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 bothGovernments 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.
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.