SNP urged to 'suspend' gender recognition plans after UN 'serious concerns'

The Scottish Government has been urged to pause its gender recognition plans <i>(Image: PA)</i>
The Scottish Government has been urged to pause its gender recognition plans (Image: PA)

THE SCOTTISH Conservatives have renewed their call for gender recognition proposals to be put on hold – pointing to a United Nations official raising concerns about the plans.

SNP ministers have brought forward plans to update the process for trans people obtaining a gender recognition certificate – moving from needing a diagnosis of gender dysphoria to a method of self-ID.

Under the plans, supported by all Holyrood parties except the Conservatives, the lower age limit will be reduced to 16.

The Tories have renewed their call for the legislation to be put on hold – once again pointing to comments made by UN special rapporteur on violence against women and girls, Reem Alsalem.

Ms Alsalem has warned the proposed legislation “presents potential risks to the safety of women”, claiming the plans could “open the door for violent males who identify as men to abuse the process”.

The legislation makes it an offence to fraudulently obtain a gender recognition certificate, a document not required to enter single sex spaces.

An amendment brought forward by Conservative MSP Jamie Greene, backed by the Scottish Government, would add an aggravator in the courts – meaning fraudsters would face harsher penalties for abusing the system.

Holyrood’s Equalities, Human Rights and Social Justice Committee did not take evidence from Ms Alsalem with the Conservatives calling for the legislative process to be put on hold until she has done.

However, the committee did hear from Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the United Nations’ independent expert on gender identity, who told MSPs that gender recognition process “should be based on self-determination” instead of the current set-up.

Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton has penned a letter to Nicola Sturgeon, calling on the First Minister to “suspend” the legislation until “evidence can be taken fully from the United Nations”.

In her letter, Ms Hamilton warned that Ms Alsalem “has recently raised serious concerns about the current bill”.

She added: “In light of this new evidence, which neither the Scottish Parliament not the committee considering the bill has considered, I am asking that you suspend this legislation until we can hear from this United Nations expert.

“The Government must listen. It is vitally important that we make good laws with proper and full consideration of all the consequences.

“It would be grossly unfair to women and girls with sincere and valid concerns about this legislation if the Government was to be selective and cherry-pick the opinions it relied on while ignoring a UN adviser who has expertise in this very area.

“It would be far better to pause the legislation for a few weeks than rush through a bill that could have potentially damaging consequences for women’s rights and safety.”

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions in response to Tory MSP Pam Gosul’s similar question, Ms Sturgeon said “it is violent men that we”.

She added: “They continue to pose the biggest risk to women. I don’t believe that we should further stigmatise the trans community because of the actions of violent men.

“Violent men who right now want to access women-only spaces do not need a gender recognition certificate to do that.

The First Minister told MSPs the Scottish Government will “respond in full” to the comments made by Ms Alsalem.

She added: “The Social Justice Secretary will respond in detail on the issues raised – many of these issues have been discussed and addressed already by Parliament during stages one and two of the bill.

“Of course, parliament will have the opportunity to discuss the bill again at stage three of the legislative process.”

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