GENDER: Tory concerns over reducing the minimum age from 18 to 16 could be harmful to vulnerable young people

By Bill Heaney

“We must address the concerns that transgender individuals have with the current process, but this cannot come at the expense of putting at risk vulnerable people or protections for women and girls,” Scottish Conservative Equalities spokesperson Rachael Hamilton said today.

She has written to Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison, below right,  to outline her concerns over proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act.

The letter has been sent in advance of the Stage One debate on the reforms tomorrow and reflects the party’s commitment to a ‘good-faith debate’ over this controversial issue.

The Scottish Conservatives have said that the reforms are an issue of conscience and they intend to make all stages of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill a free vote. They are calling on all other parties to do the same, in order to achieve an ‘honest’ debate to reflect the fact that views on this issue cut across party divides.

Rachael Hamilton’s letter outlines three key concerns over the legislation as currently drafted:

  • the proposed lowering of the age criteria from 18 to 16
  • a reduction – to three months – in the time someone is required to have spent living in their chosen gender
  • the removal of the requirement for medical evidence

Rachael Hamilton said: “This letter reflects our commitment to engaging in a good-faith debate on this sensitive and controversial legislation.

“The Scottish Conservatives recognise the need to improve the process for trans individuals to get a Gender Recognition Certificate. However, the SNP’s current proposals could put vulnerable young people at risk and undermine protections for women and girls.

“I am deeply concerned that reducing the minimum age from 18 to 16 would remove vital safeguards and could be harmful to vulnerable young people.

“I hold concerns over proposals to reduce the time an applicant must have lived in their chosen gender to an arbitrary period of three months, which may not provide enough time for them to properly consider all of the implications of legally changing gender.

“I have deep reservations about plans to remove the requirement for medical evidence for obtaining a GRC, which may have the effect of devaluing the gender reassignment process, putting transgender individuals at risk and leaving the process more open to abuse.

“It is clear that there are compelling and deeply held views on all sides of this debate, but the SNP Government risks doing more harm than good if they get this wrong.

“We must address the concerns that transgender individuals have with the current process, but this cannot come at the expense of putting at risk vulnerable people or protections for women and girls.

“I urge all parties to consider the serious concerns I have set out today and follow our lead in making the Bill a free vote, so that we can scrutinise this legislation with the honesty and good faith it merits.”

Top picture: Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton – there are compelling and deeply held views on all sides of this debate.

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