OPEN LETTER ABOUT THE PROPOSED REFORM OF THE GENDER RECOGNITION ACT (2004)
I am your constituent and I would like to let you know of my concern about proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (2004). This change fails to consider the safety, privacy and dignity of girls and women. The proposed GRA changes were tabled without informed discussion. Vague language in the SNP manifesto promising reform according to ‘international best practice’ is not the same as allowing any male to change the sex on his birth certificate to female. We are concerned that men and women asking relevant and courteous questions about these changes have been subject to verbal abuse and groups representing grass roots voices are not being listened to.
PRESENT SITUATION AND PROPOSED CHANGES
- At present a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) can be awarded after a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, two years spent ‘living in the acquired gender’ with the intention of continuing until death, consideration by an expert panel and the payment of a fee. This then creates a “legal fiction” allowing the birth certificate to be changed.
- The proposed reforms to the Act remove the medical diagnosis, the two-year requirement and panel, replacing them with a statutory declaration in front of a notary public or justice of the peace. This widens the range of people able to change their birth sex and conceal that change.
- This proposal comes at a time when the definition of “trans” has expanded far beyond transsexual, to include, according to Stonewall, people who make limited or no physical changes, transvestites and those who only identify as women some of the time. This broad “trans umbrella” is growing.
- It is estimated that 80% those calling themselves transwomen retain male genitals.
HOW WILL THIS AFFECT WOMEN AND GIRLS?
Possession of a GRC to change legal sex will allow many more male bodied people to access single sex spaces and female only organisations. Women have sex-segregated services and spaces for good reasons. These provisions include:
- Primary and secondary school toilets
- Changing rooms,
- Sports facilities and competitions,
- Women’s prisons,
- Sleeping accommodation such as hostels
- Hospital and psychiatric wards,
- Domestic violence shelters and rape counselling,
- Intimate health care such as cervical smear tests,
- Single-sex care designed for women and girls with special needs, disabled women and elderly women,
- Activities for women from faith communities such as women only swim sessions
- Provisions to encourage female participation such as all women shortlists, scholarships and awards.
THE LAW IS ALREADY BEING IGNORED
The debate over GRA reform has exposed a creeping failure to protect women’s existing rights.
Women’s right to organise themselves, form female only groups, protect their privacy, dignity and safety, ensure fairness in sport, is being widely overlooked.
Statistics, including those relating to crime, or to improve equality such as in the “gender pay gap” are now gathered according a person’s own “gender identification” instead of birth sex.
Women’s organisations are told they must be “trans inclusive” to receive funding. Sports centres, prisons and schools are all told they must operate a sex self id policy even when this impacts on women and girls.
Misleading guidance issued by publicly funded trans lobby groups fails to outline the Equality Act 2010 provisions which safeguard women’s rights to single sex spaces and services. These changes have been introduced without any Equality Impact Assessment or Children’s Rights Impact Assessment taking place.
Before any changes can be made the Scottish Government must:
- LAUNCH A FRESH, SCOTTISH RESIDENT ONLY, CONSULTATION ON GRA REFORM, AFTER CONDUCTING A FULL EQUALITY IMPACT ASSESSMENT TO ENSURE THAT ANY CHANGES ENHANCE, RATHER THAN REDUCE, THE PROTECTIONS OF FEMALES.
- REVIEW HOW THE EQUALITY ACT’S SINGLE SEX EXEMPTIONS OPERATE IN SCOTLAND
- CONDUCT EQUALITY IMPACT ASSESSMENTS AND CHILDREN’S RIGHTS ASSESSMENTS ON ALL EXISTING TRANS INCLUSIVE POLICIES
- COMMIT TO THE GENUINE OCCUPATIONAL REQUIREMENT FOR JOBS WHICH INVOLVE THE INTIMATE CARE/SUPPORT OF WOMEN
- CONSULT ON HOW DATA GATHERING USING SELF IDENTIFIED SEX AFFECTS STATISTICS FOR CRIME, EMPLOYMENT, HEALTH AND OTHER AREAS RELATED TO SEX BASED DISCRIMINATION
- COMMIT TO USE THE PROTECTED CHARACTERISTIC OF SEX IN PUBLIC DOCUMENTS ACROSS ALL LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT INSTEAD OF THE LESS CLEARLY DEFINED TERM GENDER.