The latest in our submissions to the Scottish Government on Gender Recognition reform.
This is WPUK’s submission to Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee on the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, May 2022.
Woman’s Place UK’s concerns about the introduction of a self-declaration model of legal sex change are well-documented.
WPUK submitted evidence to the Scottish Government’s 2017 consultation on gender recognition reform and the 2019 consultation on the draft Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.
We also submitted evidence to the UK Government’s 2018 consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), and the UK Parliament Women and Equalities Select Committee’s 2020 inquiry into GRA reform.
We encourage members of the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee to review our various submissions, the content of which remains relevant to the legislation they are charged with scrutinising.
Woman’s Place UK
Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) was established in September 2017 to enable women’s voices to be heard in debates about their rights and specifically to uphold women’s existing, hard-won rights to live their lives free from disadvantage and discrimination on the basis of sex. These rights have been imperilled by the introduction of laws and policies based on gender self-identification principles and by the misrepresentation of existing anti-discrimination legislation by groups who seek to deny the salience of sex as the axis of women’s oppression.
Our views have not changed. We remain opposed to a self-declaration model of legal sex change. We remain opposed to a reduction in the age that an individual can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). We are skeptical about any requirement to ‘live in the acquired gender’, as we believe it actively inscribes sexism and sexist stereotypes into law.
The Scottish Government and Gender Recognition Reform
The Scottish Government has repeatedly been presented with serious, well-founded concerns about the potential impact of introducing a self-declaration model of legal sex change on women’s sex-based rights, first in its 2017 consultation and more recently in its 2019 consultation.
In spite of that, its proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004 – in the form of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill – have barely changed in almost five years. The Government has made no serious attempt to engage with the concerns raised about:
- the complex and contested interaction between the GRA and the Equality Act 2010
- the likelihood of existing policies based on gender self-identification principles being ‘cemented in’ once the same principles have been enshrined in legislation
- the impact on social norms and conventions and the likelihood that the gatekeeping of single sex spaces and services for women will be rendered unworkable if a message is sent that any male who declares himself to be a woman should be regarded as such
- the privacy protections in the GRA which are already having a chilling effect on employers, leading them to state that they cannot guarantee a female carer or healthcare provider to women who request one, for instance
- the fact that the Scottish Government Chief Statistician advised all Scottish public bodies, in September 2021, that they should no longer collect data on sex at birth as a matter of routine, meaning that it will be impossible to evidence harms to women that may come about following the introduction of a self-declaration model of legal sex
- the potential impact of a larger, more diverse population of GRC holders on women’s ability to take sex discrimination cases wherever their comparator has changed their sex in law from male to female
- the cross-border effects of GRA reform in Scotland which will open the GRC application process to an unknown and unknowable number of individuals from elsewhere in the UK, but also provide automatic recognition of legal sex change that has taken place in any other jurisdiction
The equality impact assessment (EqIA) undertaken by the Scottish Government in 2019 was of exceptionally poor quality. It now transpires that the EqIA that accompanies the draft legislation is almost identical, indicating that no or little further work has been done in the intervening two and a half years.
It is staggering that the Scottish Government should go to the trouble of eliciting the views of over 30,000 individuals across two consultations over a four and a half year period only to ignore evidence presented to them.
It now falls to members of the Scottish Parliament to address the multitude of shortcomings contain in this draft legislation, which will have long-lasting, damaging consequences for women throughout the UK.
We believe that it is important to share a range of viewpoints on women’s rights and advancement from different perspectives. WPUK does not necessarily agree or endorse all the views that we share.