News Release – Pre-Action Letter

Scottish Government Faces Court Action for Redefining “Woman” to Include Men

Re: Gender Representation on Public Boards Act 2018 

A letter has been sent to the government by lawyers acting on behalf of For Women Scotland expressing significant concerns that a law intended to address historical under-representation of women on public boards is fundamentally flawed and that the Scottish Government has exceeded its authority in redefining “woman”. This follows the publication of Statutory Guidance on 29 May 2020.

For Women Scotland is a national women’s rights group funded entirely by supporters. 

A legal opinion has been provided by Aidan O’Neill, QC. Outlining the possibility of a court challenge, For Women Scotland warns that it may decide to take the matter further by seeking a Judicial Review. 

The letter on their behalf from law firm Balfour + Manson states that:

  • The area of law for “equal opportunities” is regulated by the Equality Act 2010 and as such is reserved to Westminster.
  • The Scottish Government has acted outwith its competence by confusing the distinct protected characteristics of “sex” and “gender reassignment”. The Equality Act only allows for measures for those persons who share a protected characteristic, not for merging different protected characteristics.
  • The redefinition of “woman” includes persons who may self-identify as women, but who the Equality Act would characterise as male. It also excludes persons who would be characterised as female, ie. those women who self-identify as men.
  • The redefinition of “woman” goes against the very grain of the Equality Act 2010 and decades of anti-discrimination law.
  • The GRPBA is not compatible with EU law, which only makes provision for the possibility of workplace-related “positive action” in relation to inequality between the sexes.
  • Scottish Ministers failed to assess the impact of applying the new law on the need to advance equality between women and men, or consider the need to foster good relations.

Speaking for For Women Scotland, Marion Calder said: “It beggars belief that the Scottish Government has introduced new legislation that contravenes the very essence of what a ‘woman’ is in law. This is just the introduction of self-identification of sex by the back door.”

The GRPBA introduces a test to determine if a male candidate, who has the protected characteristic of “gender reassignment”, is “living as a woman”. This would not require the person to dress, look or behave in any particular way. However, it is expected that a female name is used on official documents such as utility bills, and the person describes themselves, and is described by others, as a woman. Crucially though, “the Act does not require an appointing person to ask a candidate to prove that they meet the definition of woman in the Act”.

For Women Scotland has objected vehemently to this wholesale redefinition of women: “We believe this Act raises significant concerns for the status of women in Scotland. As a tool for increasing the representation of women, it is rendered ineffective and may be used as precedent to undermine legal protections for women in a manner which runs counter to UK and EU equality law.”

15 thoughts on “News Release – Pre-Action Letter

  1. We women have the right, embedded in law to safe, natal woman spaces. The changes you seek to introduce break this law and show a fundamental lack of understanding of the issues women deal with on a daily basis. These changes will impact on our rights and put us at risk. Self identification will allow men access to vulnerable women and children. Women can only be defined as adult human females. Not trans, gender is not fluid. Any changes to our rights will be seen for what they are, pandering to men, business leaders and pharmaceutical organisations.

  2. Just fabulous. Delighted you have taken this action. I was beginning to think all was lost and women’s rights were going back to the 1920s. Thank you For Women Scotland.

  3. Good luck! You are so right to challenge this insulting and dangerous redefinition.

  4. Fantastic and thank you. I had said in commenting at the consultation of this Bill that it is also indicative of a government who have failed abysmally to address those fundamental barriers to women putting themselves forward for such positions.

  5. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! My 12y/o ‘woke’ daughter needs a good lesson on the struggles women endured to gain the protection under law we have currently. She also doesn’t understand that this new law would take away some of the protection given to transgender people who fought tirelessly to get this protection. Nor does she understand fully the dangers of this act – I do. So I am eternally grateful you are taking this action to protect girls and women everywhere! 💖

  6. Nobody should be made to feel a misfit in their own sex (and by their own sex and by society as a whole).

    To my mind, before any redefining of “woman” and “man” is done, we first need to redefine what it means to be a man or a woman by birth and ensure that society and the separate sexes are accepting of all types of natal men and all types of natal women. IMO, we’re nowhere near that point yet.

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  9. Haven’t been out and about on social media etc these last few days, so missed this, but I’m very pleased indeed to here that you’ve got this challenge underway! The absolute best of luck with it!

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  11. I am delighted that you are challenging the Scottish Gov’s absurd and legally dubious redefinition of “woman”. If or when it becomes necessary to go to court for a Judicial Review please count on me for a contribution. Thank you so much on behalf of women and girls everywhere.

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