The National Secular Society has some excellent guidance on how to submit a response on the Hate Crime Bill. They have concentrated on concerns regarding free speech with respect to religion or belief – but of course, the proposed law also seriously endangers our ability to speak up about women’s rights, oppose reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, and question the concept of gender identity.
The Hate Crime Bill and Public Order (Scotland) Bill can be found here, and information on how to submit your views to the Justice Committee is here.
We have called for the characteristic “sex” to be added to Part 1 (aggravated offences) of the Bill and outlined how Part 2 (stirring up hatred) would seriously compromise the work of our group and everyone’s freedom to speak about women’s rights. Amendments such as removing the term “abusive” or adding freedom of expression protections for transgender identity will not fully mitigate the risks, so we are calling for Part 2 to be removed from the Bill.
The following was posted as a long thread on our Twitter account 29 June 2020:
The past 24 hours have seen another fab thread from @jk_rowling which, inevitably, resulted in further abuse. However, senior politicians in Scotland have been more focused on promoting a post from Teddy Hope, a non-binary member of @theSNP.
The unverified account from Hope about a meeting which took place several months ago has been countered by members of @WomensPledge who were also present.
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.
Further to the publication of the results of the public consultation on the Implementation of Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018, we sent the following letter to Christina McKelvie, Minister for Older People and Equalities on 6th May:
Dear Ms McKelvie,
Re: Consultation on Implementation of the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018
Now that the analysis of responses to the above consultation has been published could you please provide an expected date for when the Government will be issuing a formal response to its outcome?
Given that this was the first time the public were consulted on the way in which the Act defined “woman” it is clear that there is substantial opposition to both this, and to the proposed guidance. We would appreciate clarification on whether the Government intends to proceed with enforcement of the Act and, if so, the reasons for doing so.
In addition, we would be interested in what legal advice has been given to the Government as to whether it is lawful to redefine the protected characteristics of the Equality Act in discrete legislation.
On 17th December 2019 the Scottish Government announced the launch of a three month public consultation about changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Powerful government funded transgender interest groups were lobbying hard for full deregulation of the legal transition process to allow for any man to change his birth certificate on demand to say he was born female. In the two months prior to the statement about the GRA in June 2019 Stonewall Scotland had meetings in Parliament with 22 different MSPs, including several with the Cabinet Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville. Women’s groups were denied similar access or any input into the framework of the consultation, with Ms Somerville turning down our requests to meet until the end of February, three weeks before the end of the consultation period.
Despite the obvious conflict with female sex-based rights, the public consultation was set to proceed amid a climate of fear which has prevented many women speaking openly about their concerns. Our group has received violent threats for leafleting and our meetings often heavily protested, resulting in the need for an expensive security presence. One meeting at the University of Edinburgh was aggressively protested, resulting in a speaker being attacked by a transactivist. A subsequent meeting was indefinitely postponed as the University could not guarantee the safety of participants. It is perhaps unsurprising then, that unlike other public consultations, the Government did not plan on holding any public awareness meetings throughout the country.
It was against this backdrop that Forwomen.Scot decided to launch our own public awareness campaign to ensure that women’s voices were heard and listened to during the public consultation.
We have submitted our response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act as follows. A pdf copy can be downloaded here.
Question 1 Do you have any comments on the proposal that applicants must live in their acquired gender for at least 3 months before applying for a GRC? Yes ✓ No ☐ If yes, please outline these comments.
There is no clear definition in the consultation paper as to what living in an acquired gender means and the draft Bill removes the current requirement to provide evidence that this criteria has been met. The Gender Recognition Act 2004 defines the “acquired gender” as the gender in which the person is living, which, without a definition of “gender”, is both circular and meaningless. If the law is to be reformed it is essential that this term is clarified, particularly if an applicant is expected to declare under oath, subject to a potential criminal offence, that they meet this requirement.
Thank you to each and everyone of you who turned out for a marvellously successful afternoon of demonstrating at the Scottish Parliament – all of you who didn’t let the wind, cold, short notice and the threat not only of protest but coronavirus stop them from showing up to protect Scottish women’s rights. #IWD20 #BinTheBill