Hate Crime Bill – email MSPs

The Hate Crime Bill reaches the final stage in its passage through Parliament next Wednesday 10th March, when MSPs consider the final amendments and vote on whether the Bill passes into legislation.

Time is very short so we are asking for people to email their MSPs today to highlight outstanding concerns with the Bill and to press them to support amendments that will protect women and all our rights to free speech. We are calling for ‘sex’ to be added to Part 1 of the Bill and, since the freedom of expression protections remain weak, we are also calling for Part 2 to be scrapped.

Everyone has one constituency MSP and seven regional MSPs – they will all be voting next Wednesday so please contact all eight of them. To find out who they are and their email addresses just enter your postcode here. Remember to put your address at the bottom of your email so MSPs know you are in their constituency/region.

Please ask your MSPs to SUPPORT the following amendments on Wednesday:

Continue reading

Hate Crime Bill – submission on FoE amendments

The Justice Committee issued an emergency Call for Views on the options proposed for Freedom of Expression amendments to the Hate Crime Bill. Our submission is as follows, and can also be downloaded as a pdf:

We are troubled that it has taken so long for these crucial amendments to be considered in this Bill. Cynically we are frightened that the Government is running the clock down and is looking for a botched compromise rather than a proper examination of the issues at stake.

As far as the proposals are concerned; Option One is the least worst. However, it does not cover all our concerns. At this stage we would draw the Committee’s attention to a similar hate crime bill in Spain where the hanging of an effigy of the Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo, who has defended women’s rights, is not a hate crime.[1] However, a renowned feminist campaigner, Lidia Falcon (85 years old and who was tortured by Franco) can be prosecuted under their hate crime law for campaigning for the rights of women as a sex class.[2]

If this is what the Scottish Government want for women in Scotland, they need to state this on the face of the Bill. If not, they must incorporate definitions and protections.

Continue reading

Draft guidance on collecting sex and gender data – feedback

The Scottish Government’s Sex and Gender in Data Working Group asked for feedback on their Draft Guidance. Our submission is as follows, and can also be downloaded as a pdf:

Sex:
It is disappointing that the Draft Guidance does not give clear definitions for the terms sex, gender and gender identity, preferring instead to rely upon definitions provided by a range of other organisations, and without specifying an agreed definition to be used consistently by all organisations using the guidance.

The references cited from the World Health Organisation, the Royal Statistical Society, and the USA Federal Interagency Working Group on Improving Measurement of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Federal Surveys all state that sex refers to biological characteristics yet the Draft incorrectly introduces a statement that this objective and biological classification can instead be an emotional feeling. 

Continue reading

Labour Leadership Contest

Our members and supporters in the Labour Party will know that voting in the Scottish Labour leadership elections opened on 9th February 2021, and will close on 26th February 2021. It has emerged that both contenders, Monica Lennon and Anas Sarwar, have joined LGBT+ Labour Scotland’s Rainbow Network. Network members commit (among other things) to “Supporting the Scottish Labour Party’s LGBT+ manifesto pledges, including reform to the Gender Recognition Act”.

We agree that the leadership contenders should be held to the party’s manifesto pledges made little more than a year ago, for the December 2019 general election. We’re puzzled, though, that the signatories to the Rainbow Network appear to have forgotten that the Scottish Labour manifesto didn’t include Gender Recognition Act reform. What it actually said was:

The Scottish Government is consulting over changes to the Gender Recognition Act and Scottish Labour will listen carefully to the submissions and debate as the legislation progresses.

We fully support this manifesto pledge and hope that both leadership candidates will re-commit themselves to it. We know our supporters in Scottish Labour want a leader who listens carefully to consultation findings rather than pre-judging them, and participates constructively in debate.

We also trust that the leadership contenders will commit themselves to another 2019 manifesto pledge:

Ensure that the single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision.

Continue reading

Sex and the Hate Crime Bill

Taken from our Twitter thread.

We continue to be bemused by the determination of some in the Scottish Government and funded organisation to dismiss and undermine important work on sex in hate crime because it does not suit a predetermined political agenda.

In writing his report, Lord Bracadale consulted widely and concluded that an aggravator of gender (sex) should be added to the Hate Crime Bill.

While taking on board the objections raised by a tight knit group of Scottish organisations, he nevertheless felt that a stand alone offence would be superfluous and risk confusion. He was also concerned that momentum might be lost if there was further delay in meaningful action.

Continue reading

FWS Statement on Justice Committee meeting today

We were disturbed, but sadly unsurprised, that, once again, the Committee passed-up the chance to add sex to the Hate Crime Bill while failing to progress on free speech amendments which might have protected women speaking out against sexism and misogyny.

We agree with the Convener that the events and reactions of recent days have made the need for clarity around free-speech more, not less, acute. We would also say that they indicate the frightening pitch which some activists have reached, and their often barely concealed hatred of women.

To add insult to injury, the Cabinet Secretary remains determined to include “cross dressers” under this bill citing anecdote and supposition as “evidence”: “One of those examples is that a man who is not a transwoman who is dressed for say a drag performance…could be at high risk of transphobic hate crime. It is very likely that a perpetrator could later claim that they had no issue with a transwoman who is really transitioning and only had a problem with men dressing up as woman without transitioning.” (our emphasis).

We do not know how many men have been the victim of crime while on the way to a drag show. We do know there were only seven hate crime convictions under the transgender aggravator (it is unknown how many of these related to cross dressers) in 2018/19, so the evidence does not appear to support the scenario envisaged by Mr Yousaf.

However, we do know that thousands of women are routinely harassed and abused – many because of what they were wearing.

The Committee cited witnesses who were opposed to “gender neutral” legislation when considering the characteristic of sex. Ironic, then, that the bill as it stands is skewed to affording greater protection to men and none to women.


Justice Committee meeting re Hate Crime Bill: Video and Official Report.

Clip of Humza Yousaf defending the inclusion of cross dressers in the Hate Crime Bill is here.


FWS Statement on Nicola Sturgeon’s video

We should like to address the film released tonight by Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, at the height of a national health crisis.

As women’s rights campaigners we are all too aware that the burden of this crisis has fallen on women: in jobs lost and in additional duties shouldered. We know that the most vulnerable have been the most affected. We do not live in an echo chamber but in the often brutal real world.

We know that the most at-risk children are suffering from lack of adequate education, trapped in sometimes desperate family situations. We know that lockdown has accelerated domestic abuse. We know that the effects of this collapse will hang over us for a generation.

Women are the most likely to be caring for loved ones, to have lost a job and had their finances ravaged by the economic impact. Children are isolated from friends and missing vital schooling, and students are watching a future recede.

Yet, tonight, the First Minister chose to respond to none of that. Instead she sought to reassure an increasingly angry and emotional niche group in her party wedded to identity politics.

Scotland today is beset. This is not entirely the fault of the First Minister. However, she is answerable for serious failures and concerns in the party and in Government. The decision to make this film will be judged as illustrative of her priorities and principles and will not reflect well upon the First Minister, her party, or on Scotland.

To put this in context, the Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has repeatedly dismissed concerns that women who wish to debate proposed Gender Recognition Act reforms and the impact on women’s rights would be criminalised in hate crime law. Today, he proposed the most minor amendment to the Hate Crime and Public Order Bill to allow women the right to continue to debate the implications.

The furious reaction of certain activists confirmed all our fears that many were planning to use this new blasphemy law to persecute women for the crimes of discussing women’s health, rights, bodies and safe spaces. Our worst fears realised.

Some time ago, Women’s Spaces in Scotland asked the Scottish Government to provide guarantees that women would be able to continue to have this conversation. Despite soothing words from civil servants, nothing concrete was forthcoming.

In the run up to the last consultation, For Women Scotland, the largest women’s rights organisation in Scotland, repeatedly asked if we could meet the First Minister – who claims that she supports open conversation on this topic – to discuss the impact of self-ID. She would not meet us.

Ms Sturgeon has chosen to frame her remarks as a response to “transphobia”, but no transphobia that would be covered by her party’s own Bill has been evidenced by the First Minister. Of course we can understand a leader’s desire to placate younger, fiercer members of her party, but she has an equal responsibility to listen to her female members and to denounce the young party members who openly abuse women on social media.

Our offer to meet – under the current difficult circumstances over Zoom might be best – remains open.

Women want better.

George Watson’s College – Staff Transgender Training

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.

The transcript is as follows:

Continue reading

FWS Statement on the Vote for Lamont Amendment

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.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Dear MSPs…from survivors

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.

Continue reading