Calls for emergency meeting over gender reform bill

Tory MSPs have called for a meeting to discuss concerns raised by UN special rapporteur Reem Alsalem.

Scottish Conservatives call for an emergency meeting over gender recognition reform bill iStock

The Scottish Conservatives have called for an emergency meeting to discuss reforms to gender recognition in Scotland, currently making their way through Holyrood.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, which seeks to make it easier for a person to be recognised legally as their preferred gender, is due to go to a final vote the week before Christmas.

However, Tory MSPs Rachael Hamilton and Pam Gosal have written to the convenor of the Holyrood Equalities Committee to call for an emergency session.

They say evidence by UN special rapporteur Reem Alsalem should be heard by the full committee prior to the bill proceeding.

Ms Alsalem has raised concerns that the legislation could impact on the safety of women and girls, contentions that Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government have strenuously denied.

The Bill, which aims to make the process by which trans people can update the sex on their birth certificate simpler, has received cross-party backing as well as support from human rights organisations and LGBTQ+ charities such as Stonewall and the Equality Network.

Scottish Labour’s Monica Lennon said on Friday: “I support the Gender Recognition Reform Bill because I want to improve the lives of trans men and women.

“We must continue to root out transphobia, misogyny and the oppression of marginalised groups. Inclusive and intersectional approaches are vital.”

However, it has also been heavily criticised by the Conservatives as well as some prominent figures including SNP MP Joanna Cherry and author JK Rowling.

While the concerns of Ms Alsalem have been described by Sturgeon as “not well founded”, MSPs from the Scottish Conservatives, Labour and SNP have met privately with the special rapporteur to discuss her concerns.  

Ms Alsalem said parts of the Bill presented “potential risks to the safety of women in all their diversity”, and that “empirical evidence” suggested predatory men may try to abuse the gender recognition process under the new reforms.

In an open letter, six feminist organisations including Rape Crisis Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid, condemned the remarks of Ms Alsalem.

The letter reads: “We see the paths to equality and the realisation of human rights for women and trans people as being deeply interconnected and dependant on shared efforts to dismantle systems of discrimination.”

The concerns were also dismissed by the chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) Ian Duddy who said in relation to the concerns: “We are working through our response but my personal view is that I’m not convinced she has provided new evidence that has not already been debated at length within Parliament.”

Scottish Conservative equalities spokesperson Rachael Hamilton is among those calling for an emergency meeting to discuss Ms Alsalem’s concerns.

The MSP said: “It’s astonishing to see how recklessly the SNP have dismissed and ignored the concerns of a United Nations expert on violence against women and girls.

“Reem Alsalem has expressed grave fears that these reforms could risk women’s safety. That should have been enough to pause this misguided bill straight away.

“At the very least, it’s only a matter of due diligence that Ms Alsalem’s concerns should be considered by the parliamentary committee tasked with scrutinising this legislation.

“Instead, the SNP have done all they can to dismiss this damning evidence and try to railroad this potentially harmful legislation through parliament without proper scrutiny.

“It is now essential that the Equalities Committee is allowed to consider Ms Alsalem’s evidence in an official committee session – so that MSPs and the Scottish public can hear what she has to say.

“And this must happen before the legislation is voted into law, so that we can address Ms Alsalem’s concerns and make sure we do not pass a bill that will harm women and girls.

“That’s why my colleague Pam Gosal and I have written to the convener of the committee.”

The Scottish Government said it would not comment on parliamentary proceedings.

The Scottish Parliament has been approached by STV News for comment.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code