Sturgeon rejects UN concerns about reform of Scotland’s gender law

First minister says special rapporteur’s disquiet about changes to how people change their legal sex ‘not well founded’

Nicola Sturgeon has described the concerns of a UN special rapporteur about plans to reform how people change their legal sex in Scotland as “not well founded”.

During a robust session of first minister’s questions, Sturgeon also said Shona Robison, the minister in charge of the controversial gender recognition reform bill, would meet the special rapporteur on violence against women and girls, Reem Alsalem, next week.

The Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, repeatedly challenged Sturgeon to delay the bill – which was the subject of the Scottish National party’s biggest ever backbench revolt last month – after a highly critical letter from Alsalem to the UK government.

In it she raised concerns that the reforms “would potentially open the door for violent males who identify as men to abuse the process of acquiring a gender certificate and the rights that are associated with it”.

“This presents potential risks to the safety of women in all their diversity,” she wrote.

Scotland’s gender recognition reform bill is intended to introduce a system of self-declaration for obtaining a gender recognition certificate (GRC), removing the need for a psychiatric diagnosis of gender dysphoria, reducing the time someone must have been permanently living in their gender before they can apply from two years to three months, and dropping the age at which people can apply from 18 to 16.

Sturgeon said the bill had gone through lengthy public consultation and was undergoing intense parliamentary scrutiny. “It’s really important that we remember all of us see protecting women and girls as a priority, but I hope all of us also see protecting the rights of trans people as important too,” she said.

Sturgeon also pointed to a letter in response signed by Amnesty International Scotland and Scottish women’s groups including Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland and Engender which argues that “there is a solid basis in international human rights standards to support the aims and principles of the bill”.

In her own written response to Alsalem, Robison addressed the point about single sex spaces, noting the Equality Act - which allows for their provision and certain exclusions – is reserved to Westminster.

“The gender recognition reform (Scotland) bill cannot, in consequence, have the effect of changing the existing provision made by the Equality Act in relation to single-sex services,” she wrote. “An amendment made to the bill at stage 2 has added further clarification on this point, for the avoidance of any doubt.”

As a mark of an increase in tensions over the bill before its next parliamentary debate later this month, Sturgeon was heckled earlier this week as she gave a speech at an event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Zero Tolerance, an Edinburgh-based charity that campaigns to end violence against women.

The audience member accused Sturgeon of “allowing paedophiles, sex offenders and rapists to self-ID in Scotland and put women at risk”.

“Women campaigning for women’s rights are not against trans people. Shame on you for letting down vulnerable women in Scotland, not allowed to have their own spaces away from any male,” she said.

Zero Tolerance attracted heavy criticism after it asked those attending the event to “refrain from discussions of the definition of a woman and single sex spaces in relation to the gender recognition act”.

The group had issued a statement on its website that stated: “We understand that as feminists we have strong opinions on these subjects. But this is not what this event is about”.

Following the intervention, Sturgeon insisted: “I do not seek to close down anybody’s freedom of speech. It is important that voices are heard.”


Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Scottish government seeks to reassure MSPs over gender law reform
Social justice secretary says plans do not conflict with work to advance women’s rights and equality

Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

09, Dec, 2022 @4:22 PM

Article image
Scottish Labour vows to ‘bring people together’ over gender recognition reform
Opposition says it can assuage bill’s critics as SNP supporters fear more amendment attempts

Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

28, Oct, 2022 @5:05 PM

Article image
Why Scotland’s gender reform bill is sparking concern over trans prisoner policies
Analysts warn of legal challenges if bill makes inmates’ access to gender recognition certificates easier – though jail allocation is decided case by case

Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

26, Jan, 2023 @5:37 PM

Article image
Scotland’s proposed gender recognition laws explained
The Holyrood bill introducing a system of self-declaration for gender recognition has polarised opinion

Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

20, Dec, 2022 @12:00 PM

Article image
Rishi Sunak blocks Scotland’s gender recognition legislation
UK ministers to use provisions in Scotland Act to block legislation making it easier for transgender people to self-identify

Pippa Crerar and Libby Brooks

16, Jan, 2023 @6:05 PM

Article image
UK review of gender recognition list risks ‘trans travel ban’
Campaigners condemn government move to review list of countries whose GR certificates are automatically recognised

Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

10, Jan, 2023 @8:51 PM

Article image
Court battle looms as UK ministers block Scottish gender recognition law
Nicola Sturgeon says her government will ‘vigorously defend’ legislation by seeking judicial review of decision

Peter Walker and Libby Brooks

17, Jan, 2023 @4:23 PM

Article image
Scottish leadership election leaves gender reform hanging in balance
SNP politicians fear quarrel weighing on leadership contest, while any compromise could break coalition with Greens

Libby Brooks and Severin Carrell

16, Feb, 2023 @7:20 PM

Article image
SNP minister quits in protest at gender recognition reform bill
Ash Regan resigns to vote against bill, with Nicola Sturgeon accusing her of failing to raise concerns earlier

Libby Brooks and Severin Carrell

27, Oct, 2022 @2:43 PM

Article image
Mixed emotions in Scotland’s trans community as gender bill euphoria recedes
Fears long delay in passing gender recognition bill has allowed toxicity to grow

Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

23, Dec, 2022 @4:47 PM