UN official warns SNP gender reforms will ‘open the door to sexual predators’ who could abuse women

UN official warns the SNP’s gender reforms will ‘open the door to sexual predators’ intent on ‘abusing women’ by accessing female safe spaces

  • UN’s Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls slams SNP’s plan 
  • Reem Alsalem launched a blistering attack on the Gender Recognition Bill
  • She raised concern on safeguarding measures and urged ‘thorough assessment’ 

A United Nations official has launched a blistering attack on Nicola Sturgeon‘s controversial gender reform bill and suggested the SNP‘s mooted policies could pose a danger to women. 

Reem Alsalem, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, penned a 4,500-word letter to the UK government urging a ‘thorough assessment’ of the proposed legislation, which she described as ‘unfair, rushed, vague and contradictory’ in its current form.

Ms Alsalem also raised concerns over safeguarding measures and the potential misuse of the bill’s procedure on self-identification, which could be ‘abused by sexual predators and other perpetrators of violence’. 

In her letter, she wrote: ‘Such proposals would potentially open the door for violent males who identify as men to abuse the process of acquiring a GRC and the rights associated with it. This presents potential risks to the safety of women in all their diversity.

‘The Scottish government … does not provide for any safeguarding measures to ensure that the procedure is not, as far as can be reasonably assured, abused by sexual predators and other perpetrators of violence. These include access to both single-sex spaces and gender-based spaces.’

The Gender Recognition Reform Bill will remove the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria when seeking a gender recognition certificate, while also reducing the length of time an applicant must live in their acquired gender from two years to three months, with an additional three-month reflection period.

Set to be enacted by Christmas, the new laws aim to simplify the process by which a transgender person can switch gender through ‘self-identification’, and lowers the age limit of gender reform from 18 to 16.

Feminist groups, who have been backed by high profile campaigners including Harry Potter author JK Rowling, have raised concerns the change in the law could put women and girls’ rights at risk.

Reem Alsalem, the UN's Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, penned a 4,500-word letter to the UK government urging a 'thorough assessment' of the proposed legislation, which she described as 'unfair, rushed, vague and contradictory' in its current form

Reem Alsalem, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, penned a 4,500-word letter to the UK government urging a ‘thorough assessment’ of the proposed legislation, which she described as ‘unfair, rushed, vague and contradictory’ in its current form

Feminist groups, who have been backed by high profile campaigners including Harry Potter author JK Rowling, have suggested Nicola Sturgeon's controversial gender reform bill could put women and girls' rights at risk

Feminist groups, who have been backed by high profile campaigners including Harry Potter author JK Rowling, have suggested Nicola Sturgeon’s controversial gender reform bill could put women and girls’ rights at risk

Ms Alsalem’s devastating letter revealed the Scottish government was already found to be in breach of the UN’s Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women protocol.

Holyrood was also warned that they could be breaching the Equality Act should women from different religious or ethnic backgrounds feel excluded as a consequence of the radical gender reform. 

JK Rowling and Nicola Sturgeon were locked in a public war of words earlier this year over the author’s ardent opposition to the proposed legislation. 

Ms Rowling is opposed to the Scottish Government’s plan to make it easier for individuals as young as 16 to change legal gender with no requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Meanwhile, Ms Sturgeon said the aim is to make the existing process ‘less degrading, intrusive and traumatic’, but the Harry Potter author has argued the law would harm vulnerable women. 

Scotland's politicians will today hear from two people who have expressed regret about their own gender reassignments and have voiced their concerns about the Scottish Government's proposals

Scotland’s politicians will today hear from two people who have expressed regret about their own gender reassignments and have voiced their concerns about the Scottish Government’s proposals

JK Rowling and Nicola Sturgeon were locked in a public war of words earlier this year over the author's ardent opposition to the proposed legislation

JK Rowling and Nicola Sturgeon were locked in a public war of words earlier this year over the author’s ardent opposition to the proposed legislation 

What is the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Bill? 

What is the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill?

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill will remove the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria when seeking a gender recognition certificate, while also reducing the length of time an applicant must live in their acquired gender from two years to three months, with an additional three-month reflection period. 

It also lowers the age for obtaining one from 18 to 16.

Why is it controversial?

A majority of MSPs on the committee supported removing the need for any medical evidence or diagnosis ‘believing that trans people know their own minds’.

However some on the committee were ‘concerned that the removal of the requirement for gender dysphoria and the requirement for medical evidence may extend the GRC process to a large and more diverse group of people’.

They feared this ‘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.

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Last month, Rowling launched a blistering attack on the First Minister, accusing her of ‘running roughshod’ over women’s rights and claiming she would be to blame for the rape and assault of girls by allowing people to self-identify under the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

This came after the author wore a t-shirt branding Ms Sturgeon a ‘destroyer of women’s rights’ on October 6 for introducing the Bill.

Papers lodged alongside the Bill by the Scottish Government estimate the changes could result in the number of people applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) increasing from 30 a year to 250-300. 

A previous consultation by the Scottish Government found 60% of respondents backed moving to a system of self-declaration.

A majority of MSPs on the committee supported removing the need for any medical evidence or diagnosis ‘believing that trans people know their own minds’.

However some on the committee were ‘concerned that the removal of the requirement for gender dysphoria and the requirement for medical evidence may extend the GRC process to a large and more diverse group of people’.

They feared this ‘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 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.

This ‘includes the ability to exclude trans people from single-sex services where proportionate and appropriate’.

It comes as Nicola Sturgeon faced another setback as she was urged to drop her independence ‘obsession’ and ‘work together’ today after suffering a massive setback in her battle to split the UK. 

The SNP leader complained that the UK is not a ‘voluntary partnership’ after the Supreme Court unanimously ruled she cannot legislate for a referendum without approval from Westminster.

But giving a statement after the decision, Ms Sturgeon conceded that she will not try to stage a ‘wildcat’ vote – acknowledging that any route to independence must be ‘lawful’. 

Instead she appealed for Rishi Sunak to stop ‘denying’ democracy and ‘reach agreement’ on holding a ballot. 

‘The SNP is not abandoning the referendum route, Westminster is blocking it,’ she said. 

In the Commons, Rishi Sunak said the ruling had been ‘clear and definitive’. ‘The people of Scotland want us to be working on fixing the major challenges we collectively face, whether that’s the economy, supporting the NHS or indeed supporting Ukraine,’ he said.

‘Now is the time for politicians to work together and that’s what this Government will do.’

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