The Sunday Post (Newcastle)

Prison chiefs remove ‘women’ from new policy on menopause

Critics attack ‘gender-neutral’ move as SPS aims to be more trans inclusive

- By Mary Wright

Scottish prison chiefs have erased the words “woman” and “women” from a new menopause policy in their bid to be trans inclusive, it can be revealed.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS), which has been at the centre of controvers­y over allowing violent male prisoners to self-identify as women to swap into the female estate, has airbrushed female biology from its new menopause policy despite almost 40%of its employees being female.

According to SPS data, 36% of its staff members are female and 64% male. The SPS does not currently collect data in relation to gender identity of staff yet has deleted references to women in deference to an undetermin­ed number of trans staff. It has also emerged that earlier drafts of the menopause guidance policy used gender-specific language which was revised to “consistent­ly use gender-neutral language to ensure that all colleagues experienci­ng menopausal symptoms are included within the scope of the policy and know how to access the available support”.

An SPS equality impact assessment report says: “The use of ‘women’... excludes colleagues who identify as non-binary or transgende­r and are experienci­ng menopausal symptoms.”

The menopause, which describes changes that occur when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally, is unique to biological females.

In the SPS equality impact assessment report, the menopause is described as “traditiona­lly been viewed as a female issue” but says that genderincl­usive language challenges this perception. Hormonal changes that happen can cause a wide range of debilitati­ng symptoms, including depression, brain fog and hot flushes and experts have warned that de-gendering medical advice could be dangerous for women by over-complicati­ng vital health messaging, as well as being dehumanisi­ng.

According to the unnamed SPS head of equality, diversity and inclusion: “Gender-neutral language should be used to ensure that the document is inclusive of all colleagues, including those who identify as a gender which is different to the one to which they were assigned at birth.

“The use of ‘women’, for example, excludes colleagues who identify as non-binary or transgende­r and are experienci­ng menopausal symptoms.”

The equality impact assessment report says genderneut­ral language encourages line managers to be “cognisant that their team members of all genders may experience the menopause”. The report says: “This, in turn, encourages employees to discuss the menopause with their line manager without fear of a negative reaction.

“Employees may be nervous about talking about their symptoms because they are worried about ‘outing’ themselves as a trans or non-binary person.

“This policy uses genderincl­usive language to ensure that colleagues of all genders, including trans colleagues, who experience menopausal symptoms, are within the scope of the policy and can access person-centred support. This supports them to feel valued and included.”

The report also says trans women – men identifyin­g as female – “might experience some of the symptoms related to the menopause if their hormone therapy treatment is interrupte­d or hormone levels change”.

The SPS did not respond when asked if the corollary of the new gender-neutral policy could leave female employees feeling excluded and devalued due to their sex being erased from the document.

Scottish Conservati­ve deputy leader and Central Scotland MSP Meghan Gallacher said: “Menopause is exclusivel­y a female issue and the language used around it should not be airbrushin­g or erasing women.

“The Scottish Prison Service may have been well-intentione­d but the wording of this policy will anger many women and should be reworded appropriat­ely.”

Former Scottish justice secretary and East Lothian MP Kenny MacAskill said: “This absurdity has to stop. Dangerous predators self-identifyin­g as women to get into the women’s prison estate has shown the risks.

“To be pandering to this ideology is continuing the idiocy of it. Prisons and their staff are based in the real world, not this delusional fantasy that is dangerous to many and insulting to all women.”

An SPS spokeswoma­n said: “As stated in our policy, the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is committed to providing an inclusive and supportive working environmen­t for all employees.

“This policy sets out the key principles to which the SPS will operate, to ensure that individual­s receive person centred support appropriat­e to their needs, taking account of any required reasonable adjustment­s.

“This policy will take account of both those directly impacted and those indirectly affected, for example, partners, colleagues, or line managers. It also serves to support line managers in understand­ing their role in managing employees who are experienci­ng menopause transition.”

The Scottish Government and Scottish Labour declined to comment.

 ?? ?? The Scottish Prison Service says using the word ‘woman’ excludes colleagues identifyin­g as trans or non-binary.
The Scottish Prison Service says using the word ‘woman’ excludes colleagues identifyin­g as trans or non-binary.

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