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Scotland pledges reforms to make it legally easier for trans people

Scotland pledges reforms to make it legally easier for trans people

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Scotland’s government has pledged to reform the process for trans people, making it easier to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate.

However, some are concerned that a draft bill will face public consultation. The bill will also not be published until the end of the year.

There will be no progress on non-binary recognition in the bill.

An Equality Impact Assessment will be published alongside the bill to ensure all rights are protected.

The bill’s proposals include:

  • removing the current requirement for applicants to provide medical evidence of their diagnosis of gender dysphoria
  • retaining the requirement that applicants must make a solemn statutory declaration they have been living in their acquired gender and intend to do so permanently
  • requiring applicants to state that they have been living in their acquired gender for a minimum of three months
  • introducing a three month period of reflection between applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate and confirming the application
  • retaining the current law that a false statutory declaration is a criminal offence – with a potential punishment of up to two year’s imprisonment

The consultation will also seek views on:

  • whether the minimum age of applicants should be reduced from 18 to 16
  • what support is needed for children and young people who are uncertain of their gender identity

Under the new proposals, trans men and women would not have to provide psychiatric and medical reports to legally change their gender.

The SNP Government ordered a review of the Act because trans people complained the process to legally change gender is complicated, time-consuming and intrusive.

Speaking at Holyrood in Edinburgh Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville, delivered the update.

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, has previously stated: ‘As an ardent, passionate feminist, and have been all my life, I don’t see the greater recognition of transgender rights as a threat to me as a woman or to my feminism.’

Responding to the news, Becky Kaufmann, Justice Policy Officer at Scottish Trans Alliance, said, ‘We warmly welcome that the draft bill will remove the offensive and intrusive requirement that trans women and trans men provide psychiatric and medical reports in order to change their birth certificates. It is important because trans women and trans men will no longer have to depend on a tribunal panel of strangers to decide the reality of their own lives.’

‘Detrimental to the quality of debate’

James Morton, Scottish Trans Alliance Manager, furthermore said: ‘It has already been sixteen months since the initial consultation on Gender Recognition Act reform closed. The delay in publishing a draft bill has been very detrimental to the quality of debate in some parts of the media and on social media.

‘It is vital that the Scottish Government publish the draft bill as soon as possible to enable appropriate scrutiny of the exact details rather than further unhelpful speculation. Long delays between announcements and actions embolden those who are prejudiced against trans people, and create intense distress for many vulnerable trans people.’

A spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats tweeted: ‘The Liberal Democrats asked for reform of the GRA in the last parliament because it was harming trans people then just as it is harming them now.

‘Now it seems unlikely that legislation will pass before the next Scottish parliament election. For every month this debate does not take place in this chamber it takes place outside and is subject to hyperbole and misinformation.

‘If a draft bill will be ready later this year, the Scottish Government should run this second public consultation concurrently with the stage one process to give is a fighting chance of reform in this parliament.’

‘Current outdated, intrusive and medicalised process’

Colin Macfarlane, director of Stonewall Scotland, commented: ‘We are pleased to see the Scottish Government’s commitment to introducing a system of self-determination to our country’s gender recognition laws.

‘The proposals outline the Government’s intention to replace the current outdated, intrusive and medicalised process in favour of one that ensures trans people are respected. When delivered, the new system will demonstrate that the Scottish Government recognises trans people for who they are, marking an important step towards trans equality.’

However, Macfarlane argued that ongoing consultation must not be delayed.

‘It’s important the second round of public consultation doesn’t delay legislative progress and instead focuses on making the system of self-determination work effectively for trans communities in Scotland.

The Scottish Government has already done a full comprehensive public consultation on the principles of reforming the Gender Recognition Act that ended in March 2018.

The original consultation received over 15,000 responses with nearly two-thirds of Scottish people (65 per cent) supporting a system of self-determination. This shows clear public support for reform and bringing Scotland’s gender recognition laws in line with international best practice.’

Macfarlane furthermore criticised the fact that under 18s are not recognized in the draft bill.

‘While it’s great the Scottish Government plans to simplify the process of getting a Gender Recognition Certificate, it is disappointing to see that recognition for under 18s is not included in this bill. For a government that has prided itself on empowering 16- and 17-year-olds to exercise their judgment in areas like voting, it’s a shame they have not removed restrictions imposed on trans young people.

‘In addition, we welcome the Scottish Government’s move to create a working group to address non-legislative ways of recognising non-binary identities. However, this needs to be backed up by a commitment to review the need for legal gender recognition. For non-binary people, not having any legal recognition means they are currently forced to identify as something they are not and this needs to change.

‘It’s absolutely vital the Scottish Government makes an explicit commitment to uphold their 2016 election manifesto to pass legislation before the 2021 election. Any further delay will allow more fear and misinformation to spread and that will profoundly impact on trans people’s quality of life in Scotland. Trans people have suffered for far too long from inequalities that can be easily removed.

‘We look forward to working with the Scottish Government to take action and show that Scotland is a country where all LGBT people can be accepted without exception.’

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