Gender Recognition Reform Bill – Stage 1 Action

Welcome to those who have arrived at this page via attending our Women’s Rally at Holyrood or seeing one of our leaflets about the Bill and writing to your MSPs. Scroll down for some suggested templates for writing to your MSPs.

Background:

The Gender Recognition Reform Bill is currently being considered by the Scottish Parliament with the Stage 1 debate scheduled for 27th October. It is our view that the Government’s development and understanding of the Bill is flawed, evidence from women’s groups has not been given sufficient, if any, consideration and if it passes into law the impact felt by women and children will be devastating.

  • The Government consulted the public on draft legislation in 2019/20 yet only published 165 responses from organisations – the remaining 15,500 responses from individuals were not published and have been largely unanalysed. Unusually, no Government Response was produced to the consultation results, which would normally address points raised by respondents and the Bill introduced to Parliament earlier this year left the draft legislation almost entirely unchanged.
  • The SNP failed to fulfil its election promise to consult with women’s groups in deciding the best way to reform the Gender Recognition Act (manifesto, p33) and only met with a few groups after being shamed into doing so by the press, and too late to have any impact on the decisions made about the content of the Bill.
  • The Government maintains that the Bill merely simplifies the process for applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) and fails to understand that it actually removes the process, opening up GRCs from the less than 1% with an appropriate medical diagnosis to potentially 100% of the population.
  • The Committee responsible for the Bill refused to take evidence from women survivors of male violence who rely on women-only services, experts in women’s sports, and a founder of the Yogyakarta principles (which is the premise of international best practice relied upon by the Government) who now recognises women’s rights were not considered. Nor was evidence sought from doctors treating children, therapists with concerns, the panel which currently considers applications, or from any countries which recognise issues arising from similar legislation.
  • Even at this late stage the Government remains unable to answer crucial questions about the Bill and has given evidence to the Committee which contradicts their stance in an ongoing judicial review. This court case is instrumental in clarifying the relationship between the GRA and the Equality Act and without this ruling MSPs are being asked to vote in the dark about the consequences of the Bill.
  • The reforms are deeply unpopular and unsupported by the electorate. 10,800 people responded to the Committee’s public consultation of which only 38% supported the Bill. The majority, approximately 65%, disagreed with each of the three main reforms: removing the medical diagnosis, reducing the qualifying period from 2 years to 3 months, and reducing the minimum age of applicants from 18 to 16. This is reflective of independent polls that are representative of public opinion and which consistently show that, while most people are supportive of trans rights in general, it does not translate into support for the specific proposals outlined in the Bill. The latest poll showed only 32% support for allowing a change of sex recorded on a birth certificate. Any suggestion that trans people should have access to opposite sex facilities and services is opposed by the vast majority.

This Bill is five years in the making and yet the significant issues raised by women have not been addressed or resolved; they have simply been ignored. MurrayBlackburnMackenzie’s recent submission to the EHRCJ Committee covers many of the issues and problems still outstanding and they have 14 questions which remain unanswered. We have concentrated on four questions which we hope everyone will ask all their MSPs.

MSP responses to-date:

The engagement of MSPs with constituents so far has been very disappointing with many politicians woefully misinformed about the proposed law change.

  • Some MSPs think we must amend the law to bring it in line with EU good practice, not realising our legislation is already compliant with EU Court of Human Rights rulings, and was upheld only last year in Northern Ireland’s High Court which said the requirement for a relevant diagnosis to be provided in support of a gender recognition application was fair and balanced for wider society.
  • Some still maintain there is no conflict with women’s rights which, quite frankly, is risible. Allowing men access to the name and rights of the opposite sex is of course going to have an impact on women. And the numbers will not be insignificant. No-one knows how many men will take advantage of the law change but the Government is already anticipating at least a tenfold increase in applications for GRCs.
  • On the interaction with the Equality Act we have heard from MSPs who (a) share our concerns, (b) say nothing will change and women’s single-sex spaces will continue to be protected, (c) say transwomen will only access women’s spaces on a case-by-case basis, or that (d) transwomen have always been allowed access. And these conflicting statements all came from MSPs of the same party – the SNP.
  • We have also heard from women who say their MSPs have refused to meet or discuss the issue or, appallingly, called them “transphobic” for even broaching the subject.

With only a few weeks to go until the Stage 1 debate this is no longer acceptable. There can be no excuse for any MSP not to be up-to-speed on the intricacies of the Bill and all must be willing and able to discuss the legislation in full with constituents. Ask them a question that so far the Government has been unable to answer. If your MSPs can’t answer, then they have no business voting the Bill through to the next stage.


Please pick one, or more, of the questions from our leaflet and ask your EIGHT MSPs for an answer. Please keep your emails fairly brief and to the point. Scroll down for suggested text for your email.

You can email your constituency MSP and seven regional MSPs by putting in your postcode at writetothem.com.

If your MSPs cannot answer your question promptly and to your satisfaction, ask them to VOTE AGAINST the Gender Recognition Bill on 27th October.


Template Emails to MSPs:

We’ve put together some text to make it easier for you to email your MSPs, but feel free to put it in your own words if you prefer.

Template 1: Sex in the Equality Act
Dear MSP,

I am a resident in your constituency.

Our Government’s proposals to amend the Gender Recognition Act by removing the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria are deeply concerning and not supported by the public, as shown in recent polls and by the responses to the EHRCJ Committee’s consultation.

Could you please explain your understanding of the interaction between the protected characteristic of sex in the Equality Act and recognition of gender as I cannot see how MSPs can be confident of the legal effect of GRCs, or the consequences of the proposed reform, until this matter is addressed, in part by the current judicial review brought by For Women Scotland. Please read their letter to the EHRCJ Committee about its impact on the Bill. Are you comfortable voting for the principle of self-identification of sex in such uncertain circumstances and do you realise that if it is ruled that a person’s sex does change for the purposes of the Equality Act then the GRR Bill will have the effect of removing any recourse to the law for sex discrimination, equal pay claims or maternity rights for the growing number of young women who seek a GRC?

The Scottish Ministers are inconsistent on both the definition of “woman” and the operation of the Equality Act and, as one of your constituents, I would appreciate if you would vote against the Bill moving to Stage 2 until such time as clarity is provided in these matters and we can be sure that women’s rights will be protected.

Kind regards,

[Name and address]

Template 2: Single-sex Exceptions
Dear MSP,

I am a resident in your constituency.

Our Government’s proposals to amend the Gender Recognition Act by removing the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria are deeply concerning and not supported by the public, as shown in recent polls and by the responses to the EHRCJ Committee’s consultation.

When introducing the Bill to Parliament the Cabinet Secretary, Shona Robison, said she strongly supported the single-sex exceptions in the Equality Act and then immediately, and incorrectly, said there was no entitlement to women-only toilets or changing rooms. This is typical of the Government’s misunderstanding of the application of the Equality Act and when women’s spaces and services are not protected at the moment it seems obvious the situation will worsen when GRA reforms will lead to an estimated tenfold increase in the number of GRC holders.

Can you please explain how an elderly woman can have her request met for a female carer to help with washing and dressing when service providers such as the NHS say there is no way to guarantee it due to the privacy provisions in section 22 of the GRA? How do we stop more women from self-excluding from essential services such as rape counselling due to Government policies permitting males access to the groups or staff roles.

How do you think women’s right to single-sex spaces can be protected in light of reforms which will allow men who do not have gender dysphoria to gain a GRC with the expectation of access to women’s spaces, even if the NHS say he is not eligible for procedures to modify his body, or if he chooses not to change his name or ID documents?

The Scottish Government have a poor record on the single-sex exceptions in the Equality Act and have so far disregarded women’s concerns or requests to modify the Bill. I would appreciate if you would vote against the Bill moving to Stage 2 until such time as clarity is provided in these matters and we can be sure that women’s rights will be protected.

Kind regards,

[Name and address]


Template 3: Cross-Border Effects
Dear MSP,

I am a resident in your constituency.

Our Government’s proposals to amend the Gender Recognition Act by removing the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria are deeply concerning and not supported by the public, as shown in recent polls and by the responses to the EHRCJ Committee’s consultation.

There are a number of issues which have yet to be resolved on how the new Gender Recognition Certificates will work throughout the UK. Can you please clarify:

  • if the UK Government will recognise GRCs issued in Scotland?
  • how long does an English born person have to be “ordinarily resident” in Scotland before applying for a GRC and will UK-wide Registrars be able to issue new birth certificates,
  • how the impact of the different GRA systems on marriages, schools and prisons for Scottish-born applicants living elsewhere in the UK will be mitigated?

Are you confident in voting for the Bill to go through to the next stage when the Scottish Government has not resolved these issues and the new Prime Minister reportedly has no intention of seeking any solutions, and is looking to prevent the Bill passing into law?

It seems very unwise to pursue a Bill with such fundamental problems and which will inevitably result in taxpayer funded Supreme Court actions and I would appreciate if you would vote against the Bill moving to Stage 2 until such time as clarity is provided in these matters.

Kind regards,

[Name and address]

Template 4: Children
Dear MSP,

I am a resident in your constituency.

Our Government’s proposals to amend the Gender Recognition Act by removing the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria are deeply concerning and not supported by the public, as shown in recent polls and by the responses to the EHRCJ Committee’s consultation.

I am particularly concerned about the interaction between social and medical affirmation of children who are gender-distressed and the proposed permanent legal affirmation from the age of 16, which is still the age of a child under the UN Convention on Rights of the Child. For families who are following best therapeutic practice it hampers the exploration of other possibilities and interferes with parental guidance. The interim Cass Report has already uncovered significant issues with the medical affirmation pathway (as practiced in Scotland), deeming it “unsafe” for young people, which the Government has failed to take on board. Do you agree with the Equality and Human Rights Commission that it would be wise to hold off on gender recognition reform until such time as the Cass Review makes its recommendations on the best way to treat gender distressed children?

Government guidance and the influence of trans groups in schools has embedded the unscientific theory that we all have a “gender identity” and that children can choose their sex. It is highly likely that the ensuing increase in children supported at school to bind their breasts and change names/pronouns has also contributed to the long waiting list of young people seeking puberty blockers, opposite sex hormones, and breast removal that has overwhelmed the NHS.

The situation is currently unfolding as a serious medical scandal and the growing number of detranstioners indicates a problem with the rush to affirm children as trans. I would appreciate if you would vote against the Bill moving to Stage 2 until such time as clarity is provided in these matters by the Cass Report and we can be sure that we are doing the best for gender-distressed children and their families.

Kind regards,

[Name and address]


Thank you! Please let us know at info@forwomen.scot if you get any interesting replies from your MSPs.


Questions to ask with a bit more detail:

  1. Does gaining a Gender Recognition Certificate change a person’s sex for the purposes of the Equality Act?
    We believe the Scottish Government is in contempt of the FWS v the Scottish Ministers judicial review ruling by revising statutory guidance to add males who obtain a GRC to the definition of “woman” in the Equality Act. The ruling was clear that sex is a biological term and transsexuals who hold the protected characteristic of gender reassignment (which includes those with or without a GRC) and who ‘live as women’ are not included in the definition of woman. The Government’s actions has necessitated a further judicial review and until the court reaches a decision how can MSPs be sure of the proper relationship between the GRA and the Equality Act, or of the legal effects of any reform of the GRA?

    The Cabinet Secretary, Shona Robison, told Parliament that the Bill “does not redefine what a man or a woman is”, yet this cannot be true if the Government believes a GRC changes a person’s sex under the Equality Act, and not when the Bill anticipates a tenfold increase in the number of men who wish to be classed as women, and which, for the first time, will be redefined to include men who do not have gender dysphoria and those aged 16 and 17.

    We wrote to the Committee outlining the impact of the second judicial review on the Bill. Please ask your MSPs to read it and ask how they can be sure the Bill does not change the definition of “woman”. Is sex in the Equality Act referring to rights everyone has, including trans people, based on their immutable biological sex? If not, does changing the eligibility criteria for a GRC not change who is defined as a woman? And if they think a GRC does change someone’s sex for the Equality Act are they content in voting to remove recourse to the law for sex discrimination, equal pay claims and maternity rights for the increased number of young women who seek a GRC?
  2. How can single-sex spaces or same-sex healthcare be protected?
    When introducing the Bill to Parliament the Cabinet Secretary, Shona Robison, declared that the Government “strongly support the rights and protections that women have under the Equality Act 2010, including the single-sex exceptions”, only to immediately denounce these same rights by saying “the 2010 Act does not apply exceptions specifically to toilets and changing rooms. Trans people can and do use those now, whether they have a GRC or not”. Not only does this contradict the Government’s position in the ongoing judicial review that a GRC is required to be treated as the opposite sex, but it is also quite wrong on a number of counts: it ignores school and workplace legislation that mandates single-sex toilets and a specific example of single-sex changing rooms in the Equality Act’s Explanatory Notes. Crucially, it flagrantly disregards our judicial review ruling that when provision is made for women by the Equality Act then, by definition, biological males are excluded. The EHRC has confirmed possession of a GRC does not change a person’s biological sex.

    In short, the Government occasionally says it supports single-sex spaces but its actions have all but obliterated their provision in practice. School guidance produced by the Government unlawfully, in our opinion, advises that boys can choose to use girls toilets, changing rooms, overnight accommodation and participate in girls sports. Prison policy based on ‘social gender’ rather than sex has seen an increase in males held in the female estate to the detriment of the wellbeing of female prisoners and, shockingly, a woman is currently held in the male prison at Barlinnie.

    We have seen many women forced to self-exclude from essential counselling services and refuges after these became mixed-sex and employed male service providers. The Scottish Government makes being inclusive of males who identify as women a condition of funding and repeated their unlawful position from the FWS v Scottish Ministers case when conducting a recent public consultation on commissioning Violence Against Women and Girls Services based on a self-declared meaning of “woman”. Women’s wards in hospitals are no longer just for women and NHS policies advise staff to chastise female patients if they complain about sharing sleeping accommodation with males.

    NHS boards say the privacy clause (section 22) of the GRA means they cannot reveal if a member of staff is trans and so cannot guarantee a female healthcare practitioner when one is requested. This is causing enormous distress for elderly and disabled patients and carers who wish personal care only from female health care providers.

    For those MSPs who say they support single-sex services, ask them why they have not questioned the Government on any of these issues. Do they understand that women’s services must exclude all biological males, regardless of GRC status? Do they support the report from the Scottish Women’s Convention which recommends women-only services? How can women’s spaces be protected? Do they foresee any issues with men without gender dysphoria gaining a GRC but choosing not to change their name or ID documents, and who are also not eligible for NHS procedures to change how their physical body looks? How can the section 22 conflict be resolved? Do they not think the conflict with the Government’s encouragement of single-sex services to instead be based on self-identified gender should be sorted out before changes are made to the GRA? How can this be achieved?
  3. What are the cross-border effects?
    The Scottish Government only recently, and belatedly, started discussions with the UK Government on resolving cross-border issues, of which there are a number: will the UK Government recognise new GRCs issued in Scotland, how long does an English born person have to be “ordinarily resident” in Scotland before applying for a GRC and will UK-wide Registrars be able to issue new birth certificates, how can the impact of the different systems on marriages, schools and prisons for Scottish-born applicants living elsewhere in the UK be mitigated? Ask your MSP if they have any solutions for these problems and how, given reports that the new Prime Minister is seeking legal advice on blocking the Bill passing into law, they can be resolved without lengthy and expensive Supreme Court proceedings.
  4. Is this in the best interests of children?
    The psychological impact of ‘social transition’ and controversial and experimental medical procedures for children cannot be separated from state affirmation with a GRC. The Government guidance for schools, along with state funded trans groups, tells children as young as four years old that they can choose their sex and teaches as fact the unscientific theory that we all have a “gender identity”. Teachers are advised to allow breast binding and name/pronoun changes, and schools are regularly punishing children for non-compliance with gender ideology, when they should instead be free to understand that sex is immutable and is an important reality. Ask your MSPs if they agree with this social experiment on our children or if there should be more protection from a school environment which has undoubtedly contributed to the long waiting list of young people seeking puberty blockers, opposite sex hormones, and breast removal that has overwhelmed the NHS.

    There is currently an unfolding medical scandal over the treatment of children with experimental drugs, many of whom are female, autistic or gay, and whose gender-distress would otherwise almost certainly (90%) have resolved with maturity. The interim Cass report deemed the “affirmation model”, as followed in Scotland as well as England, to be unsafe – this led to the closure of the children’s clinic in London, although the Scottish Government has failed to take corresponding action. Does continuing affirmation by the state in the form of a lifelong GRC seem wise in light of this? Is the Equality and Human Rights Commission correct in suggesting GRA reform for under 18s should wait until the Cass Review has completed and made recommendations on how gender-distressed children are best treated? Evidence to the Committee by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde indicates that decisions to socially transition take longer than the six month period planned for a GRC application, so it is wise to disregard this? Is it not important to heed the warnings that the availability of GRCs will hamper therapeutic treatment or parents ability to provide guidance? Why is it a good idea to issue permanent legal documents that cannot be revoked to young people? Does the growing number of detransitioners not give pause for thought?