Edinburgh GRA protest: Campaigners rally outside Scottish Parliament against gender recognition reform

Campaigners are set to hold a rally outside Parliament on Thursday, protesting against Gender Recognition reform.

For Women Scotland have organised the protest in Edinburgh
For Women Scotland have organised the protest in Edinburgh

For Women Scotland has organised the demonstration as politicians return to debate the subject.

Speakers will include Maya Forstater and Helen Joyce at the event, which is due to start at 11.30am.

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Here’s everything you need to know about the protest, including what Gender Recognition reform is being proposed, and why some groups believe women’s rights in Scotland are under threat.

What is the Gender Recognition Act? What GRA reforms are being made?

The Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004 allows trans people to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (known as a GRC), which allows them to be legally recognised in their acquired gender and given a new birth certificate.

Individuals who wish to do so currently have to be 18 and over and apply to a UK gender recognition panel, providing medical evidence of their gender dysphoria.

The Scottish Government is proposing to ‘simplify’ the process by making it ‘less lengthy and intrusive’ and give trans people "better access” to their human rights.

It proposes applications to be made to the Registrar General for Scotland, instead of the UK tribunal currently in place.

Among the changes, it proposes the minimum age of applicants to be lowered from 18 to 16.

Applicants will no longer need to submit a medical diagnosis under the plans, but they would need to make a statutory declaration they have lived in the acquired gender for at least three months – rather than the current period of two years.

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They would also need to declare they intend to live permanently in their acquired gender. The application would be determined by the Registrar General after three months.

The aim of this reform, the Scottish Government says, is to alleviate the “adverse impact” the current process is having on trans people. This, it says, is due to the intrusion of having their life circumstances considered by the Gender Recognition Panel.

The bill says: “We think that trans people should not have to go through a process that can be demeaning, intrusive, distressing and stressful in order to be legally recognised in their lived gender.”

Who supports the GRA reform plans?

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LGBT groups support these reforms and argue it will remove barriers for trans people who say they have to spend large amounts of time and money on an overly complicated process to be recognised on some of their records.

Scottish Trans, a project run by the Equality Network charity, says the current law is difficult to access and places too much emphasis on psychiatric diagnosis and medical transition.

It says: “Scottish Trans supports these reforms, and believes they will have a marked impact on the lives of trans men and women in Scotland, who currently have to spend large amounts of time and money on a difficult, bureaucratic, and unfair process just to have the way they live recognised on some of their records.”

The reform is also supported by every party in Holyrood apart from the Scottish Conservatives. Groups including Rape Crisis Scotland and Amnesty Scotland said the Bill would not affect the way that women access services.

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Previously speaking on the issue, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “This is about an existing process by which people can legally change their gender and it’s about making that process less traumatic and inhumane for trans people – one of the most stigmatised minorities in our society.

"It doesn’t give trans people any more rights, nor does it take away from women any of the current existing rights under the Equality Act.”

Who is against GRA reform?

For Women Scotland, the group behind the Scottish Women’s Rally, argues that women's sex-based rights are being eroded as a result of the Gender Recognition Act reform.

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The group has raised concerns about how possession of a GRC could give trans women a stronger right of access to women-only spaces.

The Scottish Government admits that holding a GRC “may be a factor in the decision taken by a service provider” to allow someone who has obtained a female GRC to access women-only spaces and services.

Groups have questioned how it will affect women’s sports as well as employment rights. However, the Scottish Government said the Bill does not make changes to the 2010 Equality Act, which has a number of exceptions to exclude trans people for a “legitimate aim”. This includes single sex services, employment rights, and health services.

Among GRA reform’s most prominent critics is Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. She wrote on Twitter in March this year: “The law @NicolaSturgeon's trying to pass in Scotland will harm the most vulnerable women in society: those seeking help after male violence/rape and incarcerated women.

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"Statistics show that imprisoned women are already far more likely to have been previously abused.”

Meanwhile, UK-wide gender-critical campaign group LGB Alliance said young people were being influenced through celebrity, peer pressure, and social media to make identity decisions and urged MSPs to seek evidence from those who had subsequently de-transitioned.

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GRA Scotland: What is the Gender Recognition Act and what GRA reform is being pr...