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by Margaret Taylor
02 September 2021
Gender reform bill to progress after review of consultation is unveiled

Gender reform bill to progress after review of consultation is unveiled

Work on revamping the Gender Recognition Act is due to progress in the current parliamentary term after an independent analysis of the public’s views on reform was published.

Under the terms of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, transgender people would be given the legal right to self-declare their gender rather than having to provide medical evidence of gender dysphoria first. That has been opposed by some feminist organisations, which claim that allowing biological men to self-identify as women would erode women’s rights.

A consultation on the proposals was held between December 2019 and March 2020 but the 17,000 responses were not published. Last autumn, the government commissioned external firm APS Group to analyse the responses and provide a summary report.

That report, which was published today, said that of the 215 organisations that submitted responses “a small majority” broadly supported changing to a system of self-declaration.

“Around four in 10 organisations did not support changing to a statutory declaration-based system and around one in 10 either did not take a view or their view was not clear,” it said.

Social justice secretary Shona Robison said that, while resources had been “diverted to respond to the coronavirus pandemic”, work on the draft bill has now resumed.

“The Scottish Government is committed to making necessary changes to the Gender Recognition Act to improve and simplify the process by which a trans person can obtain legal recognition,” she said.

“We will do this whilst ensuring we uphold the rights or protections that women and girls currently have under the Equality Act.”

The vast majority of responses to the consultation remain unpublished as they were submitted by individuals. The government said it would have been prohibitively expensive to check them for  “material that might breach data protection legislation, could be potentially defamatory, or refers to live court cases”. Most responses from organisations have now been published.

Some of the organisations opposed to reform of the GRA took part in a Women’s Rights Demo outside Holyrood today. They booed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon ahead of the report being published and accused her of ignoring women’s rights. A counter demonstration was held by those in support of legislative reform.

The Scottish Greens have been vocal supporters of GRA reform and bringing the bill forward was key to the co-operation agreement they signed with the SNP last month.

The Greens, whose co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater were confirmed as junior ministers in the Scottish Government this week, welcomed the publication of the report and the fact that legislative reform will now progress.

The party’s equalities spokesperson Maggie Chapman said: “Trans people are one of the most marginalised and victimised groups in Scottish society, and the Scottish Greens are committed to protecting and further their right to exist and be free from demonisation and abuse.

“Reform to the GRA to make their lives easier has had broad cross-party support and this consultation shows broad support from trade unions, services, local councils and the third sector too.

“Now that the consultation responses report has been published we look forward to progressing this overdue reform in parliament, as outlined in the co-operation agreement between the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Government.”

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