As Scotland decides whether to let transgender people change their legal gender without a medical diagnosis, a U.N. LGBTQ+ rights expert has rejected suggestions that the step could pose a threat to the safety of women and girls.
If the Scottish Parliament passes the Gender Recognition Reform Bill in a vote due on Wednesday, Scotland would join a number of other countries including Ireland, Norway and Argentina that have adopted self-ID laws to make the process of changing one’s birth certificate less medicalised and invasive.
Despite the growing acceptance of self-identification, some women’s rights campaigners have voiced concern that it could be used by predatory men to gain access to same-sex spaces such as bathrooms, changing rooms or women’s prisons.
In November, Reem Alsalem, the U.N. Special Rapporteur for Violence against Women and Girls, shared a letter detailing similar concerns in relation to the Scottish proposals.
“This presents potential risks to the safety of women in all their diversity (including women born female, transwomen, and gender non-conforming women),” she wrote.
But Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the U.N. independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, said there was no evidence to support a link between self-ID and sexual abuse against women.
“At the moment, 350 million people live in systems of legal recognition based on self-determination, and there is not, to my knowledge, one single administrative or judicial finding that this system is actually abused by predatory males,” Madrigal-Borloz told Openly.
“The existence of trans women and the very real risk of gender- and sex-based violence are both valid concerns, but it’s not valid to conflate them in the way parts of the public debate are trying to,” he added.
A report issued by the Scottish Human Rights Commission earlier this year said it could not “identify any objectively evidenced real and concrete harm that is likely to result from the reforms”.
Under the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, anyone over 18 who has been living in their gender identity for three months would be able to apply for a gender recognition certificate. Those aged 16-17 would be allowed to do so after six months.
Currently, trans Scots need a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and must live in their gender identity for two years before gaining official recognition. Under-18s are not allowed to change their legal gender today.
LGBTQ+ organisations and activists say the proposed reforms will help protect trans people and improve their quality of life.
Madrigal-Borloz, who delivered a testimony in support of the bill to the parliament’s equality and human rights committee on Monday, said the legislative change was “a very cherished goal for the LGBTQ+ community”.
“It brings trans persons a step closer to the acknowledgement that their existence is not disordered or sick in any way,” Madrigal-Borloz added.
Reporting by Lucy Middleton; Editing by Helen Popper
GAY TIMES and Openly/Thomson Reuters Foundation are working together to deliver leading LGBTQ+ news to a global audience.