The Scottish Government have published their long-awaited GRA Reform Bill which will now go through a process of consultation until 17th March 2020.

Individuals and organisations from across Scotland are now being encouraged to participate in the consultation and to submit their responses to the proposals through the online portal here.

The five Government-funded LGBT organisations in Scotland have said the draft Bill is a “step in the right direction” on trans rights.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill aims to simplify how transgender people change the sex on their birth certificate. The key changes being proposed are:

  • Moving to a system where a trans person makes a formal legal statutory declaration, confirming the sex in which they have been living for at least 3 months and their intention to live this way for the rest of their life
  • To introduce a 3 month ‘reflection’ period before a gender recognition certificate would be issued (in addition to the 3 month minimum period required for the legal declaration)
  • Extend the GRC process to 16 and 17 year olds for the first time
  • Remove the current requirements for invasive medical and psychiatric reports from the process entirely

The draft Bill does not include reforms for non-binary identities, a move criticised by non-binary people and LGBT+ groups earlier this year.

Scottish Trans Alliance Manager, James Morton, said in reaction to the publication of the draft Bill:

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s publication of their draft Bill to reform the Gender Recognition Act. The current process to change the sex on a trans person’s birth certificate is a humiliating, offensive and expensive red-tape nightmare which requires them to submit intrusive psychiatric evidence to a faceless tribunal panel years after they transitioned.”

“We are very pleased that the draft Bill is based on statutory declaration not psychiatric evidence and that it reduces the age for application from 18 to 16. However, we are disappointed that the Scottish Government has chosen not to include under 16s or non-binary trans people in the draft bill. We urge the Scottish Government to expand the Bill so that all trans people can have equal inclusion and acceptance within Scottish society.”

The Scottish Government has been criticised for the time taken to reform the Gender Recognition Act. Reforms were supported in the 2016 Scottish election manifestos of the SNP, Labour, Greens and Lib Dem’s.

A public consultation was then conducted from November 2017 to March 2018, with 65% of Scottish respondents supporting reform, which would see Scotland moving to a statutory declaration system inline with a number of other countries worldwide, including Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Malta, Norway and Portugal.

For the past two years at least, trans people and LGBT organisations have faced abuse online in relation to GRA reform, mainly by those who feel the reforms would impact negatively on the rights of women and girls.

However, the Scottish Government address this point specifically in the accompanying notes which support the draft Bill, saying after studying international examples, they can find no evidence to support these concerns (Conclusions 5.58).

Women’s groups have also been strong supporters of the GRA reforms proposed, with organisations such as Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland, Zero Tolerance, Women 50:50 and Close the Gap all publicly backing the changes.

The consultation on the draft Bill is open until 17th March 2020 and responses are welcomed from any individual or organisation via the web portal here.

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