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by Andrew Learmonth
10 September 2021
Nicola Sturgeon says fears over reform of Gender Recognition Act are 'not valid'

Nicola Sturgeon says fears over reform of Gender Recognition Act are 'not valid'

Nicola Sturgeon has said she expects her ministers to support plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act, saying concerns over the impact on women’s spaces are “not valid”.

Speaking to the BBC, the First Minister urged people to focus on “real threats” to women’s safety.

Currently, to obtain a certificate legally recognising their acquired gender, a trans person requires medical evidence and a two-year period of living as that gender.

However, the Scottish Government proposals would remove the need for medical assessment, and allow someone to obtain a gender recognition certificate through self-declaration after six months

Critics say this has the potential to put women and girls at increased risk of harm from predatory men who could take advantage of the lack of any checks to gain access to single-sex spaces like women’s toilets, hospital wards, refuges, hostels and prisons. 

In 2019, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise Ivan McKee, and Minister for Community Safety Ash Denham signed a letter urging the government not to change  “the definition of male and female” and not to “rush” the reforms. 

During the interview, Martin Geisler, the BBC host told Sturgeon that Forbes had “spoken very proudly of her Christian faith, she signed a letter urging you not to rush into changing the definition of male and female. 

“Will she, will Ivan McKee the business minister, will Ash Denham, minister for community safety, have to vote in favour of gender recognition reform, under the ministerial code?”

Sturgeon replied: “We take decisions before we get to votes both in a parliamentary group sense and as a government as to whether free votes apply

“There have been decisions taken in the past to allow people free votes.

“That's not a point we've got to yet, but generally the principle is, for ministers, that collective responsibility applies.

“I don't think anybody could accuse me of rushing into this.

“There's been two public consultations. We have listened very carefully. 

“But you know we had a manifesto commitment to move forward with this.

“Gender recognition reform is about changing an existing process to make it less degrading, intrusive and traumatic for one of the most stigmatised minorities in our society and I think that is a good thing to do. 

“It does not change in any way shape or form, legal protections that women have - and that's something that's very important to me as a lifelong feminist.

“We shouldn't forget there are big threats to women's safety and women's rights.

“They come from, sexism, misogyny, principally from abusive and predatory men, and we see lawmakers in other parts of the world, Texas, for example, trying to take away the right of women to control their own bodies.

“So we should focus on the real threats to women, not the threats that, while I appreciate that some of these views are very sincerely held, in my view, are not valid.”

During the interview, the First Minister was also asked about the government’s decision to hire and subsequently fire the comedian Janey Godley after a series of “unacceptable” tweets emerged.

On Thursday the Daily Beast published dozens of historical tweets, which it describes as “shockingly racist”, about Black celebrities including Destiny’s Child star Kelly Rowland, and rappers 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg,

The stand-up had been fronting the government’s latest Covid public health campaign, Let’s Stop the Spike.

Godley pinned a video apology to her Twitter account just prior to the Scottish Government announcement, in which she stated: “I have used phrases, words, comments with horrifically despicable undertones and you can’t just pass that off as comedy. I accept any criticism that comes my way.”

She went on: “If I don’t own the shame of these phrases and words, I would be disingenuous to everybody who has ever supported me. I’m sorry, I will be better and I can’t apologise enough.”

Sturgeon said she could not defend the tweets. 

She said: “These things happen, the important thing is that action has been taken, Janey has apologised, I think she’s been pretty straightforward and dignified in her apology.

"She’s a comedian, as she said herself she thought that gave her license to say things that she now accepts were completely out of order and unacceptable.

"So the important thing for me given that we’re still in this pandemic is to make sure that our public health messages are heard loudly and clearly.”

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