For Women Scotland: Feminists’ legal fight over gender rules The Times 01.07.20

The original article is here.

Feminist activists are beginning a legal challenge to new rules designed to correct the under-representation of women on public boards amid claims that the policy “redefines women to include men”.

A legal letter has been delivered to ministers from For Women Scotland, which campaigns against plans to make it easier to self-identify as a chosen gender, alleging that the government has exceeded its authority by appearing to redefine “woman”.

They argue that the Gender Representation on Public Boards Act 2018 is likely to erode women’s rights, and could lead to prosecution for asserting those rights. Having sought the opinion of Aidan O’Neill, QC, the campaigners have warned that the government faces a potential judicial review if it fails to address “fundamental flaws” in the legislation.

Marion Calder, of For Women Scotland, said: “It beggars belief that the Scottish government has introduced new legislation that contravenes the very essence of what a ‘woman’ is in law. This is just the introduction of self-identification of sex by the back door.”

Campaigners briefly installed a banner in Edinburgh Waverley station yesterday reading “I love JK Rowling”, in reference to a controversy over the removal of a digital advert at the terminus bearing the same slogan. The advert was withdrawn on Wednesday by Network Rail, who said it was too “political” and might offend passengers.

While the words themselves were harmless, their context — an acrimonious argument on social media between Rowling and her critics who accuse her of transphobia — was likely to cause offence, the company said.

Ms Calder said that the advertisement had been booked to celebrate Ms Rowling’s birthday, at the station in her home city. Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, who has campaigned against reform of gender recognition laws, designed the advert and booked it for £1,200.

In one Twitter intervention, Ms Keen-Minshull referred to male to female trans surgery as “castration”, prompting police to investigate her for hate speech.

Rowling, 55, author of the Harry Potter novels, has refused to give ground in a succession of bitter online rows with trans activists. In one intervention, she argued that many health professionals had concerns that young people with mental health issues were being shunted towards hormone treatment and surgery, branding it “a new kind of conversion therapy for young gay people”.

Her position has attracted criticism from Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, who made their names in the Harry Potter movies.

For Women Scotland describes itself as a national women’s rights group and is funded entirely by supporters. Its letter claims that the Scottish government has acted outwith its competence by confusing the distinct protected characteristics of “sex” and “gender reassignment”. The campaigners say the Equality Act only allows for measures for those persons who share a protected characteristic, not for merging different protected characteristics.

The redefinition of “woman” includes persons who may self-identify as women, but who the Equality Act would characterise as male, the letter argues. The redefinition of “woman” goes against the grain of decades of anti-discrimination law, it adds.

The Scottish government said: “We will give the letter full consideration when we receive it.”