A UN official worries that males may “abuse” the new GRA bill

A United Nations official has raised concerns that controversial new gender legislation could be abused by predatory men.

Reem Al-Salem, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, wrote to the UK government this week to convey her concerns about the bill.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill aims to change how a person obtains a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), including by lowering the minimum age from 18 to 16, and reducing the amount of time an applicant needs to live in their acquired home. Gender and removal of the diagnostic condition for gender identity disorder.

The legislation passed phase two in Holyrood this week, with substantial amendments including an increase in the waiting time for applicants aged between 16 and 17 as well as a sweeping change that says the bill will have no impact on the Equality Act 2010.

Opponents said the changes would put women at risk, including by increasing the number of trans women who could use single-sex services.

But the Equality Act allows transgender people to be excluded in some circumstances from single-sex spaces, something supporters – including Social Justice Minister Shona Robson – said should assuage concerns.

In the letter, Ms. Al Salem said: “I share the concern that such proposals are likely to open the door for violent males who identify as men to abuse the gender certification process and associated rights.

“This presents potential safety risks to women in all of their diversity (including women born female, transgender women, and gender non-conforming women).”

However, the rapporteur praised the Scottish government’s attempts to reform the gender recognition process, saying she welcomed attempts to bring the legislation “more in line with international standards”.

But she said current legislation “does not adequately take into account the specific needs of women and girls in all their diversity, particularly those at risk of male violence and those who have experienced male violence”.

She added that the bill: “does not provide for any safeguards to ensure that the procedure, as far as can reasonably be assured, will not be victimized by sexual harassers and other perpetrators of violence. These include access to both single-sex spaces and gender-based spaces.”

The rapporteur said that the majority of sexual offenders are male, and the offenders will make “great efforts” to reach the people who wish to offend them.

Shawna Robson MSP
Shauna Robson MSP (Andrew Milligan/PA)

She concluded by appealing “strongly” to the Scottish government to consider all the results of the reforms.

So I strongly appeal to the Scottish government to be dedicated
Sufficient time to complete a comprehensive assessment of all expected outcomes of the proposed amendments and to ensure that their compatibility with relevant legislation, such as the Equality Law and other relevant legislation, has been carefully articulated to achieve legislative compatibility,” Ms. Al-Salem wrote.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have noted Ms. Al-Salem’s message and will respond in detail to the issues raised, many of which Parliament has taken up during Phase One and Phase Two of the bill.

“We have always been clear that the Bill does not conflict with our continued strong commitment to upholding the rights and protections that women and girls currently enjoy under the Equality Act 2010, and we have accepted an amendment that brings this position beyond question.

There is overwhelming support for the principles of the bill – which is in line with the UN Human Rights Office’s stated position that being trans is not a disease and trans people should be legally recognized “through a simple administrative process based on self-identification”.

More than two-thirds of the members of parliament and members of all five parties voted in favor of the first stage.

“We have also noted the evidence presented to the Equality Commission in support of the bill by the UN Independent Expert on Protection from Violence and Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.”

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