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Best practice and female-only provision

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Women and Girls in Scotland, grassroots campaign, report, best practice, female-only provision, GRA, GRCIt is simply not yet possible to say that self-identification as a principle represents best practice.

Women and Girls in Scotland is a grassroots, feminist, women’s campaign group, including working class women, LGBT women, survivors of male violence and mothers formed to campaign for the sex-based rights of women and girls in Scotland.

They have recently published a report with the title ‘Gender Self Identification in Scotland: A Women and Girls in Scotland Discussion Paper’; research based on a survey of 2000 women carried out in order to gauge the ways in which women and girls are impacted/will potentially be impacted by changes to female-only provision.

There has, they point out, never been any work carried out to look at how policies based on the principle of self-identification are impacting women and girls:

Until the impact is understood, it is simply not possible to say that self-identification as a principle represents best practice.

It is clear that far from the Scottish government being able to assume that self-identification policies constitute best practice, there is already good evidence that such policies can adversely impact women and girls.

The Scottish government can only understand the impact of existing self-identification policies, and indeed of the government’s self-identification proposals in relation to the GRA [Gender Recognition Act], if it has assessed the impact of such policies on all affected groups, including women and girls.

The Scottish government cannot do this until it is itself clear about how the GRC [Gender Recognition Certificate] impacts the application of the single sex exceptions in the Equality Act, both in terms of how the GRC impacts considerations in regard to what can be objectively justified, as well as how the GRC can impact on applying the single sex exceptions in practice.

The Scottish government also needs to give a clear view on how it will take a human rights approach that gives equal respect to women’s rights and trans rights, and will also have to come to a view on how to best use the Equality Act to uphold the protections for women and girls.

Furthermore, the government must urgently address persistent failures in carrying out the government’s equality and human rights duties, and must start with assessing the impact of existing and planned policies on all protected stakeholders, and this needs to also be carried out retroactively where needed, as the SPS is doing.

Women and Girls in Scotland is also concerned about the lack of consultation between Scottish Government funded women’s groups, and ordinary women.

In November 2017 Engender, Scottish Women’s Aid, Close the Gap, Rape Crisis Scotland, Zero Tolerance and Equate Scotland released a joint statement, in support of the government’s GRA proposals regarding self-identification.

This was released without engaging with the organisations’ members, staff, service users (where relevant), or with women more broadly. Women and Girls in Scotland know this because women in their group were among those who wrote to these organisations to ask who they had consulted before jointly releasing this statement.

When asked if they would share the evidence-base for their position on self-identification (i.e. details of consultation or research) and if they would discuss this, these organisations, including Engender, refused to do so, saying that they did not have the time.

Women and Girls in Scotland particularly wish to begin to draw attention to how certain changes are disproportionately affecting working class women, whose voices have been missing from this debate and from policy making in general.

Women and girls are currently facing an erosion of our rights, and losing provision we need, and this is happening in a climate where women cannot even speak publicly about our sex based needs and rights without facing misogyny, abuse, threats and violence.

‘Gender Self Identification in Scotland: A Women and Girls in Scotland Discussion Paper’ is an in-depth discussion paper meant to act as a useful resource for MSPs, providing much needed clarification and information, and in the hope that the arguments and evidence that have been presented help improve debate and policy making in Scotland.

The issues raised in the report, Women and Girls in Scotland point out, should not be party political, and if politicians take the actions recommended to help improve the climate for women and girls, political debate and the policy making process, this will be of benefit to everyone.

To read the full report, click here.

Please forward this to your MSP.

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