FWS Response to SNP Manifesto

As published in our Twitter thread:

Today @theSNP released their manifesto and, on the Gender Recognition Act, it was as bad as feared. Yes, there is obfuscation to mask intent, but intent is crystal clear. Especially if we judge the SNP by their record and all the things they have failed – and continued to fail – to address.

The manifesto commits to reforming the GRA while ensuring that it will not affect the rights or protections women enjoy under the Equality Act. But what, in reality, does that mean?

Currently, we are fighting the Scottish Government in the courts for their determination to redefine “woman” (EA2010 – female of any age) to include anyone and everyone who uses female pronouns who has a female name – whatever that might mean.

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FWS Statement on Justice Committee meeting today

We were disturbed, but sadly unsurprised, that, once again, the Committee passed-up the chance to add sex to the Hate Crime Bill while failing to progress on free speech amendments which might have protected women speaking out against sexism and misogyny.

We agree with the Convener that the events and reactions of recent days have made the need for clarity around free-speech more, not less, acute. We would also say that they indicate the frightening pitch which some activists have reached, and their often barely concealed hatred of women.

To add insult to injury, the Cabinet Secretary remains determined to include “cross dressers” under this bill citing anecdote and supposition as “evidence”: “One of those examples is that a man who is not a transwoman who is dressed for say a drag performance…could be at high risk of transphobic hate crime. It is very likely that a perpetrator could later claim that they had no issue with a transwoman who is really transitioning and only had a problem with men dressing up as woman without transitioning.” (our emphasis).

We do not know how many men have been the victim of crime while on the way to a drag show. We do know there were only seven hate crime convictions under the transgender aggravator (it is unknown how many of these related to cross dressers) in 2018/19, so the evidence does not appear to support the scenario envisaged by Mr Yousaf.

However, we do know that thousands of women are routinely harassed and abused – many because of what they were wearing.

The Committee cited witnesses who were opposed to “gender neutral” legislation when considering the characteristic of sex. Ironic, then, that the bill as it stands is skewed to affording greater protection to men and none to women.


Justice Committee meeting re Hate Crime Bill: Video and Official Report.

Clip of Humza Yousaf defending the inclusion of cross dressers in the Hate Crime Bill is here.


FWS Statement on Nicola Sturgeon’s video

We should like to address the film released tonight by Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, at the height of a national health crisis.

As women’s rights campaigners we are all too aware that the burden of this crisis has fallen on women: in jobs lost and in additional duties shouldered. We know that the most vulnerable have been the most affected. We do not live in an echo chamber but in the often brutal real world.

We know that the most at-risk children are suffering from lack of adequate education, trapped in sometimes desperate family situations. We know that lockdown has accelerated domestic abuse. We know that the effects of this collapse will hang over us for a generation.

Women are the most likely to be caring for loved ones, to have lost a job and had their finances ravaged by the economic impact. Children are isolated from friends and missing vital schooling, and students are watching a future recede.

Yet, tonight, the First Minister chose to respond to none of that. Instead she sought to reassure an increasingly angry and emotional niche group in her party wedded to identity politics.

Scotland today is beset. This is not entirely the fault of the First Minister. However, she is answerable for serious failures and concerns in the party and in Government. The decision to make this film will be judged as illustrative of her priorities and principles and will not reflect well upon the First Minister, her party, or on Scotland.

To put this in context, the Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has repeatedly dismissed concerns that women who wish to debate proposed Gender Recognition Act reforms and the impact on women’s rights would be criminalised in hate crime law. Today, he proposed the most minor amendment to the Hate Crime and Public Order Bill to allow women the right to continue to debate the implications.

The furious reaction of certain activists confirmed all our fears that many were planning to use this new blasphemy law to persecute women for the crimes of discussing women’s health, rights, bodies and safe spaces. Our worst fears realised.

Some time ago, Women’s Spaces in Scotland asked the Scottish Government to provide guarantees that women would be able to continue to have this conversation. Despite soothing words from civil servants, nothing concrete was forthcoming.

In the run up to the last consultation, For Women Scotland, the largest women’s rights organisation in Scotland, repeatedly asked if we could meet the First Minister – who claims that she supports open conversation on this topic – to discuss the impact of self-ID. She would not meet us.

Ms Sturgeon has chosen to frame her remarks as a response to “transphobia”, but no transphobia that would be covered by her party’s own Bill has been evidenced by the First Minister. Of course we can understand a leader’s desire to placate younger, fiercer members of her party, but she has an equal responsibility to listen to her female members and to denounce the young party members who openly abuse women on social media.

Our offer to meet – under the current difficult circumstances over Zoom might be best – remains open.

Women want better.

FWS Statement on the Vote for Lamont Amendment

FWS are delighted by Jeane Freeman’s decision to back Johann Lamont’s amendment to the Forensic Medical Services Bill. This Bill provides for improved services and much needed support and reassurance for survivors of sexual violence. It was overwhelmingly clear from the powerful testimony given at Stage 1 that one of the most crucial things for survivors was the ability to request a female examiner. 

During this period, FWS noticed a detail which we felt required attention: while the documents accompanying the Bill, including the SPICe Briefing and the Policy Memorandum refer to the sex of the medical examiner, the Bill’s Explanatory Notes stated that a victim could request that the person carrying out the medical examination be of a specified gender. This originates from Section 9 of the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014:

We therefore submitted a letter to the Health and Sport Committee suggesting that clarity would better be achieved by substituting the word sex for gender and the Committee agreed with our recommendation.

At a time when the Scottish Government was considering definitions of sex and gender, we felt it was crucial that this Bill was not, retrospectively, held to mean anything other than allowing women the right to request a female examiner. We also believed that if sex, which is a protected characteristic, were specified it would put an obligation on employers to ensure they used the genuine occupational requirement to recruit female staff.

The subsequent campaign for this amendment has been inspired by the outstanding women who gave evidence and those who wrote yesterday to MSPs. We know how difficult this has been and how much it has cost them to relive their experiences. In legislation and services which deal with the impact of such violence, these women’s voices should always be heard. This campaign has never been about politics or linguistic quibbles – it has, first and last, been about them.

We are also so grateful to Johann Lamont who went into battle for these women and we are thankful to the Health Secretary and all the parliamentarians who decided that six words “for the word gender, substitute sex” could make a world of difference.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

For Women Scotland Response to the UK Government GRA Announcement

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 both Governments 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.

News Release – Judicial Review

Scottish Government Faces Judicial Review for redefining “Woman” to Include Men

Re: Gender Representation on Public Boards Act 2018 

On 31st July 2020, a pre-action letter was sent to the Scottish Government by lawyers acting on behalf of For Women Scotland expressing significant concerns that a law intended to address historical under-representation of women on public boards is fundamentally flawed and that the Scottish Government has exceeded its authority in redefining “woman”.

The government responded on 19th August, saying they are “satisfied that the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 and subordinate legislation made and statutory guidance published under it are within legislative and devolved competence.”

Although disappointed the matter could not be resolved informally, For Women Scotland have instructed solicitors Balfour + Manson to lodge a petition to proceed with a judicial review. This has now been registered and accepted by the Court of Session

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News Release – Pre-Action Letter

Scottish Government Faces Court Action for Redefining “Woman” to Include Men

Re: Gender Representation on Public Boards Act 2018 

A letter has been sent to the government by lawyers acting on behalf of For Women Scotland expressing significant concerns that a law intended to address historical under-representation of women on public boards is fundamentally flawed and that the Scottish Government has exceeded its authority in redefining “woman”. This follows the publication of Statutory Guidance on 29 May 2020.

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Abuse and Women’s Rights

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.

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Forwomen.Scot response to Scottish Government consultation on GRA reform

Forwomen.Scot welcomes the further consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act.  We hope that the process will be evidence based and transparent, and will take into account all stakeholders viewpoints.  

We will be taking the time to read the consultation paper thoroughly before formulating a full response. It is of great concern that since the consultation announcement in June the Scottish Government has not met with any women’s groups, other than those it funds and who are broadly in agreement with the proposals.  Alternative viewpoints and concerns on the issue of self-identification of sex have not been heard and brings into question the Cabinet Secretary’s wish to reach consensus.

Forwomen.Scot plan to publish advice and guidance on how to complete the consultation and will shortly be announcing a public awareness campaign.

17 December 2019