Draft bill on changing gender recognition rules out for consultation

Draft bill on changing gender recognition rules out for consultation

Shirley-Anne Somerville

The minimum age for an application to obtain legal recognition of gender would be reduced from 18 to 16 and a new offence of false application would be created under proposed legislation.

A draft bill reforming the current process for obtaining legal gender recognition has been published by the Scottish government for consultation – which will be open until 17 March 2020.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill’s proposals include:

  • removing the current requirement for people to apply to the UK Gender Recognition Panel. Instead, people seeking legal gender recognition would apply to the Registrar General for Scotland
  • removing the current requirement for applicants to provide medical evidence of their diagnosis of gender dysphoria
  • retaining the requirement that applicants must make a solemn statutory declaration they have been living in their acquired gender for three months and intend to do so permanently
  • introducing a minimum three month period of reflection between applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate and confirming the application. This means that the applicant must have lived in their acquired gender for a minimum of six months before a certificate is granted
  • retaining the position that a false statutory declaration is a criminal offence and introducing a new offence of false application – each with a potential punishment of up to two years’ imprisonment
  • reducing the minimum age of application from 18 to 16

Equalities Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “We are proposing these reforms because the current system is viewed by many wishing to apply as traumatic and demeaning.

“A previous consultation on reform showed a majority in support for our proposals but also some concerns.

“Consulting on the detail of a draft bill and associated impact assessments will, I hope, clearly explain the need for reform and address those concerns.

“There have always been trans people in society and for the past fifteen years they have been able to legally change their gender through obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate.

“We are proposing to make the current process less stressful whilst continuing to recognise the seriousness of the decision to live your life in a different gender.

“Women’s rights and protections will be as strong under this bill as they are today, as we remain committed to protect, respect, and advance the rights of women and girls.

“We are not proposing to change the Equality Act or the exceptions within it that protect single sex spaces and services.

“Our proposals are in line with the approach taken in a number of other countries, including the Republic of Ireland which has had a similar system since 2015.

“We will carefully consider all responses to the consultation and I urge everyone contributing to do so in a considered and respectful way.”

Lynn Welsh, head of legal at the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland, said: “This bill offers a welcome opportunity to remove unnecessary practical barriers trans people face in securing legal recognition of their gender identity.

“Nothing in the bill will threaten the continued operation of the Equality Act provisions protecting women-only services and spaces, which recognise the particular needs of women and the need for protection from sex-based violence.”

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