15 December 2022
Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister
Shona Robison MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government
Christina McKelvie MSP, Minister for Equalities and Older People
Douglas Ross MSP, Leader, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
Anas Sarwar MSP, Leader, Scottish Labour
Patrick Harvie MSP, Co-Leader, Scottish Green Party
Lorna Slater MSP, Co-Leader, Scottish Green Party
Alex Cole- Hamilton MSP, Leader, Scottish Liberal Democrats
Members of the Scottish Parliament,
As feminist organisations working globally towards achieving gender justice, human rights and equality, we want to affirm our support to the proposed reform for self-identification of trans persons within Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.
We write to you to express our concern about some of the ways the discussions about the Bill have been framed. In some cases, and without concrete evidence, these claims seem to frame legal gender recognition processes based on self-identification to be in opposition to the rights of women and their protection from violence.
We want to make clear that these representations, which promote a false dichotomy between realization of women’s and trans people’s rights, do not represent the sentiments of many organisations that are working globally against gender based violence, for gender justice, upholding feminist principles, and defending the human rights of all women. We are deeply concerned about representations such as the letter from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women1, that misrepresent the impacts of this proposed legislative change towards upholding the rights of people of all genders.
We find this framing unnecessarily divisive and regret how it aligns with the anti-gender sentiments that have been gaining ground globally, risking harm and regression around the rights of women, trans people and non-binary people. We are also alarmed by the way in which evolving human rights norms and standards and, in some cases, long standing consensus common to several UN Special procedures mandates and the CEDAW Committee, has been dismissed or misrepresented in this debate. As such, as advocates working in countries around the world, we feel duty-bound to directly address some of the main arguments raised in these representations.
Firstly, we feel compelled to reject the link being drawn in these arguments, between the removal of barriers for legal gender recognition with increased risk of male violence and the re-traumatization of women survivors of violence. This argument is not supported by sound empirical evidence and does not reflect the lived experiences of either trans people or women accessing various support services or in settings of incarceration globally that some trans people may also have access to. It also crucially dismisses the experience of 19 countries2 where gender recognition laws based on self-identification have been implemented without evidence of negative consequences in the last decade. We are clear that rights-based and sustainable protection of women and gender diverse people from gender-based violence requires collaborative and constructive action, rather than rhetoric resting on unfounded fears.
We are deeply uncomfortable with the ways in which narratives around the potential for fraudulent use of gender recognition certificates and “potential risk”, are in effect stigmatizing trans people as predators. This disproportionate and discriminatory focus on trans people as perpetrators of violence against women serves as a distraction from the most consistent sites of gender-based violence. It emphasizes violence perpetrated by strangers in hypothetical situations, whilst data on gender-based violence globally makes clear that the most likely forms of violence experienced by women are those carried out by intimate partners,3 family members or other known people. Indeed, the continuing prevalence of gender-based violence at all these levels shows that perpetrators do not need access to women’s refuges – or other spaces for women – to perpetrate gender-based violence.
In sum, as feminist organisations we are deeply troubled by the role these representations will play in furthering divisive agendas, in Scotland and transnationally, and in demonizing an already structurally excluded group of people, with very real impact. At the source of some of the most common anti-trans narratives globally, are well-coordinated groups with a track record of vehemently opposing trans rights. Our experience is that anti-gender rhetoric is increasingly being used to restrict and roll back the realization of the rights of women, LGBTQI people and minority groups. Our work affirms that the fulfillment of the rights of all marginalized groups is intrinsically linked, and that the principles of universality and indivisibility of rights must remain at the heart of all human rights work.
We believe that key components of the Scottish Gender Recognition Reform Bill will help reduce barriers experienced by trans people in accessing their rights, and these elements are strongly supported by feminist organisations like ours. We commend the intent of the Bill to simplify the process for legal gender recognition and delink it from a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, which is in line with international human rights standards and the Yogyakarta Principles4. We appreciate the detailed consultation process that the Scottish Government has engaged with since 2017 and the Scottish Parliamentary discussions and amendments that have since been considered.
- Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
- AWID- Association of Women’s Rights in Development
- Count Me In! Consortium
- International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)
- International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) – Asia Pacific
- International Women’s Development Agency
- Urgent Action Fund For Women’s Human Rights (UAF)
- Women Enabled International
1 Ref.: OL GBR 14/2022 – https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=27681
2 Argentina (2012), Belgium (2018), Brazil (2018), Chile(2018), Colombia (2015), Costa Rica (2018)
Denmark* (2014) [Self-ID, however: granted only after a 6-month “reflection period” at the end of which applicants must “confirm” their application], Ecuador (2016), Greece* [Self-ID, however: married applicants must divorce because there is no same-sex marriage], Iceland (2019), Ireland (2015), Luxembourg (2018), Malta (2015), New Zealand (will enter into effect in 2023), Norway (2016), Pakistan (2018), Portugal (2018), Switzerland (2022), Uruguay (2018).
Banner photo: Trans flag.