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Ireland avoided ‘divisive’ debate on gender recognition law, MSPs told

Regina Doherty, who led a review into the Irish GRA, was speaking to MSPs (Leon Farrell)
Regina Doherty, who led a review into the Irish GRA, was speaking to MSPs (Leon Farrell)

Ireland avoided a “divisive” debate when it passed its Gender Recognition Act (GRA) in 2015, though discussion around the issue is now becoming more heated, an Irish legislator has told MSPs.

Senator Regina Doherty, of the Irish Seanad, spoke to Holyrood’s Equalities Committee as it scrutinises similar legislation going through the Scottish Parliament.

The Fine Gael politician spoke about the passage of the Irish GRA and the subsequent review into the law she led while Minister for Social Protection.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill would reduce the length of time required for a trans person to live in their acquired gender from the current two years to three months, with a subsequent three-month reflection period.

Opponents of the Bill say it could impact on the rights of women and girls, allowing access to single-sex spaces and services along with consquences in sports.

Ms Doherty said Ireland had not experienced the divisive debates seen in the US or UK in 2015 or during her review, and the Irish GRA was working “incredibly well” for adults.

She said: “We’re experiencing that divisive debate starting now.

“And there’s a very small but growing campaign, looking and seeking for us to repeal the Gender Recognition Act of 2015.

Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh
MSPs are scrutinising gender recognition law (Jane Barlow/PA)

“So I fear we might have a summer of discontent ahead of us, but I think if we act with the dignity that we have acted with up to date, and recognise that every human being regardless of their gender, deserves to be treated with respect, and compassion and humanity – I think we’ll hold on to the values that we espoused in the legislation of 2015.”

She said there was opposition around proposals to use the phrase “pregnant people” rather than “pregnant women”.

Ms Doherty said: “There have been a number of organisations that have developed in the last number of weeks.

“A number of women have come together around the idea that first of all, you won’t disrespect women and you won’t diminish my role in society by bunching me into ‘pregnant people’.”

The senator said the proposals were not intended to diminish the role of women in society but to recognise that more than one gender could get pregnant.

Ms Doherty was asked about women’s ability to access single-sex spaces and whether men had abused the self-declaration model.

The senator said the notion of a man dressing up as a woman and getting a gender recognition certificate in order to threaten women in single-sex spaces was “fanciful”.

She said: “To me, it’s kind of fanciful when you recognise that in the Irish state women have issues with regard to safety because of male violence.

“I don’t think a man who wants to be violent towards a woman needs to go to the extent of changing his certificate – gender – through a certificate so that he can get access to me in the dressing room of Zara or wherever it happens to be.”

Ms Doherty said women did not need to feel diminished in their gender identity because there are now other genders. She said there are now around nine genders, whereas generations ago there were only two.

She said: “I don’t think my womanhood, my femininity, my role in society as a mother – I don’t think any of those things are diminished by the fact that there are trans women, trans men, non-binary, intersex.

“I don’t think any of those things diminish my role and my contribution to society.”