Nicola Sturgeon vows to keep women safe in transgender law change The Times 19.06.19

The original article is here.

Nicola Sturgeon has promised that plans to allow transgender people to self-identify will not threaten women’s safe spaces as she admitted that the controversial issue had split the SNP.

The first minister said the proposed changes, which will be revealed by the government tomorrow, would bring Scotland into line with “international best practice”.

She said that the new laws that let transgender people decide their gender without medical certification would not create rights that would allow transgender women to access intimate single-sex spaces such as public toilets, changing rooms and crisis shelters under all circumstances.

The changes would allow birth certificates to be amended and establish legal recognition for a chosen gender. At present people must undergo medical consultations and must have lived as their chosen gender for two years before they can be recognised in law.

At a question and answer event organised by the Reform Scotland think tank last night, the host, Chris Deerin, told Ms Sturgeon that the issue had “split your party in ways I haven’t seen for a long time”.

Ms Sturgeon replied: “I am not sitting here seeking to deny that this is a very, very, vexed issue where people feel very strongly and it is dividing opinion within parties and across parties.

“Hopefully when we set out the statement on Thursday we can try to take the debate from the general into some of the detail of what is being proposed and encourage continued dialogue about how we get to the right outcome.

“There is a legal right for people to change gender; that has been an issue since 2004. We are not proposing to give people a right they don’t have . . . It is about how you exercise that right and making it less — what many people describe as — traumatic.”

The ministers Kate Forbes, Ash Denham and Ivan McKee previously signed an open letter with 12 other MSPs, MPs and councillors urging Ms Sturgeon not to rush ahead with the plans.

If the bill becomes law, Scotland would follow in the footsteps of Ireland, which legislated four years ago to allow transgender people to update passports and driving licences, obtain new birth certificates and get married. California, Malta, Norway, Denmark, Portugal and Belgium have also adopted self-identity systems. Changes to the law in England and Wales are being considered.

The Equality Network, which promotes LGBT equality and rights, wants people to be able to self-declare from the age of 16 and have the power to change their gender, with parental consent, at a younger age. It also wants legal recognition for people who do not identify as male or female.

Ms Sturgeon pointed out that all parties committed to reform the 2004 Gender Recognition Act in the approach to the 2016 Holyrood election.

She said: “The other point [is] I am a lifelong feminist. Issues about women’s rights and the protection of women from abuse runs very strongly with me. The Equality Act already allows for trans people . . . to be excluded from women-only spaces if that is justified and the proposals here do not change the Equality Act.”

Last week Holyrood agreed that people should be allowed to define their transgender status when they complete the 2021 census.

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