Today’s Court of Session ruling upholding the UK government’s blocking of the Gender Recognition Reform bill (GRR) in Scotland could mean the end of the road for self-ID in the UK. Just last week the Welsh government quietly side-lined its own proposals.
There is already a process for those whom doctors approve as needing legal transition. There is no reason why this should be made available to everyone. Today’s judgement confirms that to do so would adversely affect women’s rights under the Equality Act. The judgement was not about the merits of self-ID but about whether the Scottish parliament had over-reached its powers with the GRR bill. The court ruled it had because the UK government was able to show how GRR in Scotland would change how the Equality Act operates across the UK. Since equalities legislation is not devolved, that made it a no-go. It also means the court agreed that GRR does interact with the provision of single-sex services.
As always in this fight, it’s taken many women, and a few men, long hours of work to get the win. Some of this is about getting visibility and media coverage – like the tireless campaigning at Holyrood, merkins and all. Much of the work is in data collection, evidence-building, submitting to consultations, finding ways to engage politicians in Edinburgh and London in the issues and persuading them of the need to act. Scottish women’s campaign and policy groups led the charge in Holyrood. Fair Play For Women worked closely with them, and also worked in Westminster, along with many others, to help make the case for the UK government to use its powers to oppose the GRR bill. This win is the result of an outstanding team effort.
For five years, women’s campaign groups across the UK have been resisting proposals to allow men to change their birth certificates to say they were born female on demand. We’ve been pointing out the risks such a law would pose to the privacy, dignity and safety of women and girls. We are already fighting the de facto self-ID that’s been widely adopted in single-sex services like rape and domestic violence shelters, in prisons and hospital wards. We’ve seen progress, particularly in sport. Despite the arguments of those activists who said a Gender Recognition Certificate is just admin, self-ID would undoubtedly make it harder for us to regain single-sex spaces, service and sport. In some cases, like prisons, government officials have argued that a male prisoner who has legally changed his sex has a right to be held in the female prison estate. Defeating proposals for self-ID was an essential step in defending and winning back female-only spaces.
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