Review of our #BinTheBill GRA Consultation Campaign

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.

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Consultation with Stakeholders

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.

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