Letter to the Chair of the Misogyny Working Group

We sent the following email to Baroness Kennedy, the Chair of the Misogyny and Criminal Justice in Scotland Working Group on 18th March 2021:

Dear Baroness Kennedy,

We are writing to ask if you would call on the Justice Secretary to use the powers of Hate Crime and Public Order Bill (Scotland) to add sex as a category now, before Parliament goes into recess and at least until the work of your group is concluded. While the argument for inclusion was made in Parliament last week, it was narrowly defeated on a whipped vote. Recent events have made this more, not less, pressing.

As you will be aware, last night, members of the House of Lords backed amendments to ensure that a trial in recording Hate Crime aggravated by a “hostility based on sex” was rolled out across England and Wales, to be informed by the successful Nottingham pilot. We understand you will be examining this trial in detail. It is concerning that, while Lord Bracadale based his recommendation to include sex in the Scottish Bill on the back of the findings from these trials, this was dismissed by the Cabinet Secretary.

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey was also released this week: it shows a fall of 39% in overall crime in Scotland in the decade to March 2020 except for sexual offences against overwhelmingly female victims, which continue to rise. These figures do not account for lockdown, during which period we know crimes against women rose sharply.

When giving evidence to the Justice Committee many groups argued that adding sex would enable data to be collected and training undertaken. We believe that such data and findings would be valuable in informing the work of your group and potentially identifying those gaps in law which the Justice Secretary believes exist. In the event that your recommendation was to add sex, a vital year – and potentially longer – may be lost. We would add that while Mr Yousaf has pledged to abide by the findings and act swiftly, there is an election in May and he has no guarantee that he will be in a position to fulfill this obligation.

Adding sex now would reassure women worried about the potential loss of momentum. In light of all that has happened and information that continues to emerge, it may reassure women who feel, naturally, frightened and angry by the relegation of their safety by this administration, especially in light of the protection afforded to others. If women were visible in the current public information campaign on hate crimes it would both encourage women to report crimes and provide reassurance that such reports would be taken seriously, and send the vital message to perpetrators that such crimes will not be tolerated in Scotland.

We look forward to seeing the progress and the recommendations of the working group.

A copy of this letter has also been sent to Humza Yousaf, Cabinet Secretary for Justice.

Kind regards,

Marion Calder, Trina Budge and Susan Smith, Directors
on behalf of For Women Scotland


Update 24 May 2021: No response has been received.

Hate Crime Bill – Stage 3 Briefing

The following was sent to all MSPs on 7th March 2021. It can also be downloaded as a pdf here.

Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill
Briefing for Stage 3, 10th March 2021

For Women Scotland (FWS) is a grassroots women’s rights group concerned with protecting and strengthening existing rights for women under UK and Scots Law. We have twice given evidence to the Justice Committee on the potential impact of the Hate Crime Bill on women, following consultation with our extensive network across Scotland. We have prepared the following briefing on the amendments proposed at Stage 3.

We should first like to highlight our concerns with regard to the process of consultation, especially in consideration of women’s rights. As a consequence of Parliamentary Questions lodged by Elaine Smith MSP on 5th February (refs S5W-35023 and S5W-35024) which concern consultation with women, we have written to the Permanent Secretary, Leslie Evans, this week asking how the Scottish Government attempts to comply with the Scottish Government Consultation Good Practice Guidance[1], in particular section 2B:

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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.

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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 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 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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