A member of the public recently attended the school’s transgender training webinar for teachers. As expected, much of the content is of concern, in that it unquestionably affirms gender identity ideology and breaches the Equality Act provision for single-sex facilities. The host from LGBT Youth Scotland also revealed that the long overdue replacement transgender guidance for schools will be published shortly and that, contrary to the Cabinet Secretary’s statement, it has not been written by the Scottish Government, but is an extension of LGBT Youth’s current guidance – which was previously deemed “not legal” by Ministers.
We were also rather surprised to see several pupils on the webinar video, given that it was a staff training session. This was particularly worrying given the lax security around signing up for the webinar.
FWS are delighted by Jeane Freeman’s decision to back Johann Lamont’s amendment to the Forensic Medical Services Bill. This Bill provides for improved services and much needed support and reassurance for survivors of sexual violence. It was overwhelmingly clear from the powerful testimony given at Stage 1 that one of the most crucial things for survivors was the ability to request a female examiner.
During this period, FWS noticed a detail which we felt required attention: while the documents accompanying the Bill, including the SPICe Briefing and the Policy Memorandum refer to the sex of the medical examiner, the Bill’s Explanatory Notes stated that a victim could request that the person carrying out the medical examination be of a specified gender. This originates from Section 9 of the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014:
We therefore submitted a letter to the Health and Sport Committee suggesting that clarity would better be achieved by substituting the word sex for gender and the Committee agreed with our recommendation.
At a time when the Scottish Government was considering definitions of sex and gender, we felt it was crucial that this Bill was not, retrospectively, held to mean anything other than allowing women the right to request a female examiner. We also believed that if sex, which is a protected characteristic, were specified it would put an obligation on employers to ensure they used the genuine occupational requirement to recruit female staff.
The subsequent campaign for this amendment has been inspired by the outstanding women who gave evidence and those who wrote yesterday to MSPs. We know how difficult this has been and how much it has cost them to relive their experiences. In legislation and services which deal with the impact of such violence, these women’s voices should always be heard. This campaign has never been about politics or linguistic quibbles – it has, first and last, been about them.
We are also so grateful to Johann Lamont who went into battle for these women and we are thankful to the Health Secretary and all the parliamentarians who decided that six words “for the word gender, substitute sex” could make a world of difference.
The following letter was sent to all MSPs on 09 December, regarding the Lamont amendment to the Forensic Medical Service Bill to ensure survivors of rape and sexual assault are afforded the right to choose the “sex”, and not “gender” of their medical examiner:
Dear Members of the Scottish Parliament,
We are a group of female survivors of male sexual violence and we are writing to you all to express our support for Johann Lamont’s amendment to the Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) Bill and to share our disappointment that Rape Crisis Scotland (RCS) has submitted a briefing opposing this amendment. In our view this briefing misrepresents the importance of the amendment and survivors’ understanding of the bill.
Sadly, today we have seen something of a push-back on Twitter to the amendment to the Forensic Medical Services Bill, including some unpleasant comments or misrepresentations of the motivation of the brave women who raised this as an issue in the first instance.
One of these dirty tactics has been to suggest this is an attempt to derail the whole bill. This is disgraceful fear mongering. The bill is, in the main, excellent & will make things a little easier at a terrible time. No one wishes this not to pass – they just want it perfect.
It has also been said that it doesn’t matter if sex or gender is used. In fact, sex is legally defined and gender is not (although orgs and Gov accept it is distinct from sex), so, if you want legal clarity and for the bill to be future-proofed, it really does matter.
The Bill aims to improve services for those who have experienced rape or sexual assault by allowing access to a forensic medical examination without the need to report to the police. It was clear from the evidence given to the Health and Sport Committee at Stage 1 that it was very important to victims to be able to access a female medical examiner.
A gender aggravator to crimes was first mooted in the Draft Criminal Code for Scotland some seventeen years ago. Later the same year Robin Harper MSP lodged an amendment to the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 to make provision for offences aggravated by disability, sexual orientation, age and gender. Mr Harper’s amendment was not accepted but did lead to the establishment of a Working Group to further consider what improvements could be made to hate crime legislation.
Members of this Working Group included representatives from Equality Network, Stonewall and Engender. 102 individuals and groups responded to the main consultation (although both Engender and Scottish Women’s Aid withheld their submissions from publication). A Hate Crime Report was published in October 2004 detailing 14 recommendations for the Government – protection for transgender identity was in, along with sexual orientation and disability, but women were out.
The minutes of the meetings of the Working Group seem to be lost to the archives but the final report does indicate that a number of women’s groups called for the characteristic of gender to be added, in opposition to the views of the Scottish Executive’s Violence Against Women Unit:
On Tuesday 24th November For Women Scotland will give evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee on the controversial Hate Crime and Public Order Bill.
In our written submission, we made clear our objection to Part 2 of the bill, which seeks to extend the offence of stirring up hatred, but also our objection to the non-inclusion of ‘sex’ as a protected characteristic.
There have already been three oral evidence sessions and we have been closely monitoring the discussions.
Across the three sessions, there have been a total of 32 witnesses, two thirds of whom were men. The Committee, of course, has limited control over the make-up of the panels, but we note that, once again, women have been outnumbered in discussions about an important aspect of law reform that will impact them.
Following the confusion about sex and gender after media reports on the Committee’s meeting to scrutinise the Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Bill, we wrote the following letter to the Committee on 26th June. It has now been published on the Committee’s page. A copy has also been sent to the Sex and Gender in Data Working Group.
At Engender’s AGM on Saturday, the CEO, Emma Ritch made an interesting comment: “I would like to be clear here that Engender is not funded for a huge amount of engagement and are not presenting our work as advocating on behalf of the members or as representative of women. The colleagues at the Scottish Women’s Convention are funded in this way and we are glad to hear from members but our work is quite technical. I would not want to give the impression that membership privileges certain perspectives above others.”
The national resource for relationships, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP) education for children and young people has changed quite considerably since it first came online at rshp.com, when the Scotsman reported on parents concerns about 5 year-olds being told they could decide whether to be a boy or a girl (see our earlier blog post).
This aspect, along with several others, has thankfully now been removed, and we welcome the improvements. However, there are still considerable concerns over the content.
Mr Ben (on Twitter @crit_gen) sent us the letter that she wrote to John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Education, outlining the main issues. We have reproduced it here with her permission to help other parents write their own letters – Mr Swinney can be emailed at DFMCSE@gov.scot