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.
On 17th December 2019 the Scottish Government announced the launch of a three month public consultation about changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Powerful government funded transgender interest groups were lobbying hard for full deregulation of the legal transition process to allow for any man to change his birth certificate on demand to say he was born female. In the two months prior to the statement about the GRA in June 2019 Stonewall Scotland had meetings in Parliament with 22 different MSPs, including several with the Cabinet Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville. Women’s groups were denied similar access or any input into the framework of the consultation, with Ms Somerville turning down our requests to meet until the end of February, three weeks before the end of the consultation period.
Despite the obvious conflict with female sex-based rights, the public consultation was set to proceed amid a climate of fear which has prevented many women speaking openly about their concerns. Our group has received violent threats for leafleting and our meetings often heavily protested, resulting in the need for an expensive security presence. One meeting at the University of Edinburgh was aggressively protested, resulting in a speaker being attacked by a transactivist. A subsequent meeting was indefinitely postponed as the University could not guarantee the safety of participants. It is perhaps unsurprising then, that unlike other public consultations, the Government did not plan on holding any public awareness meetings throughout the country.
It was against this backdrop that Forwomen.Scot decided to launch our own public awareness campaign to ensure that women’s voices were heard and listened to during the public consultation.
We have submitted our response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act as follows. A pdf copy can be downloaded here.
Question 1 Do you have any comments on the proposal that applicants must live in their acquired gender for at least 3 months before applying for a GRC? Yes ✓ No ☐ If yes, please outline these comments.
There is no clear definition in the consultation paper as to what living in an acquired gender means and the draft Bill removes the current requirement to provide evidence that this criteria has been met. The Gender Recognition Act 2004 defines the “acquired gender” as the gender in which the person is living, which, without a definition of “gender”, is both circular and meaningless. If the law is to be reformed it is essential that this term is clarified, particularly if an applicant is expected to declare under oath, subject to a potential criminal offence, that they meet this requirement.
We were very surprised to see the consultation paper that accompanies the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill state that a member of Forwomen.Scot had met with Scottish Government officials – so keen were they to mention this meeting that it was repeated on three separate occasions throughout the document (pages, 114, 117 and 152), even including a reference to our website.
Which would have been nice – except we have never met any Scottish Government Officials.
The Scottish Government funds organisations working towards the outcomes in their Equally Safe policy for eradicating violence against women and girls. Funds were last awarded in 2017 for a three year period to 85 organisations, including 33 Women’s Aid groups across the country, who each received an average of £148,000 per year.
A Freedom of Information response uncovered the following Eligibility Criteria which outlines the conditions that each organisation must meet before submitting a funding application.
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.
When Nicola Surgeon stated that feminist’s concerns were “misplaced” at a United Nations conference last February we thought it would be an ideal time to try and arrange a meeting to address our concerns and put forward evidence that self ID policies represent a substantial roll back of women’s rights. When that was unsuccessful, we turned our attention to arranging a meeting with Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Cabinet Secretary responsible for reform of the Gender Recognition Act. After all, she had very recently published an article stating “Government has a duty to understand and seek to address the concerns being raised. This is something I have sought to do since taking this post and to which I commit to continue to do”, so we were hopeful of a meeting.