JK Rowling attacks SNP frontrunner Humza Yousaf over women's rights

·3-min read
Humza Yousaf holds up the pink heart that has attracted the ire of JK Rowling
Humza Yousaf holds up the pink heart that has attracted the ire of JK Rowling

JK Rowling has attacked the frontrunner to replace Nicola Sturgeon over his pledge to protect women's rights, accusing him of backing legislation that would have allowed rapists to be housed in women's prisons.

Humza Yousaf posted a picture of himself on Twitter holding up a large cardboard cutout of a pink heart bearing the slogan "Upholding Rights."

Pledging to "advance women's rights" if he becomes First Minister next week, he set out six measures he would take, including improving support for sexual offence victims and having a gender-balanced Cabinet.

But Ms Rowling sarcastically responded: "What a lovely pink heart. Now tell us why you voted down the amendment to stop rapists being housed in women’s jails, Humza Yousaf."

The Harry Potter author added the names of three high-profile transgender criminals - Isla Bryson, Katie Dolatowski and Paris Green.

Mr Yousaf, the Scottish Health Secretary, is the only one of the three SNP leadership candidates to back Ms Sturgeon's controversial legislation allowing people to self-identify their legal gender.

JK Rowling has consistently stood up for women's rights - Debra Hurford Brown/Pottermore
JK Rowling has consistently stood up for women's rights - Debra Hurford Brown/Pottermore

Kate Forbes, the finance secretary, has said she would have voted against the Bill if she had not been on maternity leave and Ash Regan resigned as community safety minister so she could oppose it.

The legislation was blocked by the UK Government over concerns it undermined protections for women's safe spaces but Mr Yousaf has said he wants to go to court to get the veto overturned if he is announced as the new SNP leader on Monday.

Ms Rowling's tweets refer to amendments tabled during the passage of the legislation at Holyrood, which would have added safeguards but were voted down by SNP and Green MSPs, including Mr Yousaf.

Russell Findlay, a Tory MSP, had tabled an amendment that would have banned convicted sex offenders from self-identifying as a woman.

A joint amendment he tabled with Michelle Thomson, an SNP MSP, to prevent anyone accused of sexual offences from switching gender while awaiting trial was also rejected.

Responding to Ms Rowling's tweet, Mr Findlay said: “Humza Yousaf has made a career out of cynical and shameless political opportunism and was a cheerleader for Nicola Sturgeon’s dangerous and flawed gender self-ID bill.

“So the women of Scotland whose valid concerns were so arrogantly dismissed by Sturgeon will not be fooled by this virtue-signalling PR stunt.”

Shona Robison, the SNP's social justice secretary, urged MSPs to reject the amendments in December last year by arguing that the likelihood of “bad actors” was “very low”.

Public uproar

But there was public uproar when transgender double rapist Isla Bryson was initially sent to Cornton Vale women's prison after being convicted in January. The predator was named Adam Graham when committing the rapes and had not legally changed gender.

The decision was made in line with the Scottish Prison Service guidance that existed at the time, which said trans criminals should be sent to the prison that matches their self-identified gender that they were living in prior to their conviction.

Asked about the Bryson case during the SNP leadership campaign, Mr Yousaf has said the rapist was "at it" but should have the right to self-identify as female.

He argued that it would be unfair to oppose Ms Sturgeon's self-ID gender laws "because of one despicable individual" whom he said had tried to "manipulate" Scotland's prison system.

Mr Yousaf said the current system, under which people must get a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, should be abolished as "99.9 per cent of trans men and women do not commit crime".

However, he has repeatedly refused to explicitly state whether he believes Bryson to be male or female. All three SNP leadership candidates were contacted for comment on Ms Rowling's intervention.