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by Margaret Taylor
27 April 2023
Feminist group challenges court ruling on definition of woman

Feminist group challenges court ruling on definition of woman

Feminist organisation For Women Scotland (FWS) is appealing a court ruling that found the Scottish Government was right to conflate sex and gender in official documents.

Last year Court of Session judge Lady Haldane found it was lawful for the government to state that trans women with a gender recognition certificate should be counted as women in guidance issued in relation to the Gender Representation on Public Boards Act.

Passed in 2018, the act aims to “help address the historic and persistent underrepresentation of women in public life” by stipulating that 50 per cent of the non-executive members of Scottish public authority boards should be women.

FWS has lodged an appeal of Lady Haldane’s decision, arguing that she erred in law by not taking account of an earlier case that found that including trans women would effectively alter the terms of the Equality Act. The Scottish Government cannot make any changes to the Equality Act because it is a piece of reserved legislation.

They argue that that case, which was also brought by FWS, found that the protected characteristics of sex and gender reassignment must be treated as distinct and separate, and that where provision for women is made the Equality Act allows for the exclusion of biological males.

Although the case before Lady Haldane centred on public boards, FWS co-director Trina Budge said the case “is about much more” than that.

“It has profound implications for women’s rights and protections in the UK and for all female spaces including hospital wards, changing rooms, prisons and sports,” she said.

“Our sex has always been important politically and legally from the fight for the vote for women onwards.

“We don’t accept that women, as a biological sex class, no longer have any rights under equality laws. Lady Haldane’s decision must be challenged and overturned.”

FWS has launched a crowdfunding appeal to help pay for the case, which is expected to be heard in the summer.

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