FWS are delighted by Jeane Freeman’s decision to back Johann Lamont’s amendment to the Forensic Medical Services Bill. This Bill provides for improved services and much needed support and reassurance for survivors of sexual violence. It was overwhelmingly clear from the powerful testimony given at Stage 1 that one of the most crucial things for survivors was the ability to request a female examiner.
During this period, FWS noticed a detail which we felt required attention: while the documents accompanying the Bill, including the SPICe Briefing and the Policy Memorandum refer to the sex of the medical examiner, the Bill’s Explanatory Notes stated that a victim could request that the person carrying out the medical examination be of a specified gender. This originates from Section 9 of the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014:
We therefore submitted a letter to the Health and Sport Committee suggesting that clarity would better be achieved by substituting the word sex for gender and the Committee agreed with our recommendation.
At a time when the Scottish Government was considering definitions of sex and gender, we felt it was crucial that this Bill was not, retrospectively, held to mean anything other than allowing women the right to request a female examiner. We also believed that if sex, which is a protected characteristic, were specified it would put an obligation on employers to ensure they used the genuine occupational requirement to recruit female staff.
The subsequent campaign for this amendment has been inspired by the outstanding women who gave evidence and those who wrote yesterday to MSPs. We know how difficult this has been and how much it has cost them to relive their experiences. In legislation and services which deal with the impact of such violence, these women’s voices should always be heard. This campaign has never been about politics or linguistic quibbles – it has, first and last, been about them.
We are also so grateful to Johann Lamont who went into battle for these women and we are thankful to the Health Secretary and all the parliamentarians who decided that six words “for the word gender, substitute sex” could make a world of difference.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.