Gender Recognition Reform Bill: Letters to Scottish Leaders

Next Tuesday, the Parliamentary committee will spend another morning debating Stage 2 amendments to the Gender Recognition Reform Bill (Scotland).

Ahead of the debate, Woman’s Place UK has written to the leaders of the three opposition parties. They must listen to women’s concerns about the impacts of planned changes to the Gender Recognition Act in Scotland. We have written to the leaders of Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives asking them to support the amendment being tabled by Labour MSP, Foysol Choudhury. We believe this will safeguard against the most damaging impacts of the bill on the sex-based rights of women and girls under the Equality Act. We call on them to reject that tabled by MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy as providing no effective protection to the rights of women and girls.

We have also written to the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. The party is not represented on the Parliamentary committee, but we hope that should this issue be considered again at stage three, they will support changes needed to the bill to provide better protection for women and girls.

#ThisIsMyNo

The texts of the three letters are reproduced below.

Letter to Scottish Labour

Dear Mr Sarwar and Ms Baillie,

Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) was established in September 2017 by a group of women in the labour and trade union movement to allow women’s voices to be heard in the debate about reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Over the past five years, we have organised 31 public meetings throughout the UK, including Scotland, and a one day conference which was attended by over 1,000 women.

As you know, the UK Government abandoned plans to reform the GRA in September 2020. However, WPUK has continued to take an interest in the Scottish Government’s proposals in this area and we submitted evidence to both Scottish Government consultations and to the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee’s Stage 1 considerations of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.

Our primary area of concern has always been the potential impact of reform on women’s rights and protections as enshrined under the Equality Act 2010. When we met with the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice in January, prior to the Bill’s introduction, we asked her about the interaction between the GRA (even before it is reformed) and the EA2010. She was unable to offer us adequate assurances that women’s sex-based rights and protections would not be impacted by opening up GRCs up to a wider, more diverse group of people, once the requirement for a medical diagnosis was removed.

Listening to Scottish Labour’s equalities spokesperson, Pam Duncan-Glancy, in the Stage 1 debate on the Bill, we note that she said: “I believe that a GRC changes someone’s sex for all legal purposes, including the Equality Act.”

We presume, therefore, that this is an official view of Scottish Labour. That being the case, then it is clear that in many areas, women’s sex-based rights and protections are already being eroded and will be eroded further if the numbers of individuals with GRCs increases considerably. For instance, a woman’s ability to take a sex discrimination case may be extinguished if the comparator is someone born male who has a female GRC.

It would also then follow that someone born male who has a female GRC would be lawfully eligible for any positive action measure put in place to increase female representation.

With that in mind, we note that Ms Duncan-Glancy has tabled an amendment to the Bill which states: “For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Act modifies the Equality Act 2010.” We are struggling to understand how this is anything other than a statement in support of the status quo, in which case, it will remain the case that a GRC changes someone’s sex for all legal purposes (as Ms Duncan-Glancy said in the debate). Writing for Scottish Legal News earlier this month, English barrister Amanda Jones seemed to agree.

We note that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has since issued a briefing to all MSPs, suggesting that in order to address concerns about the impact of the Bill on the operation of the EA2010, there ought to be an amendment that explicitly states that the new Act does not change someone’s sex under sections 11 and 212 of the EA2010. The form of words deployed by the EHRC appear to most closely mirror the amendment tabled by another Labour MSP, Foysol Choudhury. We wanted to ask, therefore, whether Scottish Labour will support this amendment and not that of Ms Duncan-Glancy.

Scottish Labour’s 2021 manifesto carried many welcome commitments for women and women’s sex-based rights. Surely these are only deliverable if the Bill can be amended in a way that establishes absolute clarity that changing sex under the GRA does not change your sex for the purposes of the EA2010?

Letter to Scottish Conservative and Union Party

Dear Mr Ross and Ms Gallacher,

Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) was established in September 2017 by a group of women in the labour and trade union movement to allow women’s voices to be heard in the debate about reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Over the past five years, we have organised 31 public meetings throughout the UK, including Scotland, and a one day conference which was attended by over 1,000 women.

As you know, the UK Government abandoned plans to reform the GRA in September 2020. However, WPUK has continued to take an interest in the Scottish Government’s proposals in this area and we submitted evidence to both Scottish Government consultations and to the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee’s Stage 1 considerations of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.

Our primary area of concern has always been the potential impact of reform on women’s rights and protections as enshrined under the Equality Act 2010. When we met with the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice in January, prior to the Bill’s introduction, we asked her about the interaction between the GRA (even before it is reformed) and the EA2010. She was unable to offer us adequate assurances that women’s sex-based rights and protections would not be impacted by opening up GRCs up to a wider, more diverse group of people, once the requirement for a medical diagnosis was removed.

We note that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has issued a briefing to all MSPs, suggesting that in order to address concerns about the impact of the Bill on the operation of the EA2010, there ought to be an amendment that explicitly states that the new Act does not change someone’s sex under sections 11 and 212 of the EA2010.

We are aware of amendments tabled for next week’s Stage 2 considerations, which seek to achieve this aim, including one from your equalities spokesperson Rachael Hamilton. It would appear to us that the amendment whose wording most closely matches that suggested by the EHRC is one tabled by Labour MSP Foysol Choudhury and hope that the Conservative members of the EHRCJ Committee might consider voting for it.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like more information about our work.

Letter to Scottish Liberal Democrats

Dear Mr Cole-Hamilton

Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) was established in September 2017 by a group of women in the labour and trade union movement to allow women’s voices to be heard in the debate about reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Over the past five years, we have organised 31 public meetings throughout the UK, including Scotland, and a one day conference which was attended by over 1,000 women.

As you know, the UK Government abandoned plans to reform the GRA in September 2020. However, WPUK has continued to take an interest in the Scottish Government’s proposals in this area and we submitted evidence to both Scottish Government consultations and to the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee’s Stage 1 considerations of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.

Our primary area of concern has always been the potential impact of reform on women’s rights and protections as enshrined under the Equality Act 2010. When we met with the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice in January, prior to the Bill’s introduction, we asked her about the interaction between the GRA (even before it is reformed) and the EA2010. She was unable to offer us adequate assurances that women’s sex-based rights and protections would not be impacted by opening up GRCs up to a wider, more diverse group of people, once the requirement for a medical diagnosis was removed.

We note that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has issued a briefing to all MSPs, suggesting that in order to address concerns about the impact of the Bill on the operation of the EA2010, there ought to be an amendment that explicitly states that the new Act does not change someone’s sex under sections 11 and 212 of the EA2010. We hope that, should an amendment of this kind be tabled at Stage 3, Liberal Democrat MSPs will vote for it.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like more information about our work.

More reading

WPUK submission to Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee on the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill

Joint statement on Scottish Government plans to legislate for the self-declaration of sex

A fork in the road? Comparing plans for gender recognition reform across the UK

 

WEBINAR: A Woman’s Place is working

 

 

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.