Gender recognition reform taking place ‘under the radar’ across Europe

Gender recognition reform taking place 'under the radar' across Europe

New analysis suggests that gender recognition reform in a number of European jurisdictions has “taken place with minimal public scrutiny”, according to MurrayBlackburnMackenzie.

In an article published in the May 2020 edition of the Edinburgh Law Review, the policy analysis collective reviewed jurisdictions which have introduced laws to enable individuals to change their legal sex by means of a statutory declaration.

The article demonstrates how these reforms have taken place ‘under the radar’, with “little to no consideration as to how gender self-identification principles impact on other rights-holders”.

Dr Kath Murray, research fellow in criminology at Edinburgh Law School, said: “Both the Scottish and UK governments have recently consulted on proposals to amend the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004 that would enable someone to change their legal sex simply by making a statutory declaration. We were among those who responded to the consultation expressing concern that the Scottish government’s proposals failed to recognise a conflict with women’s sex-based rights as enshrined in the Equality Act 2010.

“In its consultation, the Scottish government relied heavily on a narrative of ‘international best practice’ as a rationale for reform, citing non-binding legal instruments, whilst conceding that current arrangements for changing legal sex are compliant with recent rulings from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).”

She added: “Our analysis suggests that those jurisdictions in Europe who have already introduced self-declaration models for legal sex change have tended to do so with very little public scrutiny. A report prepared by international law firm Dentons aimed at those advocating for self-declaration recorded that pursuing reform ‘under the radar’ (in its own words) had been a deliberate strategy in Ireland, and advised that proponents of reform should seek to avoid media coverage and ‘latch trans rights legislation onto more popular legal reforms’ - such as same-sex marriage.

“We argue that the pace and breadth of the uptake of these laws may be attributable to a process of policy capture, whereby policymaking is skewed in favour of one particular interest group at the expense of others. There are lessons here for the UK and Scottish Governments as they consider reforms to the GRA. Both should seek to secure broad-based support for any reforms, and consider potential effects on other rights-holders, not least women.”

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