Gen­der show­down

Cam­paign­ers to take min­is­ters to court over con­tro­ver­sial Bill that will let men self-de­clare as women

Scottish Daily Mail - - John Humphrys - By Mark Howarth

CAM­PAIGN­ERS are tak­ing the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to court over a de­ci­sion by SNP min­is­ters to change the def­i­ni­tion of a wo­man.

For Women Scot­land (FWS) has won the right to a ju­di­cial re­view of Holy­rood leg­is­la­tion that al­lows trans­gen­der men to be con­sid­ered fe­male.

Judges at the Court of Ses­sion will now de­cide whether the re­con­fig­u­ra­tion of the tra­di­tional sexes is le­gal, with a first hear­ing set for Jan­uary.

The case will once again pit the Gov­ern­ment l awyers against hu­man rights QC Ai­dan O’Neill, who suc­cess­fully ar­gued for the Supreme Court to strike down the SNP’s con­tro­ver­sial Named Per­son scheme in 2016.

Equal­i­ties law is re­served to West­min­ster and FWS – which is ap­peal­ing to the pub­lic to help fund its ac­tion – claims SNP min­is­ters over­stepped their pow­ers by re­defin­ing the term ‘wo­man’ in a statute passed in 2018. This breach of the Scot­land Act should have been spot­ted and pre­vented, it insists.

Last night, FWS said it was ‘shame­ful’ that govern­ments on both sides of the Bor­der had ‘left or­di­nary women with the task of de­fend­ing our le­gal rights at per­sonal and fi­nan­cial cost’, adding: ‘It should not be pos­si­ble for the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to re­de­fine pro­tected char­ac­ter­is­tics in dis­crete leg­is­la­tion nor un­der­mine UK equal­ity law.

‘We ob­ject to the wholesale re­def­i­ni­tion of women, which was done at the re­quest of a lobby group, and with­out pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion or par­lia­men­tary scru­tiny.’

The Gen­der Rep­re­sen­ta­tion on Pub­lic Boards (Scot­land) Act 2018 seeks to en­force greater fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion on the boards of pub­lic bod­ies. But in a glos­sary of def­i­ni­tions, it states that the term ‘wo­man’ in­cludes ‘a per­son who has the pro­tected char­ac­ter­is­tic of gen­der re­as­sign­ment if… the per­son is liv­ing as a wo­man and is propos­ing to un­dergo, is un­der­go­ing or has un­der­gone a process (or part of a process) for the pur­pose of be­com­ing fe­male’.

FWS claims this sen­tence has – il­le­gally – ripped up thou­sands of years of tra­di­tion and decades of equal­i­ties law, all done by the back door.

The group added: ‘ This has en­cour­aged sim­i­lar mis­uses of the pro­tected char­ac­ter­is­tic of sex in l eg­is­la­tion that i s pro­gress­ing through the Scot­tish par­lia­ment.

‘For ex­am­ple, the Foren­sic Med­i­cal Ser­vices Bill states “gen­der” rather than “sex” and is, there­fore, un­able t o guar­an­tee f emale doc­tors for rape vic­tims, plus the forth­com­ing cen­sus pro­poses self­i­den­ti­fi­ca­tion of sex.

‘The Equal­ity Act 2010 states “sex” is a ref­er­ence to a man or a wo­man and de­fines wo­man as “a fe­male of any age”. Main­tain­ing this def­i­ni­tion is key to main­tain­ing women’s rights and pro­tec­tions.’

The Bill would al­low a man to self- de­clare as a wo­man with­out mak­ing any phys­i­cal changes.

UK min­is­ters axed sim­i­lar plans for Eng­land and Wales last month.

Due to the Covid pan­demic, Scot­tish min­is­ters have put on hold plans to make it eas­ier for Scots to of­fi­cially change iden­tity.

Paus­ing the Scots Bill is be­lieved to have pre­vented a num­ber of res­ig­na­tions from within the SNP, with sec­tions of the party at odds over the is­sue. Harry Pot­ter au­thor JK Rowl­ing has also voiced con­cerns about chang­ing def­i­ni­tions of a wo­man, say­ing: ‘If sex isn’t real, there’s no same- sex at­trac­tion. If sex isn’t real, the lived re­al­ity of women glob­ally is erased.’ She added: ‘It isn’t hate to speak the truth.’

Miss Rowl­ing pub­licly sup­ported fel­low writer Maya Forstater, who lost her job at a think­tank for stat­ing: ‘Men can’t change into women.’

‘Main­tain­ing women’s rights’

Con­cern: Writer JK Rowl­ing

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