Scottish Gender Recognition Act – a positive step towards change

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3rd December 2018 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

The Scottish Government’s work on the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) is looking like a solid endorsement for the human rights of trans people.

It has published an analysis of the responses received to its consultation on reforming the GRA. First, the highlights: there’s lots to feel positive about as respondents are overwhelmingly in favour of a reformed GRA based on self-determination, for people aged 16 and above.

Overwhelmingly, respondents were also in favour of removing the possibility for a spouse to veto the decision of obtaining a birth certificate and to ensure the new process recognises non-binary people.

At Amnesty International, we have identified these issues as crucial for a reformed GRA to be in line with international human rights standards.

It was also heartening to read comments from those supporting a reformed GRA based on self-identification; respondents highlighted how the current process is medicalised, intrusive and onerous and that “gender identity is a personal matter, with gender recognition sought by individuals who know their own mind and do not make such a choice without thought and commitment”.

Chiara Capraro

Chiara Capraro

Trans women are suffering violence and abuse as women and because they are trans

It’s very positive that this view includes 16 and 17 year olds, who in Scotland are recognised as having full adult rights and responsibilities. When it comes to ensuring the rights of children and young people are respected, the opinion on what to do for those under 16 was more split.

The question posed by the Scottish Government offered several possibilities: of those answering the question, 31% opted to do nothing for children under 16, while 23% preferred a process based on parental application or an application by a capable child respectively.

Trans and non-binary children and young people have the right to be heard and to have their views duly taken into account and a blanket age restriction would not be appropriate to achieve this.

Reforming the GRA is urgent and absolutely feasible. As we look forward to seeing proposals for legislation from the Scottish Government and, in due course, Westminster, we must remember the widespread discrimination that trans people face in society.

The GRA consultation process has been marred by widespread transphobia in mainstream media and false information and myths spread via social media targeting trans women in particular.

Some of these myths were reiterated in responses to the Scottish consultation. Making the process to obtain legal gender recognition easier and respectful of human rights will only improve the lives of trans people, many of whom suffer devastating consequences from online and real world abuse.

It has been so impressive to see women’s and feminist organisations in Scotland come together with the Scottish Trans Alliance and achieve a joint position. We achieve so much more by coming together, tackling challenging issues and finding solutions together. Nothing has ever been solved by a toxic debate on social media.

Trans and non-binary people suffer under patriarchal social norms as much as cis women (cis = non trans). Trans women are suffering violence and abuse as women and because they are trans.

Feminism has lots to gain by being trans-inclusive. While I was reading responses to the consultation this, from the Women's Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre in Dundee, resonated with me: “We are aware that there is discourse which suggests that a system of self-declaration would be a threat to women’s safe spaces. This is not our viewpoint. We want to emphasise that we already welcome self-identifying trans women into our safe spaces, that their inclusion does not in any way determine the safety of that space and that to suggest otherwise would be a disservice not only to our trans service users, but to the trans women working within our sector creating those safe spaces every day”.

Chiara Capraro is women’s human rights programme director at Amnesty International UK.