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Scotland passes transgender self-indentification bill

December 22, 2022

The contentious law that would make it easier and faster for people to change their gender. Conservative opponents have blasted the bill, arguing it would give male predators access to female-only spaces.

People take part in Pride Glasgow, Scotland's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex, on July 14, 2018.
The bill makes transgender recognition in Scotland easier Image: David Cheskin/empics/picture alliance

Scotland's parliament passed on Thursday a controversial bill that lowers the age for recognizing transgender people from 18 to 16 and scraps a medical certification requirement.

The new bill would allow anyone aged 18 or older to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate without a medical certification if they have lived in their declared gender for three months, or six months if they are 16-18 years old.

Previously, applicants had to have identified as said gender for two years minimum.

The bill also gives applicants a three-month "reflection period" when they can reconsider their decision.

The bill was passed by 86 votes, with 39 votes against it. Scotland is the first United Kingdom region to approve such a bill, which exists in countries such as Denmark, Argentina and Ireland.

Spain's controversial transgender law

Spain also passed into law a bill granting similar rights on the same day.

The Scottish government has yet to set a date for the bill to take effect in 2023. However, it could be scrapped by London before that, where the Conservative Party ruling over the entire United Kingdom has voiced reservation regarding the text.

Why is the bill controversial?

The British Conservative Party said on Thursday it shared people's "concerns… regarding certain aspects of the bill", vowing to closely examine it. The party is worried the bill might endanger the safety of women and children.

The British government's Scotland minister, Alister Jack, was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying that the government could go as far as order stopping the bill going for the Royal Assent if necessary.

Closer to home in Scotland, some women's rights defenders and conservative legislators have argued that the bill allows male sexual predators access to female-only spaces.

British author JK Rowling arrives in Trafalgar Square, central London on July 7, 2011.
Harry Potter author JK Rowling is among the transgender bill's staunchest opponentsImage: AP

"While most of us around Scotland are good, decent, reasonable people, rapists are not, sex offenders are not," the French AFP news agency quoted Conservative lawmaker Rachael Hamilton as saying. "It is ignorant to the extreme to believe they will not take advantage of loopholes that are ripe for exploitation."

Another staunch opponent of the bill is Harry Potter author JK Rowling, whose controversial 2020 essay on gender identity earned her transphobic accusations and social media attacks.

How has the Scottish government defended the bill?

The controversial bill cost Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon significant opposition. She described the previous route to becoming transgender as "intrusive, traumatic and dehumanizing."

"I am a feminist. I will argue for women's rights. I will do everything I can to protect women's rights for as long as I live," AFP quoted her as saying during a lengthy debate on the law.

"But I also think it's an important part of my responsibility to make life a little bit easier for stigmatised minorities in our country, to make their lives a bit better and to remove some of the trauma they live with on a day-to-day basis."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon joins leaders of the Scottish political parties in wearing their Christmas jumpers on December 14, 2017.
The bill has cost Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon much oppositionImage: John Linton/empics/picture alliance

Scotland's Social Justice Minister Shona Robison also defended the law, saying that other countries who passed similar laws witnessed a "remarkable" decrease in violence against transgender people.

"I think we can all hope that trans people in Scotland will also be able to benefit from those positive outcomes as the bill removes barriers to the enjoyment of their human rights," Reuters quoted Robison as saying ahead of the vote.

rmt/jcg (AFP, Reuters)