Scottish Daily Mail

Gender showdown

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

- 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
Concern: Writer JK Rowling

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