Letter to Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee

The Delegated Powers Memorandum for the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill contains a clause that states: “Regulations under this section may modify section 14 (meaning of the characteristics) by adding interpretative provision relating to the characteristic of sex. They may also make incidental, supplementary, consequential, transitional, transitory or saving provision, and make different provision for different purposes.”

This means that if the characteristic of “sex” is added to the Hate Crime legislation at a later date then it can be redefined by a Committee, without public consultation or Parliamentary scrutiny, and may differ from the definition given in the Equality Act:

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Letter to Richard Leonard

We sent the following email to Richard Leonard, leader of the Scottish Labour Party, on 13th August, calling for him to support Jenny Marra MSP.

Dear Mr Leonard,

We are writing to register our disgust at the bullying tactics of Labour affiliated group LGBT Labour Scotland targeted at Jenny Marra MSP.

For Women Scotland is a feminist grassroots group which campaigns to protect the rights of women and children, and in particular, women’s sex-based rights as currently enshrined in UK law. We formed initially to oppose the Scottish Government’s proposals to enable individuals to change their legal sex based on a statutory declaration (often referred to as ‘gender self-identification’ or self-ID). The Government has undertaken two consultations on these reforms in 2017 and 2019, but has paused its plans for the time being due to the pandemic.

We were delighted that UK Labour’s 2019 manifesto contained a commitment to “ensure that the single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision”, as well as a commitment to end mixed sex wards. And we were incredibly grateful that Jenny Marra, Elaine Smith and Johann Lamont sponsored a series of events in the Scottish Parliament at the start of this year to enable debate about reform of the Gender Recognition Act and how those reforms might interact with women’s sex-based rights under the Equality Act.

Many public authorities have moved ahead of the proposed law change and introduced self-ID policies. For instance, the Scottish Prison Service’s transgender prisoner policy states that if a male prisoner identifies as a woman, there is a presumption that he would be accommodated in the female prison estate. Many NHS boards have also adopted policies based on self-ID principles.

It appears that NHS Lanarkshire have recently published a policy on supporting trans staff. We are concerned that in drawing up this policy, NHS Lanarkshire have not taken into account the impact on women. We are also concerned that it uses terminology such as ‘assigned at birth’. Women are oppressed on the basis of their sex, which is immutable and observed (not assigned) at birth. It was this point that Jenny Marra highlighted in her tweet:

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Letter to Health and Sport Committee

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.

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Letter to Minister for Equalities

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.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Trina Budge
Forwomen.Scot

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Engender

Engender, who describe themselves as Scotland’s feminist organisation, have published an open letter following criticism of themselves and other officially funded women’s groups by MSP Joan McAlpine.

Engender’s opening gambit is to announce that they “neither ‘represent women and girls’, nor make any claim to.” This is quite an admission from a supposedly feminist group and rather begs the question what purpose Engender serves. They state that their “expertise comes from feminist scholarship, evidence drawn from delivery of services and programmes, and work with women and a wide range of women’s groups.” It would appear that Engender’s rather rarified expertise is from a rather narrow version of third wave feminist scholarship, while their “wide range” of women’s groups excludes all those who disagree on points of policy. We should note here that Forwomen.Scot members include those with decades of front line feminist activism – including at Greenham and Faslane and those who campaigned for gay rights when the stigma of AIDS overshadowed the community –  as well as lawyers, academics, medics and those involved at the coal face of women’s services.

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Sex Matters

Ahead of the census debate we are concerned that the definitions of male and female in Scots Law and practice need to be robust and that appropriate protections can also be put in place for the trans community through proper data gathering. But conflating sex and gender serves no-one and hurts many.

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