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by Staff reporter
20 February 2023
Jeane Freeman 'wouldn't have supported' Gender Recognition Reform Bill

Jeane Freeman 'wouldn't have supported' Gender Recognition Reform Bill

Former health secretary Jeane Freeman has revealed she would not have supported the Scottish Government's Gender Recognition Reform Act.

The legislation was passed in December after drawing cross-party support, but has been blocked from becoming law by the UK Government.

Nicola Sturgeon has said the Scottish Government will "vigorously defend" the bill, signalling her intent to take the matter to court, but no further announcements have been made.

Now Freeman, who stepped down at the 2021 election, has said she "wouldn't have supported the bill as it currently sits".

In an interview with a BBC Disclosure programme due to be shown tonight, Freeman said: "I would have been in parliament making an argument for some of the concerns that were raised, that I considered to be legitimate, to be addressed."

The programme looks at events leading up to Sturgeon's resignation.

The bill makes it quicker and easier for people to obtain legal recognition for a change in the gender they identify as. It lowers the threshold from 18 to 16 and removes the need for medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, bringing in a system of self-identification.

However, critics say a lack of safeguards put women-only services at risk and allow predatory men to abuse the system.

The case of rapist Isla Bryson, who offended while still using the name Adam Graham, emerged shortly after the bill was passed, provoking a review of prison policy after the offender was temporarily accommodated in segregation in a women's facility.

Freeman told the programme it was "utterly unacceptable" for the UK Government to block the bill and while she supports reform of gender recognition laws, more consideration should have been given to criticism of the bill.

She said: "My view would have been that we needed to pay more attention to the concerns being raised, particularly by women, about their space and about the ability of men, and the opportunity of men, to abuse transgender recognition."

She added that the Bryson case "appeared to symbolise the risk that a man who had sexually abused a woman, who had raped a woman, could decide for their own reasons to now say that they were a woman too".

The programme, Disclosure: The Resignation of Nicola Sturgeon, will be shown on BBC One Scotland and BBC iPlayer from 8pm.

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