Ministers told to end ‘dithering and delay’ on gender recognition reform

The Scottish Government’s “dithering and delay” on proposed gender recognition reforms has helped create a “toxic environment” for transgender people, union leaders have insisted.

The Scottish Government has been urged to end the delay on gender recognition reforms

The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) has urged ministers to press ahead with proposed legislation on gender recognition – which was shelved in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to this it also wants to see Government action to bring about a “real end” to gay conversion therapy.

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The Scottish Trades Union Congress made the plea ahead of its annual LGBT+ Workers Conference – the 10th time the event has taken place.

Willie Docherty, head of the organisation’s LGBT+ workers’ committee insisted that the Scottish Government’s delay to proposed legislation, which would make it easier for transgender people to self-identify, had “helped create a toxic environment” and had “in fact pushed trans rights back”.

Ministers shelved their controversial Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill in April 2020.

But with Scotland now having its most diverse Parliament ever, Mr Docherty insisted now was the time for ministers to act.

He stated: “At the start of a new Scottish Parliament which is being congratulated for its diversity, we must push for LGBT+ rights not to be forgotten or pushed back again.

“The dithering and delay over the proposed Gender Recognition Act (GRA) has helped create a toxic environment and has in fact pushed trans rights back further in Scotland. We need decisive action that delivers for our transgender and non-binary comrades.

“In addition to this, we need to see a real end to all forms of conversion therapy, with no caveats that allow perpetrators to slip through the net.”

It has been 10 years since the STUC established its LGBT+ workers’ committee, and 21 years since the Scottish Parliament voted to repeal Section 28 – which banned local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality.

Mr Docherty said while “a lot has changed in those years through the strength and determination of activists and trade unionists” he also stressed that “we still have far to go”.

STUC general secretary Roz Foyer meanwhile said that the trade union movement “has a long and proud history of championing equality, challenging injustice, and striving to end all forms of discrimination, and harassment.”.

She added: “But whilst we have seen some wins over the years, the injustice and inequality that LGBT+ people face today is rising with hate crimes based on sexual orientation and transgender identity.

“The STUC supports the committee’s drive for the GRA and a real end to conversion therapy. We have a collective responsibility to stand with all our LGBT+ comrades, to protect and advance their rights in Scotland, and around the world.”

Ms Foyer stated: “Like all of our conferences since the pandemic, this year’s LGBT+ conference will be held online and will be a different experience to usual.

“The coronavirus has impacted us all, with LGBT+ workers feeling more isolated, but hopefully this conference will be a way to bring everyone together as a community.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have committed to working with trans people, women, equality groups, legal and human rights experts to identify the best and most effective way to improve and simplify the process by which a trans person can obtain legal recognition, so that the trauma associated with that process is reduced.

“We remain committed to making necessary changes to the Gender Recognition Act that arise from this work at the earliest opportunity, while ensuring these changes do not affect the rights or protections that women currently have under the Equality Act.

“We are strongly supportive of the UK Government’s commitment to ban conversion therapy, which we are clear is an abhorrent practice that has no place in Scotland.

“We are waiting to see the exact detail of the UK Government’s proposals in terms of whether they are likely to cover Scotland. But if the proposed actions do not result in the banning of this discriminatory and harmful practice in Scotland, we will consider our next steps in banning conversion therapy, in so far as is possible within the powers of the Scottish Parliament.”