The First Minister has described herself as a “passionate feminist” after Harry Potter author JK Rowling wore a T-shirt accusing her of being a “destroyer of women’s rights”.
The author, who wrote the multi-million selling Harry Potter series of books, posted a photo on Twitter wearing the garment, which features the words: “Nicola Sturgeon: Destroyer of women’s rights.”
It came after a Holyrood committee voted by a majority of MSPs to back legislation that aims to make it easier for transgender people to be legally recognised as their preferred gender.
The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament, would drop the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, as well as reducing the time a person would be required to live in their acquired gender from two years to three months – though there would be a three-month “reflection period”.
Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme ahead of the SNP conference in Aberdeen, Sturgeon was asked if she is a “destroyer of women’s rights”.
She said: “No, I’ve spent my entire life campaigning for women’s rights and I’m a passionate feminist with lots of evidence behind that.
“I respect people’s views on this – people are entitled to express their views however they wish.”
She added the Bill is about “reforming an existing process” and “doesn’t give any more rights to trans people and it doesn’t take any rights away from women”.
A majority of MSPs on the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee recommended the general principles of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill should be approved.
However, some fear the reforms “could potentially mean the process is open to abuse from bad faith actors, particularly predatory men”.
Concerns have also been raised about the impact the reforms could have on single-sex spaces for women and girls – such as female-only toilets or changing rooms.
The report – published ahead of a demonstration outside Holyrood – said most MSPs on the committee agree that while such views are “sincerely held”, they are satisfied the Bill would not change any of the existing protections women have under the Equality Act 2010, “including the ability to exclude trans people from single-sex services where proportionate and appropriate”.
Sturgeon said the threat to women is not trans women, but predatory men.
“Any man who seeks to abuse any process to attack women, we should deal with that, we shouldn’t stigmatise further an already stigmatised group of people,” she said.
“This is a statutory process, there are criminal implications for anybody who abuses that – it is not a process without significant conditions attached to it.”
The current process, the First Minister added, is “stigmatising, it’s traumatic, it’s asking people to effectively prove they are mentally unwell”, adding that anyone caught abusing the process outlined in the new Bill will be committing “a criminal offence”.
She went on: “There are many, many real threats out there to women right now, from attacks – physical attacks, attacks of sexual violence to the removal of abortion and reproductive rights – women in countries like Iran are going through.
“There are no shortage of attacks on women that feminists, real feminists, as I consider myself to be, should be focusing on right now.”
Convener of the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee Joe FitzPatrick said: “We believe these important reforms will improve the lives and experiences of trans people.”