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by Gemma Fraser
11 July 2019
Sexual health charities urge Scottish Government to proceed with Gender Recognition Act reforms

Image credit: Holyrood

Sexual health charities urge Scottish Government to proceed with Gender Recognition Act reforms

Leading sexual health and HIV charities have written to the Scottish Government urging it to proceed with the reforms to the Gender Recognition Act.

Waverley Care, Scottish Drugs Forum, Terrence Higgins Trust, HIV Scotland and LGBT Health and Wellbeing have also written to every MSP in light of the government’s announcement of a second consultation on the issue.

They say the reforms are needed to remove “the barriers to sexual health care regularly experienced by trans and non-binary people.”

The charities are urging the Scottish Government to introduce legislation without delay, whilst being “robust in challenging misinformation and scaremongering about trans people.”

Equalities minister Shirley-Anne Somerville revealed last month that the government’s plans for reforming the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA) – which would make it easier for transgender people to get legal recognition of their “lived gender” – would be delayed.

She announced that the Scottish Government would be re-opening a consultation on a draft bill before any legislation is put to MSPs.

The joint letter from the sexual health charities states: “We wholly support ensuring those most affected by a change to this legislation are consulted with and that they have every opportunity to make their voices heard.

“However, it is essential that the draft bill consultation is not delayed. The Scottish Government have committed to passing GRA reform legislation before the 2021 election. While the proposed system is not in place, trans and non-binary people continue to be subjected to intrusive and harmful medical requirements to gain basic recognition of their gender identity.

“We urge the Scottish Government to consider the ongoing harm caused to people who are gender diverse in engaging with the current system.”

According to the World Health Organisation, transgender women are around 49 times more likely to be living with HIV than other adults of reproductive age, with low rates of access to health and HIV services due to a range of issues including violence, legal barriers, stigma and discrimination to blame.

Nathan Sparling, chief executive of HIV Scotland, said: “As HIV and sexual health charities, it’s important to recognise that the GRA reform will have a positive impact on the health outcomes for trans and non-binary people who often face multiple barriers when accessing services.

“The fear of misgendering and stigmatisation creates unnecessary barriers that are facilitated by the current gender recognition process.

“Trans women are 49 times more likely to be HIV positive than the general population, so it is imperative on our government to act and remove barriers – often caused by misinformation and scaremongering.”

Grant Sugden, chief executive of Waverley Care, added: “Trans and non-binary people face significant barriers in accessing sexual health and HIV services, which impact hugely on their health and well-being.

“It is essential that the Scottish Government moves forward with the GRA reform as soon as possible, to begin challenging the discrimination and inequalities the community experiences.”

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