The Status of Women In Scotland – Conclusions

UN Women invited submissions to the Commission on the Status of Women with information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women in any country in the world. Our full submission can be found here but we have also turned each section into the following stand alone blog pieces:

Gender Representation on Public Boards Act I All-Women Shortlists I Census and Data Collection on Sex I Hate Crime and Public Order Act I Prisons I Women’s Services and the Genuine Occupational Requirement I Conclusions


The evidence in this submission illustrates that in Scotland there exists a serious and immediate risk to the overall framework protecting women from discrimination based on sex as well as to the individual human rights and freedoms of women. In particular the human rights of women to safety, dignity, privacy, the freedom of speech, expression and belief, the protection of maternity, the right to education and sports, the right to political and public participation, are all at grave risk from changes wrought by the current legal developments in which the Scottish Government ignores the international obligations and commitments on sex-based discrimination. It does so by replacing or conflating the protected characteristic of sex with non-protected notions of gender and/or gender identity. These redefinitions and the impact on the human rights of women have not been scrutinised from the perspective of “gender impact assessment” ie. whether it impacts the rights and freedoms of women and girls, as required by European and international frameworks.

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The Status of Women In Scotland – Women’s Services and the Genuine Occupational Requirement

UN Women invited submissions to the Commission on the Status of Women with information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women in any country in the world. Our full submission can be found here but we have also turned each section into the following stand alone blog pieces:

Gender Representation on Public Boards Act I All-Women Shortlists I Census and Data Collection on Sex I Hate Crime and Public Order Act I Prisons I Women’s Services and the Genuine Occupational Requirement I Conclusions


  1. According to the European Union’s Directive 2004/113/EC,1 transposed in the  United Kingdom in December 2007, differences in treatment between women and men are permissible when they are justified by a legitimate aim. The directive states that “A legitimate aim may, for example, be the protection of victims of sex-related violence (in cases such as the establishment of single-sex shelters), reasons of privacy and decency (in cases such as the provision of accommodation by a person in a part of that person’s home), the promotion of gender equality or of the interests of men or women (for example single-sex voluntary bodies), the freedom of association (in cases of membership of single-sex private clubs), and the organisation of sporting activities (for example single-sex sports events).” In accordance with the Directive, the UK’s Equality Act permits the difference in treatment, and the exclusion of male sex, in the context of services and establishments  providing assistance to female victims of violence.
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The Status of Women In Scotland – Prisons

UN Women invited submissions to the Commission on the Status of Women with information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women in any country in the world. Our full submission can be found here but we have also turned each section into the following stand alone blog pieces:

Gender Representation on Public Boards Act I All-Women Shortlists I Census and Data Collection on Sex I Hate Crime and Public Order Act I Prisons I Women’s Services and the Genuine Occupational Requirement I Conclusions


  1. In 2014 the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) published its Gender Identity and Gender Reassignment Policy, in which the key policy principle is that: “The person in custody’s gender identity and corresponding name and pronouns must be respected. The accommodation provided must be the one that best suits the person in custody’s needs and should reflect the gender in which the person in custody is currently living…Restrictions to association with other people in custody should be avoided wherever possible.1
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The Status of Women In Scotland – Hate Crime and Public Order Act

UN Women invited submissions to the Commission on the Status of Women with information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women in any country in the world. Our full submission can be found here but we have also turned each section into the following stand alone blog pieces:

Gender Representation on Public Boards Act I All-Women Shortlists I Census and Data Collection on Sex I Hate Crime and Public Order Act I Prisons I Women’s Services and the Genuine Occupational Requirement I Conclusions


  1. In May 2018 Lord Bracadale published his report on Hate Crime in Scotland.1 One of the areas he had been asked to address was whether the category of sex should be added in order to address the rising tide of misogynistic abuse. Bracadale said that his investigations into such abuse had made him angry and “I worry that it puts the next generation of young women off politics. So, I feel a responsibility to challenge it, not so much on my own behalf, but on behalf of young women out there who are looking at what people say about me and thinking, I don’t want to ever be in that position.
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The Status of Women In Scotland – Census and Data Collection on Sex

UN Women invited submissions to the Commission on the Status of Women with information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women in any country in the world. Our full submission can be found here but we have also turned each section into the following stand alone blog pieces:

Gender Representation on Public Boards Act I All-Women Shortlists I Census and Data Collection on Sex I Hate Crime and Public Order Act I Prisons I Women’s Services and the Genuine Occupational Requirement I Conclusions


  1. In 2018 a draft bill on the proposed (later delayed) 2021 Scottish Census was introduced. Provision was made for additional questions on sexuality and gender identity which were universally supported. However, of concern to women’s organisations was the proposal to undermine the integrity of the sex question by allowing a third “non binary” category to be introduced and guidance which would have permitted the sex question to be answered based on self-identification of gender, meaning that, in effect, there would be two questions based on self-identified gender and none on sex.
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The Status of Women In Scotland – All-Women Shortlists

UN Women invited submissions to the Commission on the Status of Women with information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women in any country in the world. Our full submission can be found here but we have also turned each section into the following stand alone blog pieces:

Gender Representation on Public Boards Act I All-Women Shortlists I Census and Data Collection on Sex I Hate Crime and Public Order Act I Prisons I Women’s Services and the Genuine Occupational Requirement I Conclusions


  1. The political participation of women in Scotland has not yet achieved full equality, and, as such, still requires positive temporary measures to ensure women’s equal participation in the Scottish Parliament. In 2016 only 45 women were elected as Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), representing 35% of Scotland’s 129 MSPs. In the 2021 election the number of women MSPs rose to 58 (45%).
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The Status of Women In Scotland – Gender Representation on Public Boards Act

UN Women invited submissions to the Commission on the Status of Women with information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women in any country in the world. Our full submission can be found here but we have also turned each section into the following stand alone blog pieces:

Gender Representation on Public Boards Act I All-Women Shortlists I Census and Data Collection on Sex I Hate Crime and Public Order Act I Prisons I Women’s Services and the Genuine Occupational Requirement I Conclusions


  1. In 2018, the Scottish Parliament passed the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act1 (GRPBA), aimed at improving the representation of women on the boards of Scottish public bodies. The Act was introduced to redress historic under-representation of women on these boards by setting an objective for the non-executive member component in order to achieve 50% female representation. The Act places duties on public authorities, appointing persons, and Scottish Ministers in connection to their role in achieving the gender representation objective. The Statutory Guidance was published on 29 May 2020.2
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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.

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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. 

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Hate Crime Bill – Call for Views

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.

Our full submission 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.

Please email your views to justicecommittee@parliament.scot by the 24th July 2020.