LGBTI network responds to Equality & Human Rights Commission letter on trans equality

The Equality Network, a national LGBTI organisation in Scotland, and its project Scottish Trans, have responded to a letter sent today by the GB Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), to Shona Robison, Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Equalities.

Vic Valentine, manager of Scottish Trans, said, “Reform of gender recognition is one of the most consulted-on policies of all time, with two comprehensive public consultations by the Scottish Government since 2017. The draft bill was fully consulted on a year ago, and everyone had their say. The EHRC itself responded to both public consultations, supporting reform.

“There will of course be much more detailed consideration of the bill as it goes through the Scottish Parliament.”

Tim Hopkins, director of the Equality Network said, “The EHRC is not independent of government, but has its Board directly appointed by Liz Truss and the UK Government. We assume that their appointees are responsible for this letter and for failing to stand up for equality for trans people. We do not need UK Government appointees telling us in Scotland how to legislate in devolved areas, and we look forward to the Scottish Government proceeding with this legislation soon, as has been promised many times.”

Meanwhile,  Scotland’s major LGBT+ groups and the End Conversion Therapy Campaign have welcomed a report from the Scottish Parliament’s equalities committee which recommends new legislation to ban conversion practices in Scotland. “The Committee agrees that conversion practices are abhorrent and are not acceptable in Scotland. They should be banned.”

The Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee has today published its report on the “End Conversion Therapy” petition introduced by End Conversion Therapy Scotland.

Summarising the evidence, the Committee today recommends that new legislation is brought forward “promptly” to comprehensively ban the practice in all its forms. End Conversion Therapy Scotland have called this “a welcome and vital step towards ending the abuse and torture of LGBTQ+ people in Scotland”.

Survivors of conversion practices and a number of leading LGBT+ organisations – LGBT Youth Scotland, Stonewall Scotland, Equality Network and Scottish Trans – were among those invited to give evidence and have also welcomed the Committee’s recommendations for swift action.

Dr Rebecca Crowther, Policy Coordinator at Equality Network says:  “We are delighted to see the recommendations made by the Committee and look forward to the next stages, ensuring that these harmful practices are finally put to an end across Scotland. It is thanks to the testimony of survivors of these abhorrent practices that the Committee has made these recommendations – We want to thank them for standing up and sharing their stories so that these practices could finally be stopped.”

Megan Snedden, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Stonewall Scotland says:  “A fully comprehensive ban on conversion practices is necessary to protect LGBTQ+ communities in Scotland from harm. That’s why we welcome that the Committee’s report makes clear that a ban must cover sexual orientation and gender identity, both adults and children, all settings, and with no exceptions for so-called ‘consensual’ practices. We’ll continue to work with MSPs and the Scottish Government to ensure that Scotland delivers a comprehensive ban on conversion practices in the most effective manner and without delay.”

“Conversion therapy” is the misleading name for practices and directive behaviour intended to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Conversion practices are based on the misconception that these can be changed and on phobic beliefs that being LGBT+ is wrong or in need of being ‘fixed.’ There is nothing therapeutic about them. The Committee heard from a number of survivors of conversion practices that had taken place in Scotland.

When giving evidence before the Committee, Blair Anderson of End Conversion Therapy Scotland who is a gay man who was put through conversion practices as a child, said:  “Conversion ‘therapy’ is not a positive, therapeutic or beneficial treatment. It is often seen as a form of torture. The International Rehabilitation for Torture Victims said that conversion ‘therapy’ violates the global ban on torture. People cannot consent to torture. It is not possible to change your sexuality or your gender identity. Conversion ‘therapy’ cannot work. We consider conversion practices to be a form of torture and it does not work.”

Sophie Duncan of End Conversion Therapy Scotland said:  “We are grateful to the Committee for setting out so clearly the case for a comprehensive and swift ban on the torture of LGBT+ people in Scotland.

“We have been clear from the outset of our campaign: any conversion practices ban must be fully comprehensive, protecting all of Scotland’s queer people from conversion practices, in all its forms. We are glad that the Committee has resisted efforts from those who practice, or who support these practices, to muddy the waters of this debate.

“It is positive to see the Committee note their concern regarding how long it has taken to reach this point – and we fully back their calls for the Scottish Government to work with Holyrood to ensure legislation is brought forward as soon as possible.”

“We look forward to seeing the day when all LGBTQ+ people are allowed to be who they are, free from hate or persecution, and we hope that day is soon.”

There was more in this matter at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday when Central Scotland Tory Meghan Gallacher  told MSPs:  “The Equality and Human Rights Commission wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Local Government and Housing about the reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. It outlined the need to improve healthcare services for transgender people and the potential consequences of self-identification, such as  “those relating to the collection … of data, participation and drug testing in … sport, measures to address barriers facing women, and practices within the criminal justice system”.

Ms Gallacher asked the First Minister to acknowledge the concerns that have been raised by the EHRC — ” Which part of society does she believe will bear the brunt of those consequences, and how does she propose to mitigate those impacts if her Government maintains its current plans?”

The First Minister told her: “I note the letter that was received yesterday from the Equality and Human Rights Commission. I also note that it represents a significant change in the position of that organisation. It responded to both the Government’s previous consultations. In its response to the 2017 consultation, it said “the Gender Recognition Act 2004 is far removed from reflecting … best practice … and has a significant negative impact on the lived experience of trans people.

She added: ”In the 2019 consultation on the draft bill, it said: ‘The Commission considers that a simplified system for obtaining legal recognition of gender would better support trans people to live their lives free from discrimination and supports the aims of the draft bill’.

“Obviously, it is for the commission to say why its position has changed, but it is important for me to narrate that that is a change in position.

“I am slightly concerned about some of what I consider does not accurately characterise the impact of the bill. The bill will seek to simplify an existing process; it will not confer any new rights on trans people, nor will it change any of the existing protections in the Equality Act 2010. It will not change the current position on data collection or the ability of sports organisations to take decisions, for example.

“We will continue to engage with a range of organisations, but let me stress again: this is a bill that is designed to simplify an existing process, to reduce the distress, trauma, anxiety and, often, stigmatisation that trans people suffer in our society. The Government will set out its plans for the timetabling of that legislation in due course.”

  • Conversion practices refer to directive behaviour and practices intended to change or suppress someone else’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It has never been legislated against in Scotland. The Committee heard from a number of survivors of conversion practices in Scotland. 

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