'Gender reforms will not jeopardise rights of others', says Scottish Human Rights Commission

The commission established to protect human rights in Scotland claims reforms to the process of attaining a gender recognition certificate signals a “step forward” for trans people’s rights and does not threaten the rights of others.

The commission, accredited under the United Nations Human Rights system, refuted claims single-sex spaces would be threatened as a result of the gender reforms being considered in the Scottish Parliament.

The reforms aim to streamline the process for trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate (GRC), including ending the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and seeing the age limit lowered from 18 to 16 years old.

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The Gender Recognition Reform bill is backed by all parties in the Scottish Parliament apart from the Scottish Conservatives, who have raised concerns over women’s safety.

Ian Duddy, the Scottish Human Rights Commission chair, told the Scottish Parliament gender reforms will not jeopardise the rights of others.

Certain gender critical campaign groups claim the legislation puts single-sex spaces at risk. However, obtaining a GRC is not necessary to gain access to a single-sex space.

Exceptions provided by the Equality Act 2010 will continue to apply, regardless of changes made to the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

In written evidence, the Scottish Human Rights Commission told MSPs there is no evidence to suggest single sex spaces or women’s rights are at risk as a result of the reforms.

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Ian Duddy, the Scottish Human Rights Commission chair, told the Parliament's human rights committee: “The commission welcomes the changes to the process for securing legal recognition of gender identity set out in the Gender Recognition Reform Scotland Bill.

“It’s the commissions analysis that international standards and best practice require that the Gender Recognition Act 2004 be reformed to remove unnecessary barriers to the enjoyment of human rights for transgender people.

“What is clear from the European Courts of Human Rights and the Council of Europe is that the system must be quick, transparent and accessible.

“Looking beyond the European Convention, we can see from a range of sources that self-determination has emerged as the necessary human rights standard.”

Mr Duddy said the changes set out in the Bill would bring Scotland closer to “satisfying international legal standards and will not jeopardise the rights of others”.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, a United Nations independent expert, said international law on legal recognition outlines standards such as a basis of self-determination by the applicant and the need for a simple administrative process.

Professor Alice Sullivan, head of research at the UCL Social Research Institute, said the GRA created the "unintending consequence” of raising barriers over the collection of data on sex. The professor said introducing gender self-declaration in the law was likely to reinforce an “existing reluctance” to ask about sex.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Robin White, a trans woman barrister from Old Square Chambers in London, told the panel she had not applied for a GRC because she finds the process demeaning.

The barrister said: “I am who I am and I need no-one to validate that for me. I would not have the same difficulty with a process which respected my own declaration of who I am.”

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