The Status of Women In Scotland – Census and Data Collection on Sex

UN Women invited submissions to the Commission on the Status of Women with information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women in any country in the world. Our full submission can be found here but we have also turned each section into the following stand alone blog pieces:

Gender Representation on Public Boards Act I All-Women Shortlists I Census and Data Collection on Sex I Hate Crime and Public Order Act I Prisons I Women’s Services and the Genuine Occupational Requirement I Conclusions


  1. In 2018 a draft bill on the proposed (later delayed) 2021 Scottish Census was introduced. Provision was made for additional questions on sexuality and gender identity which were universally supported. However, of concern to women’s organisations was the proposal to undermine the integrity of the sex question by allowing a third “non binary” category to be introduced and guidance which would have permitted the sex question to be answered based on self-identification of gender, meaning that, in effect, there would be two questions based on self-identified gender and none on sex.
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Census Email Campaign

*** This is an urgent action for TODAY! We hope everyone, male and female, will join in – we’re aiming for a high number of people all sending emails. ***

The CTEEA committee will take evidence from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) in Parliament this Thursday, 12th September 2019.

We are concerned that, despite Parliament voting unanimously for a binary sex question in the census (male and female only, with no “other” option), the NRS is still testing for the guidance to advise answering on the basis of self-identification.  If this were to go ahead as the final guidance it will mean that the census returns inaccurate information regarding the protected characteristic “sex”, and duplicate and confusing information on “gender identity” (as there will also be a voluntary question on this).

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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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Census (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill

Press Statement – Census (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill – Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee Meeting, Scottish Parliament, 06 December 2018

Forwomen.scot were grateful to the CTEEA Committee for listening to our concerns regarding the proposed changes to the census in Scotland.

We believe that, to be robust, a census must capture the most accurate population data possible. Many of our providers – especially in healthcare and social services – have clear need for the most accurate demographic information. This is especially important when considering the rights of women as they are more likely to access public services in Scotland.

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