The Scottish Parliament has passed the controversial Gender Recognition Reform Bill, thereby implementing a system of self-identification for people wanting to change their legal sex. Despite strong opposition, the reforms passed by a vote of 86 to 39.
According to the BBC, there were shouts of "shame on you" from protesters in the public galley when the result was announced. Women’s rights campaigners have vehemently opposed the reform, arguing that allowing males, even registered sex offenders, to self-declare a female gender identity and gain access to women’s spaces puts women and girls at risk.
The Scottish government has maintained throughout that no such risk exists, and that the bill is simply a way to make the process of changing gender less intrusive.
Under the new legislation, a person no longer requires a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria in order to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), and the amount of time living in their acquired gender has been reduced to just 3 months. The minimum age for applicants has also been reduced from 18 to 16.
There is to be a three-month "reflection period" allowing for a change of heart after which the person must make a statutory declaration that they intend to continue to live in their acquired gender. Making a false declaration would be a criminal offense carrying a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
The majority of Scottish National Party, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green MSPs backed the reform, and it was opposed by the majority of Conservatives.
An attempt was made by Conservative MP Russell Findlay to add an amendment preventing convicted sex offenders from being able to legally change sex but this was rejected by a vote of 64 to 59.
Another amendment sought to postpone the lowering of the minimum age from 18 to 16 under after the completion of the Cass Review, an independent review of England’s youth gender services, but this too was rejected.
Following the passing of the bill, Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack made a statement expressing concerns about the legislation and suggesting the UK government was willing to consider blocking Royal Assent.
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