Making it easier for trans people to self-identify would not negatively affect women’s rights, the Scottish government has found.
Some critics of gender self-recognition believe women’s ability to access safe single-sex spaces could be compromised by lowering the threshold that trans people must clear to be recognised as trans in the first place.
Now a formal impact assessment attached to the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill has concluded this is not the case. “The key question in this context is very much about whether a change in the system for obtaining legal gender recognition would adversely affect women’s rights,” the draft legislation states. “The Scottish government has concluded that it would not.”
The new bill does not change any of the exemptions to the Equality Act that allow services and spaces to refuse access to transgender people. It does, however, aim to remove barriers currently in place for a trans person to get their gender identity legally recognised.
It would also remove the requirement for applicants to provide medical evidence of their diagnosis of gender dysphoria, while retaining the requirement that applicants must make a solemn statutory declaration that they have been living in their acquired gender for three months and intend to do so permanently.
A minimum three-month period of reflection between applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate and confirming the application would also be introduced as part of the bill.
It would mean applicants must have lived in their acquired gender for a minimum of six months before a certificate is granted.
The bill also includes a proposal to scrap the current requirement for people to apply to the UK Gender Recognition Panel – instead, they would apply to the Registrar General for Scotland.
Leading LGBTQ groups in Scotland have praised the move.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Trans Alliance said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s publication of their draft bill to reform the Gender Recognition Act.
“The current process to change the sex on a trans person’s birth certificate is a humiliating, offensive and expensive red-tape nightmare which requires them to submit intrusive psychiatric evidence to a faceless tribunal panel years after they transitioned.”
However, the group said it was disappointed that the draft bill excluded under 16s and non-binary trans people.
.@scotgov has today launched its draft bill to reform the Gender Recognition Act, and make it easier for trans people to change their birth certificates. Read our response and find out how you make your voice heard #ComeOutForTransEqualityhttps://t.co/cc1S21RLOs
— Stonewall Scotland (@StonewallScot) December 17, 2019
The legislation would also retain the position that a false statutory declaration is a criminal offence and introduce a new offence of false application – each with a potential punishment of up to two years’ imprisonment.
Meanwhile, the minimum age of application would also be reduced from 18 to 16 as part of the proposals.
The reforms, which follow international best practice adopted in other countries such as Ireland, Denmark and Norway, do not alter the long-standing rights of trans men and women to change gender, nor do the reforms change the rights of women and single-sex exceptions in the Equality Act.
Equalities secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “We are proposing these reforms because the current system is viewed by many wishing to apply as traumatic and demeaning.
“A previous consultation on reform showed a majority in support for our proposals but also some concerns.
“Consulting on the detail of a draft bill and associated impact assessments will, I hope, clearly explain the need for reform and address those concerns.
“There have always been trans people in society and for the past 15 years they have been able to legally change their gender through obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate.
“We are proposing to make the current process less stressful whilst continuing to recognise the seriousness of the decision to live your life in a different gender.”
Somerville added: “Women’s rights and protections will be as strong under this Bill as they are today, as we remain committed to protect, respect, and advance the rights of women and girls.
“We are not proposing to change the Equality Act or the exceptions within it that protect single-sex spaces and services.
“Our proposals are in line with the approach taken in a number of other countries, including the Republic of Ireland, which has had a similar system since 2015.
“We will carefully consider all responses to the consultation and I urge everyone contributing to do so in a considered and respectful way.”
Lynn Welsh, head of legal at the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland, said: “This bill offers a welcome opportunity to remove unnecessary practical barriers trans people face in securing legal recognition of their gender identity.
“Nothing in the bill will threaten the continued operation of the Equality Act provisions protecting women-only services and spaces, which recognise the particular needs of women and the need for protection from sex-based violence.”
The Scottish Government has performed an impact assessment on whether reforming gender recognition for trans people could negatively impact women’s rights.
The conclusion: It will not. pic.twitter.com/R3O3J5ncod
— moth dad (@innesmck) December 17, 2019
Useful websites and helplines:
- The Gender Trust supports anyone affected by gender identity | 01527 894 838
- Mermaids offers information, support, friendship and shared experiences for young people with gender identity issues | 0208 1234819
- LGBT Youth Scotland is the largest youth and community-based organisation for LGBT people in Scotland. Text 07786 202 370
- Gires provides information for trans people, their families and professionals who care for them | 01372 801554
- Depend provides support, advice and information for anyone who knows, or is related to, a transsexual person in the UK