Translucent.Org.UK is based in Portsmouth, United Kingdom, and our focus is on the human rights of people who are transgender in our country. We are a “trans-led” award-winning organisation and have made two human rights submissions to the UN (GANHRIGANHRI The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions brings together and supports national human rights institutions to promote and protect human rights Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions https://ganhri.org ) in the last year. We have become aware of your direct intervention in reforming the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) in Scotland.
Your letter accurately establishes how the GRA was initially formed but sadly fails to mention that the GRA has badly failed trans people in the UK. Statistics from the Ministry of Justice confirm that from 2011 to 2021, just 3921(1) Gender Recognition Certificates (GRC) were issued, averaging just 392 per year. We understand that just 30 to 35 certificates are issued to residents in Scotland per annum. The trans population in the UK is estimated at circa 450,000 people meaning that it is likely that under 1% of trans people have a GRC. We are aware of trans people who have even had gender-confirming surgery but have not been able to apply for a GRC because of the over-demanding conditions of the current legislation.
In 2017 Teresa May, at the time, our Prime Minister said (2):-
“ We are determined to eradicate homophobic and transphobic bullying. We have laid out plans to reform the gender recognition act, streamlining and demedicalising the process for changing gender because being trans is not an illness and it should not be treated as such“.
Since that time, however, the quality of trans people’s lives in the UK has plummeted – primarily driven by discredited (and often hateful) women’s “sex-based” groups who have provoked media hysteria. This, in turn, has resulted in a significant escalation in hate crimes against trans people. In the last year alone, hate crime against our community has increased by 56%.
Sadly, it would appear that you have listened to some of these groups without reaching out to organisations such as ourselves to hear and assess the facts from those directly affected by the failure of the GRA.
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS (VAWGVAWG Violence Against Women and Girls Further info https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tackling-violence-against-women-and-girls-strategy):
We agree that violence against women and girls is a grave issue in the UK, and in the past, even though our focus relates to trans people’s human rights, we ran a year-long campaign highlighting this issue. We believe that the Conservative Government’s failure to ratify the Istanbul Convention in a reasonable time has contributed to VAWG. Evidence in the UK suggests that a woman is murdered by a man every three days. The statistics and evidence consistently show the perpetrators are overwhelmingly cisgender men who do not need to ‘pretend’ to be anyone else, are known to the victim and that most attacks occur in the home.
Fundamentally, we need to make it clear that your entire letter is incorrectly based on the premise that GRA ReformGRA Reform Gender Recognition Reform Bill - Scotland https://www.gov.scot/news/gender-recognition-reform-bill/ Published 03 March 2022 09:34 Part of Equality and rights Simplifying how trans people apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate. See Also https://mermaidsuk.org.uk/mermaids-manifesto-for-gra-reform/ https://www.stonewall.org.uk/what-does-uk-government-announcement-gender-recognition-act-mean , as proposed by the Scottish Government, will have a negative impact on the rights and safety of cisgender women.
Specifically, your letter suggests that gender recognition by Self Determination (SD) poses a risk to women and girls. You say this regarding (SD) :-
“It is not unreasonable to expect the Government to spell out what level of scrutiny will continue in the procedure, or detail important aspects of it, including the specific steps the procedure entails and the conditions for refusing such applications in the law itself or at least in the explanatory notes of the concerned legislation. Other governments that have adopted a self- identification procedure for the legal recognition of a gender identity have done so.”
You appear to have omitted relevant data in relation to actions by other governments in this area and failed to indicate where they may have acted differently to the Scottish Government’s own proposals.
You also make the following statement:-
“I share the concern that such proposals 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 (including women born female, transwomen, and gender non-conforming women).
Your position that GRA Reform is a safety risk is a totally false and misleading statement. The current UK Laws regarding the use of Gender Appropriate Spaces have never been governed by the possession of a GRC. The Equality Act 2010 very clearly states that (3):-
“A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.”
This makes the position very clear that the protection is at ‘any stage’; therefore, the possession of a GRC will not change any person’s rights in relation to the use of Gender Appropriate Spaces. To base, your entire letter on the potential dangers of male predators gaining access via the abuse of GRA Reform is, therefore, totally disingenuous.
Any male wishing to abuse the law in this way has already been able to do so under the Equality Act simply by claiming they had begun their process of transitioning. The owning of a GRC makes absolutely no difference. There is no increased danger, as you claim.
It is also important to understand exactly what a GRC does allow. It allows someone transgender to change their Birth Certificate, and therefore they will have the assured dignity of either marrying or being buried on death in their true identity. And apart from a minor tax implication and rights to privacy, there is no other benefit. A Birth Certificate has such limited use in the UK as it is never required as proof or a requirement of entry into Gender Appropriate Spaces.
You also say:-
“In addition, the aforementioned report from the Women and Equalities Committee further recommended “robust guidance” should be developed on how a system of self-declaration would work in practice, giving the specific example of male prisoners with a record of sexual assault or domestic violence, who self-identify as a woman, and that they should not be transferred to a woman’s prison.”
This, again, is simply not a factual statement as the law is quite clear on the use of the Exemptions within the Equality Act 2010. When the UK Government undertook the GRA Reform Consultation, they included the following statement within their consultation paper (4):-
“In particular, we are interested in the relationship between the GRA and the Equality Act 2010. This consultation is clear that we do not plan to amend the existing protections in the Equality Act. The Equality Act specifically includes ‘gender reassignment’ as a protected characteristic. The Act outlines the limited circumstances where discrimination against individuals with this protected characteristic might be permissible, such as in the provision of single-sex services, so long as the discrimination is a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim. This might include, for example, the running of a rape support centre.”
The clear position is that the exemptions have always been intended, not as a method of imposing ‘blanket bans’, but rather to be used in limited circumstances on a case-by-case basis, as well as allowing for additional protections where relevant in specific services such as Prisons, Refuges and Sports. Such organisations, therefore, already have the required protections under the Equality Act 2010. In no case does the possession of a female birth certificate, either assigned at birth or via a GRC, give anyone additional overriding rights which they can impose upon a service provider or supplier. The claim that GRA Reform will impact in this way is again totally false, and identical claims made by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to the Scottish Government have rightly been dismissed for these precise reasons.
In consequence, regarding the GRA reform in Scotland, we must ask this question. Why would a potential male perpetrator go to the trouble of living as a woman for three months to access a single-sex space, given a GRC is not an identification document?
In the UK (as well as in most other countries), passports and photo driving licences are the primary methods of proving identity. Trans people (and indeed potential male perpetrators) can gain these documents simply by SD to a general practitioner (family doctor). This has been the case for several years.
We must stress that we are unaware of a single case where male perpetrators have done this.
Moreover, the Scottish Government has clarified that if any applicant fraudulently applies for a GRC, it will become a serious criminal offence.
We also note that you reference an article from Shonagh Dillon, who has in the past been criticised for her trans-hostile views. We are deeply concerned that a personal blog that is not in any way peer-reviewed is referenced and used as evidence within a UN document.
We would also point out that members of the Scottish Government asked the EHRC to provide evidence from other countries that SD has impacted women’s rights and that, to date, they have failed to do so.
We welcome your comments that the GRA needs significant reform and fails to satisfy the needs of non-binary people. However, given “debate” about GRA reform in relation to the binary trans community has been ongoing for six torturous years in the UK, we do feel this is an issue for the UK government as a whole to address, in particular given the ‘third option’ requires changes in the law in relation to passports and driving licences.
Translucent is a feminist organisation that stands firmly for the rights of all women, and wherever we identify dangers to women, we will fight to bring about change.
But what we will not do is sit back quietly when false claims of “dangers to women” are being manufactured with the sole purpose of sabotaging the human rights of trans people.
We, therefore, call on you to reconsider your position, given the clear evidence that your letter is not based on the facts and, in consequence, is highly misleading.