A long-awaited independent analysis of responses to a proposed law change on gender recognition reform has been published by the Scottish Government.
The findings were outlined in an analysis of responses to the Government’s consultation on the draft Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.
Views were gathered on a number of changes proposed in the Bill, which seeks to introduce a new system for obtaining legal gender recognition in Scotland.
As part of the consultation, opinions were specifically sought on two aspects proposed under the Bill.
These were the requirement for applicants to live in their acquired gender for three months prior to submitting an application, and for a three-month reflection period after application before legal gender recognition is granted.
Respondents were also asked whether the age at which an application for legal gender recognition can be made should be reduced from 18 to 16.
Outside of the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, there were campaigners who gathered in protest against GRA reform, as well as campaigners taking part in a counter-demonstration in support of trans rights.
The Government’s analysed over 17,000 responses to the proposals – 16,843 of which were submitted by members of the public, whilst 215 were submitted by organisations.
Under a section of the report outlining ‘overarching themes’, the “nature and tone” of debate on the issue was highlighted as a “shared area of concern”, with a consensus that the debate had become “highly polarised”.
Some respondents also indicated that the debate had become “toxic” and was underpinned by a culture, and a social media culture in particular, in which people are “bullied and harassed by those taking a different view”.
A number of respondents expressed the view that Scottish Government “has not listened” to the concerns and needs of the transgender community over the proposed changes to gender recognition legislation.
But, the report also stated the view of some respondents that the Scottish Government “listens primarily to the trans community while failing to engage with those who have concerns about the impact of the proposed changes on women and girls or based on their beliefs”.
The Government’s analysis of comments made in the consultation found that a “small majority of organisations broadly supported changing to a statutory declaration-based system”.
It also stated that “around four in 10 organisations did not support changing to a statutory declaration-based system and around one in 10 either did not take a view or their view was not clear”.
Scotland’s social justice secretary Shona Robison said that work on the draft bill and its provisions has now resumed after a pause as the Government responded to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Scottish Government is committed to making necessary changes to the Gender Recognition Act to improve and simplify the process by which a trans person can obtain legal recognition,” she said.
“We will do this whilst ensuring we uphold the rights or protections that women and girls currently have under the Equality Act.
“The consultation on the draft Gender Recognition Bill – which concentrates on improving the way in which legal gender recognition is obtained – received more than 17,000 submissions.”
She added: “Today we have published an independent analysis report giving a systematic overview of all responses as well as the replies from organisations and groups, where we have permission to do so.
“Following a pause to allow resources to be diverted to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, work on the draft bill and its provisions has now resumed.
“More detail on the Government’s legislative programme will be included in the forthcoming Programme for Government.”