Scottish Government hits back at critical JK Rowling article

The Scottish Government has said it is trying to improve the “intrusive, medicalised and bureaucratic” process for legal transgender recognition, in response to criticism from children’s author JK Rowling.

The SNP, Labour, Greens and Lib Dems all back plans to reduce the minimum age at which a person can apply for a legal gender change, and dispense with the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria. The period of time a person must live in their acquired gender before applying would also be reduced to three months.

The plans have provoked a backlash in some quarters, with some commentators arguing the Gender Recognition Bill currently making its way through the Scottish Parliament would weaken the safeguards around women-only spaces such as changing rooms, toilets, refuges and hospital wards.

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British author J. K. Rowling poses upon arrival at the BAFTA British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Albert Hall in London on February 12, 2017.
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Writing in the Sunday Times Scotland, Rowling suggested women and girls could be at risk of sexual harassment or violence due to the reforms, and warned that the blame “will rest squarely” on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and other MSPs - whom Rowling accused of having "ignored safeguarding experts and women's campaigners" over the issue.

Rowling also stated “there is no evidence to show that trans women don't retain male patterns of criminality”.

However, in response, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our support for trans rights does not conflict with our continued strong commitment to uphold the rights and protections that women and girls currently have under the 2010 Equality Act. This Bill makes no changes to that Act.

“The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill was introduced in March and it is now with Parliament to scrutinise and consider. We are pleased that the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee have, by majority, agreed to the general principles of the Bill and we welcome this support.

“Legal gender recognition has been available for 18 years but many find the current system for obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate to be intrusive, medicalised and bureaucratic. This Bill aims to simplify and improve the process for a trans person to gain legal recognition, giving them better access to their existing rights

“The Bill will reduce the minimum age to 16, which aligns with when young people in Scotland obtain a number of rights. A majority of respondents to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the draft bill agreed with lowering the minimum age.

“To help ensure younger applicants have carefully considered and understand what’s involved, every 16 or 17 year old who applies will be offered – and encouraged to take up – the option of a conversation with NRS to talk through the process.”

Earlier this month, the Harry Potter author published a photo of herself wearing a t-shirt which read: “Nicola Sturgeon: destroyer of women’s rights.”

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Appearing on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland, Sturgeon said: "People are entitled to express their views in whatever way they think is fit.

"I have always thought that on this issue, where people have very strong views, we should all try to treat each other with respect and that is what I will continue to do."

The First Minister added: "It is men who attack women and we need to focus on that, not on further stigmatising and discriminating against a tiny group in our society that is already one of the most stigmatised.”

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