A court in Edinburgh has started hearing a legal challenge over controversial gender identity reforms in Scotland.
MSP's at Holyrood approved the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill – a bill to make it easier for trans people to change gender without a formal diagnosis, just before Christmas.
However, the Scottish secretary at Westminster stopped it becoming law because of its potential impact on UK equality rules. The UK government invoked a rarely used 'Section 35' order to block the bill from receiving royal assent. Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf has argued legal action against this unprecedented move is the "only means of defending our parliament's democracy”.
Critics have argued the controversial bill introduces a system of self-identification, undermines women’s rights and single-sex spaces. Under the bill, no diagnosis or medical reports would be required to change legal gender and the period in which adult applicants need to have lived in their acquired gender would be cut to three months for adults, while teenagers aged 16 and 17 applying for a gender recognition certificate would have to live in their acquired gender for at least six months.
Michael Veitch, Scottish Parliamentary Officer at CARE argues the bill has more far-reaching implications than just women’s rights.
He tells Premier Christian News the bill removes all safeguards:
“It would essentially allow anyone 16 years and above… to self-declare. One could then easily see how, for example, those who wish to access women's safe spaces to harm them could take advantage of that a lot.
He adds: “We do not agree with the basic premise of the gender recognition format, which is built on the belief that biological sex is in fact not a fact at all; that one can change one's legal sex based on one's own feelings or thoughts. We believe that is not something that is right, and potentially could cause huge damage to children and young people who would be led down the road of life changing surgery to alter their bodies in line with their chosen gender.
“This particular piece of legislation was built ultimately on a lie, which is why it's so dangerous.”
Veitch says the vast majority of people in Scotland and the UK, “realise that there is a factual biological distinction between men and women”. He argues that to try to deny that in law “is not a good way of making policy".