While we are cautiously pleased to see that the statement by Liz Truss has committed to single sex spaces, we would like more clarity on how the Government intends to strengthen and enforce the Equality Act, esp in the face of the continued determination by activists to undermine the law.
This is of especial concern to women in Scotland where the Scottish Government and their funded organisations have introduced law and policy which mean that the provisions for single sex services and spaces are almost impossible to invoke.
We believe that for equality law to have any meaning, it should not be possible for organisations, councils or devolved powers to opt in or out of it. Nor should the enforcement depend on the whim of activists. It must be consistent and defined.
It should not, for example, be possible for organisations to claim they are “single sex” but to allow anyone access on the basis of self ID. It should not be possible for legal and biological males to take jobs or opportunities reserved for women.
Women should not face disciplinary action or termination of employment for saying sex is real. Organisations should not decide their policy of self ID overrides law and refuse access to groups who wish to uphold Equality Act exceptions. All this is happening, and, in Scotland, getting worse.
We hope bothGovernments will address this and this will mark the end of “Stonewall law”: to this end we hope that proper, robust guidance on the Equality Act will be issued swiftly. We look forward to tomorrow’s Q&A in expectation that some of this will be covered.
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
We were very surprised to see the consultation paper that accompanies the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill state that a member of Forwomen.Scot had met with Scottish Government officials – so keen were they to mention this meeting that it was repeated on three separate occasions throughout the document (pages, 114, 117 and 152), even including a reference to our website.
Which would have been nice – except we have never met any Scottish Government Officials.
When Nicola Surgeon stated that feminist’s concerns were “misplaced” at a United Nations conference last February we thought it would be an ideal time to try and arrange a meeting to address our concerns and put forward evidence that self ID policies represent a substantial roll back of women’s rights. When that was unsuccessful, we turned our attention to arranging a meeting with Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Cabinet Secretary responsible for reform of the Gender Recognition Act. After all, she had very recently published an article stating “Government has a duty to understand and seek to address the concerns being raised. This is something I have sought to do since taking this post and to which I commit to continue to do”, so we were hopeful of a meeting.
Forwomen.scot was formed on the 20th of June 2018 and it’s rather fitting that, exactly one year later, Shirley-Anne Somerville’s statement in Parliament on the reform of the GRA gave recognition to many of the issues on which we campaign. (Video and official report)