Robison: gender self-ID will not lead to increase in 'bad faith actors'
Social justice secretary Shona Robison has told the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee that there is no evidence that removing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria leads to an upsurge in “bad faith actors” looking to legally change their gender.
During this morning’s session, which was disrupted by the removal of several protestors wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan ‘Nicola Sturgeon: destroyer of women’s rights’, Robison was told by Maggie Chapman of the Greens that concerns had been raised that allowing people to self-declare their gender would result in “a wider group of people and bad faith actors” choosing to present as trans women in order to access female-only spaces.
Robison, who was addressing the committee as part of an evidence-gathering exercise related to proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), said the evidence from countries that have implemented similar reforms is that only those who have genuinely been living in their acquired gender have gone on on to apply for a gender recognition certificate.
“It’s still a very serious step to take,” she said. “You have to declare that you will live the rest of your life in that gender.
“It’s been shown that there’s no evidence of the changes in those laws being misused by bad actors.
“There are quite hefty penalties for misuse - a false declaration will feel the full force of the law.”
Although Ireland saw a significant increase in the number of people applying to legally change their gender when the need for a medical diagnosis was removed there, Robison told the committee that was the result of people living in their chosen gender for many years coming forward after the previously “off-putting” process was simplified.
She said there are around 500,000 trans people living in the UK but only 6,000 of those have gender recognition certificates, which “suggests the process is off-putting to people”.
“Having a process of statutory declaration will enable them to gain legal recognition of the way they have been living their life for many years,” she said.
Earlier this month former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies used a press conference in Edinburgh to highlight concerns that female athletes’ voices were not being heard as part of the Scottish Parliament’s evidence-gathering exercise.
She noted that, while the committee had held a session in which sporting bodies were asked to attend, those organisations put forward male representatives when it is widely considered that it is only female competitions that are affected by the inclusion of trans competitors.
Davies said she had been contacted by many female athletes who were concerned that the situation would be exacerbated if self-declaration was incorporated into the GRA.
Pam Gosal of the Conservatives raised the issue of certain groups feeling their voices were not being heard as part of consideration of the GRA reform bill and asked Robison whether it would therefore be appropriate to delay the bill.
Robison said that while she was “not going to pretend” the discussion around GRA reform was not polarised, the bill has been subject to “a lot of consultation” and, as it has been “debated, scrutinised and reflected upon” it would “not be appropriate to pause”.
In response to a further question from SNP member Karen Adam, Robison said further delaying the bill, which was put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic, “is not going to necessarily enhance the public discourse around this issue”.
She added that the Scottish Human Rights Commission had already noted that evidence from other countries shows that concerns raised before reforms were implemented “have not come to fruition”.
“There’s no reason to believe that Scotland would be any different to that,” she said.