cabinet Secretary could not commit to meeting with everyone. Instead, we were offered a meeting with the Gender Recognition Unit.
We arranged a meeting with the GRU for 15 February 2022. We were given a 30-minute slot with Peter Hope-Jones, the Head of the GRU. This was a frustratingly short period of time in which to air our concerns and raise questions. Predictably, there was much that was left unanswered. However, we were encouraged to send in a follow-up letter as our questions might be addressed via this format.
You can read our letter to the Head of the GRU that describes the questions that were raised on the day of the meeting as well as a number of further questions that have yet to be answered by the Scottish Government on this issue.
According to an article by the Scottish Daily Express, a Scottish Government spokesperson has said: “No group that has requested a meeting about the Gender Recognition Bill has been refused. Further ministerial meetings with a range of organisations, including those who have recently been in touch with a request, will take place ahead of the bill being introduced to Parliament.”
We note that the SNP promised in their manifesto to work with all interest groups, including women, on proposed changes to the GRA. Ministers have since met with five government-funded LGBT groups but no grassroots women’s groups.
Nonetheless, we welcome the Scottish Government’s professed willingness to meet with a wider range of organisations. We have written to Shona Robison MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, to request a meeting to discuss women’s and girls’ rights in Scotland, in relation to the upcoming proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act.
Sex, gender identity, trans status – data collection and publication: guidance Chief Statistician (Scotland) – 22/09/2021 Roger Halliday, the chief statistician in Scotland, has chosen to ignore the findings of a public consultation. Analysis of the consultation noted that “disaggregating data between men and women can show where there is continuing discrimination which needs to be tackled.” But Halliday has drawn up guidance that fails to acknowledge the importance of collecting data on sex. He states that information about whether a respondent is male or female should only be recorded in “a small number of instances”, “on an individual basis for a very specific purpose” and “on a case-by-case basis”. The rationale he gives is that “asking individuals to disclose their sex may raise privacy issues.” Halliday notes that “in some cases this would have the potential to reveal a trans history that otherwise a person may wish to keep private”.
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
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). 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 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. 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 and the NHS, 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’). 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 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.
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.
“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.”
International Women’s Day Statement of Solidarity with Joanna Cherry (and other women abused for speaking out).
Men Supporting Women’s Rights was set up in 2019 to challenge the new expressions of misogyny that have emerged in recent years. We are men from a wide range of backgrounds, sexualities and political opinions drawn together by a shared concern at the very negative implications that extremist ‘gender identity’ ideology has for women and girls. This ideology has, under the guise of ‘progressiveness’ captured powerful institutions across society with alarming speed and with almost no public discussion. The lack of public discussion is a product of fear. Anyone who openly challenges the new orthodoxy is likely to be subjected to a campaign of lies, vilification and threats of violence. As men we see it as important that we stand up and be counted by standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the many courageous women who have defied the bullies and continued to speak the truth.
The most high-profile example in recent times has been the continual harassment, abuse and threats of sexual violence, including death threats, aimed at Joanna Cherry MP. These threats have come from numerous gender ideologues, shockingly some of them fellow members of the SNP. One recent threat from a party member has lead to a criminal investigation and an arrest. This campaign of misogynist bullying targeted at a Lesbian feminist politician has now been going on for years. It is calculated to send a clear message to all women: “Shut up and accept our dictatorial worldview or we will destroy you”.
One of the most appalling aspects of this has been the utter absence of any condemnation of these sickening threats from the leadership of the SNP. Ms. Cherry has received no support, solidarity or offers of protection from her party bosses. Indeed Nicola Sturgeon, who appears willing to stake her reputation on allowing any man to legally self-identify as a woman simply by making a declaration, has made her own thinly-veiled attack on Ms Cherry in a video in which she accused her own party of “transphobia”. And last month’s proposed amendments to the controversial Hate Crime Bill that might have afforded some protection to gender-critical women like Ms Cherry from prosecution for “stirring up hatred” were suddenly abandoned by the Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, after more threats from gender fanatics.
We conclude from all this that in effect the most powerful people in Scotland are, through their silence and through their actions, giving support to misogynist thugs who have no respect for women, no respect for free speech and no respect for laws against threatening, violent and abusive behaviour. Men Supporting Women’s Rights believe that this will go down in history as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the SNP and of Scottish political life.
To mark International Women’s Day the members of Men Supporting Women’s Rights want to make it clear that we are standing in solidarity with Joanna Cherry over this issue. We condemn the behaviour of many so called ‘trans-activists’ in abusing and threatening women. We condemn the cowardice and complicity of her party bosses in failing to stand up for truth and decency. We stand in solidarity with all the women who have suffered abuse for bravely speaking out against the new misogyny that is expressed through an ideology that redefines women’s very existence whilst attempting to deny them even a right of reply. We call on all men to do what they can to stand up for women’s right to maintain long established sex-based legal protections, and to offer their support to women in defining their own existence without being vilified and threatened.
Women Speak Scotland is publishing a ‘Manifesto for Women’s Rights in Scotland’ on International Women’s Day (8 March) ahead of the Holyrood election on 6 May. The Manifesto demands the protection and implementation of women’s human and legal rights. WSS will invite all parliamentary candidates to support it.
The Manifesto affirms women’s sex-based human rights, which are enshrined in international treaties and national legislation. It includes rights related to:
Safety and Privacy
Health and Bodily Autonomy
Freedom of Speech and Association
Fairness in Sport
Freedom from Male Violence and Exploitation
Young Women and Girls
WSS says the Scottish Government must make a commitment to uphold women’s rights, regardless of which party/parties form the next administration. WSS believes the Manifesto is necessary because recent years have seen the gradual erosion of women’s rights. A spokeswoman for the group said “Women have been fighting for our rights for over 100 years but now we are facing a serious backlash. We are seeing the advances we’ve made being watered down or removed one by one. Public bodies and organisations too often dismiss women’s concerns. Many organisations now routinely confuse ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ which has the effect of reducing or removing women’s rights.
“The Scottish Government appears to be mounting an attack on women’s rights. For example, it has recently redefined the term ‘women’ to include men in relation to the Gender Representation on Public Boards Act. The Act was intended to address the historical under-representation of women on these boards, but is seriously undermined by allowing males to take places designated for women.
“The Hate Crime Bill proposed by the Scottish Government is in its final stage and will be debated at Holyrood on Wednesday. WSS is very concerned that the Government is refusing to offer protection to female victims who are attacked because of their sex despite widespread support for this measure. As it stands, the Bill will criminalise women advocating for our sex-based rights, including the maintenance of existing legal rights. So the WSS Manifesto demand for the protection of the right to freedom of speech is essential.
“We seem to be on a slippery slope which risks making women invisible both to the law and in national statistics. For example, there is a suggestion that the next Census in Scotland will not record the population according to our sex, even though this is crucial for planning many services, or identifying inequalities such as the sex pay gap. WSS is determined to reverse this trend and make sure the voices of the majority of women in Scotland are heard.
“Scottish Parliamentary candidates should be aware that women’s votes count – we are nearly 52% of the electorate – and we intend to make sure that women’s rights and concerns are not ignored during this election, nor by the incoming government.
“We also hope the Manifesto will empower those women who aren’t yet confident being involved in politics or activism, to feel able to engage in conversation with candidates in their constituencies, by providing information about some of the most important issues facing us at present.”
Copies of the Manifesto can be downloaded from the WSS website from 8 March onwards.
The Law Commission is carrying out a consultation on reforming the Hate Crime legislation in England and Wales. There are two ways to respond to the consultation – one based on the summary of the consultation paper, and another based on the full consultation paper. The public are invited to respond to either one of them by Thursday, 24 December 2020.
We recommend that you respond to the full consultation if you can as there are some further questions related to transgender identity that are not covered by the summary version. Although most of the questions are quite technical, you do not have to answer every question in either version of the consultation. You can focus on the areas that concern you the most. The online consultation response page allows you to save your progress and return to the form later to continue filling it in.
Questions worth focusing on
This is based on the full consultation paper. Concentrate on the ones that are likely to be used to silence gender critical campaigners and women in general.
The concept of ‘serious emotional harm’ is subjective and open to misuse / abuse (as has already happened – Maya Forstater, Harry Miller, Kate Scottow, J. K. Rowling etc). Provide examples from gender critical contexts and in relation to free speech generally.
Lord Justice Sedley in Redmond-Bate v DPP, for example, stated: “Free speech includes not only the inoffensive but the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and the provocative… Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having.“
The Scottow v CPS case is also helpful. “The Prosecution argument failed entirely to acknowledge the well-established proposition that free speech encompasses the right to offend, and indeed to abuse another.“ From Maya Forstater’s blog post reviewing the year 2020 (which also lists other cases) – Finally in mid-December, Kate Scottow’s criminal conviction was quashed. The judges declared that the case should never have been prosecuted and the judges reasoning in finding Kate guilty was deficient. They said it would be a “serious interference” with the right of free speech if “those wishing to express their own views could be silenced by, or threatened with, proceedings for harassment based on subjective claims by individuals that felt offended or insulted”.
Question 17 – whether sex workers should be recognised as a hate crime category.
Question 20 – whether philosophical beliefs should be recognised as a hate crime category.
Question 25 – extending the characteristics protected by aggravated offences.
Questions 31 and 32 – proposals that aggravated versions of sexual offences should not be introduced and whether legal test in the context of aggravated offences should cover more than one protected characteristic.
Questions 47 to 52, 54, 55 – related to the offences of ‘stirring up hatred’.
Q: Why is the list of protected characteristics in Equality Act and Hate Crime legislation different? Equality Act deals with civil law while Hate Crime legislation deals with criminal law. It is Parliament that determines what the protected characteristics are, and it appears that different sets of characteristics formed the basis of the two types of legislation as they evolved over time (for example, gender reassignment in Equality Act and transgender status/identity in England & Wales Hate Crime legislation.)
CIVITAS – Policing Hate: Have we abandoned freedom and equality? This report can be used to help answer some of the questions in the consultations. Part 1 describes recent examples of the impact of hate crime legislation on people/groups such as Harry Miller, Safe Schools Alliance and Posie Parker. Part 2 is a detailed analysis of the Law Commission Consultation Paper with a focus on two points in particular: the notion of equality before the law and the challenge to free expression. See also section on Hate Crime Entrepreneurs.
Nordic Model Now! Response to the Law Commission’s hate crime consultation The NMN response focuses on specific areas of the Summary version of the consultation, but their answers can help guide either the full or summary versions of responses. One of the areas of concern is the proposal to extend the hate crime legislation to cover “sex workers” as a protected characteristic.
The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill is one of the most concerning pieces of legislation proposed by the Scottish Government. It has the potential to criminalise individual women and feminist groups that speak out against the erosion of women’s rights due to gender extremism.
The Free to Disagree campaign gives a brief explanation of why the Bill is problematic.
CIVITAS – Policing Hate: Have we abandoned freedom and equality? Joanna Williams – December 2020 Download Policing Hate PDF By exploring the history, current context and impact of hate crime legislation and drawing upon interviews with academics and campaigners, the report explores the current challenges to equality before the law and free expression. The author concludes that there should be no extension to existing hate speech legislation. The report finds that no special ‘characteristics’ should receive legal protection in a way that violates the principle of equality under the law. The author proposes that groups with a vested interest in presenting their members as victims of hate crime should not influence hate crime legislation. A future inquiry should be held to review all elements of the law that conflict with freedom of speech.
Analysis: What’s next for the hated Hate Crime Bill? Free to Disagree – 16/12/2020 * The government has pledged amendments to strengthen free speech protections in the bill, including on the crucial point of debate around women’s rights and transgender identity. Free speech clauses must be robust, or legitimate debate on various issues could be chilled. * The government has also promised to further-define the term ‘abusive’ in the stirring up hatred offences. * One issue raised in last night’s debate that could be a sticking point is the idea of a ‘dwelling defence’, protecting words spoken in the privacy of the home. This protection is written into parallel hate crime laws in England and Wales. The Justice Committee notes that the Hate Crime and Public Order Bill should primarily be concerned with behaviour in public. But the government seems to disagree with this. Achieving consensus on the issue will be a challenge.
Legislating for hatred against women: the view from the coalface MBM analysis – 04/12/2020 Giving evidence to the Justice Committee on 27 October, the Cabinet Secretary suggested that organisations “at the coalface” were supportive of the approach advocated by the bodies funded at national level to represent women’s interests. In total, therefore, the Scottish Government obtained the views of six groups providing VAW services locally, of which five supported including an aggravator which would cover hatred against women. We realise that the term “coalface organisations”, as used by the Minister, is open to interpretation. Of the other non-governmental organisations attending these meetings, City of Edinburgh Council and the Fife Centre for Equalities supported an aggravator rather than a standalone offence, SACRO did not appear to take a strong line on which should be pursued, while Glasgow City Council preferred a standalone offence. …we think it would be fairer to say that the balance of opinion among those “organisations that represent and work with women at the coalface at a local level” who engaged with the Scottish Government was overwhelmingly in favour of the Bill treating hatred against women on a par with hatred based on other characteristics, with or without further exploration of a standalone offence.
Definition of ‘transgender identity’ in draft hate crime bill What Do They Know FOI request to Scottish Government – 25/10/2020 (Need to analyse and summarise – all correspondence between Scottish Government officials and the following organisations about the definition of ‘transgender identity’ under the draft Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill, prior to the Bill’s introduction in the Scottish Parliament: Equality Network/Scottish Trans Alliance, LGBT Youth Scotland and Stonewall)
In 2016, Nottinghamshire Police introduced a Misogyny Hate Crime policy. An evaluation on the impact of the policy was conducted two years later in 2018, and it highlighted some interesting points.
The Police were able to send a clear public message that behaviour which denigrates, marginalises and disrespects women is never acceptable and would be challenged. It also helped reassure women that these types of behaviours would be treated seriously by the Police if reported. See press release for more details.
Women felt more confident in challenging men who targeted them, as they knew they had the backing of police policy.
Women from BME groups often experienced misogyny hate crime and racial hate crime simultaneously and felt doubly vulnerable to attack.
The Nottinghamshire report did indicate that the use of the term ‘misogyny’ was poorly understood amongst the general public and therefore an alternative name would be a better approach. This indicates that any Hate Crime legislation should implement an easily understood term that makes it clear it is based on the characteristic of sex (and not conflate it with words like ‘gender’). In addition to the legislation, there might be some merit in nationwide campaigns to raise awareness of such laws and enable the general public to understand that hate crime involves the prejudicial targeting of people on the basis of a protected characteristic such as sex, and that it involves an assertion of power over another that is experienced as hostile behaviour rather than a narrow focus on ‘hate’.
Harry Miller vs Humberside Police and the College of Policing – 14/02/2020 High Court Judgement Pages 13-15 describes how a person who does not know Mr Miller, and has never had any interaction with him, managed to take great offence at some of his tweets on the social media platform Twitter. Pages 15-17 details the process of how the ‘victim’ proceeded to complain to the police and which resulted in the creation of a non-crime hate incident without any scrutiny or assessment of the claims being made. A Hate Incident Record was generated against Mr Miller even though there was no crime or evidence of hate.
GCN – 20/11/2020 Community leaders have launched an open letter calling for solidarity for our trans siblings on this Trans Day of Remembrance. Letter signed by organisations such as National Women’s Council of Ireland and Amnesty International. “Let us say unequivocally that the statements of newly launched organisations that seek to defend biology or fight gender identity and expression do not represent the wider LGBTI+ community nor feminists in Ireland. More importantly, they are not organisations at all, they have no governance, no accountability, and are simply Twitter accounts. Further, they are not supported by the wider Irish community.” “We call on media, and politicians to no longer provide legitimate representation for those that share bigoted beliefs, that are aligned with far right ideologies and seek nothing but harm and division. These fringe internet accounts stand against affirmative medical care of transgender people, and they stand against the right to self-identification of transgender people in this country. In summation they stand against trans, women’s and gay rights by aligning themselves with far right tropes and stances. They have attacked LGBT+ education in school, attacked anti-bullying campaigns, and attack access to medical services.” “Sex and gender are both spectrums, and the full beauty of that spectrum must be supported and included.” (Letter indicates self-id has broad societal support and was obtained transparently. Can reference IGLYO and Denton’s document on how self-id was passed in Ireland without public debate and scrutiny.)
The Edinburgh Tab – 27/11/2020 More transphobic stickers have been found on Edinburgh Uni campus This is a good example of how someone (not even a trans person) can take offence at some stickers seen around the area and view them as ‘hate’. The woman mentioned in the article made the statement – “I also think hate speech is not free speech so I had every right to take them down.” There is also another important admission in the article from EUSA’s Trans and Non-Binary Liberation Officer – “Anyone who sees stickers like this should send photos to campus security, so they can be included in ongoing hate crime statistics that are reported to the police.” This shows that people are being encouraged to report to the police any stickers that they personally and subjectively deem to be ‘hateful’ or ‘offensive’ or ‘upsetting’. This will potentially inflate the hate crime statistics. What happens when Hate Crime legislation is brought in and such stickers are viewed as ‘stirring up hatred’?
BBC News – 11/12/2020 Terror trial told of ‘incels’ cyber-culture backing attacks on women This is a very clear (and ongoing) example of a hate crime on the basis of sex by inciting violence against women, and yet because ‘sex’ is not listed as a characteristic in the Hate Crime legislation, this fact will not be used as an aggravating factor during sentencing, nor will this crime be captured in hate crime statistics.