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Predators won’t switch gender to access women’s spaces, says student leader

The Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee took evidence on the Bill on Tuesday (Jane Barlow/PA)
The Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee took evidence on the Bill on Tuesday (Jane Barlow/PA)

Men looking to prey on women in single-sex spaces will not seek a gender recognition certificate to do so, a student leader has said.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill has caused controversy in recent years, with opponents raising concerns about how it could affect the rights of women and girls.

The Bill would reduce the time required for a person to live in their acquired gender before they can apply for a gender recognition certificate, as well as bring the minimum age from 18 to 16 and drop requirements for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria to be made.

Under the Equality Act 2010, single-sex spaces are given an exemption – meaning providers can legally refuse to allow trans people access, with no changes to be made to the legislation through the Bill making its way through Holyrood.

Giving evidence to the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee on Tuesday, Ellie Gomersall – the first trans person to be elected as the President of NUS Scotland – said: “If a predator was wanting to access single-sex spaces in order to commit crimes, they would not got through the process of making a statutory declaration of obtaining an already quite difficult to obtain gender recognition certificate in order to do so.

“People don’t check birth certificates as you walk into a toilet.

“They are crimes, they are already against the law, so it wouldn’t make a difference whether they had a gender recognition certificate or not.”

When pushed by Tory MSP Pam Gosal on the fact that the Bill would make it easier to obtain a gender recognition certificate – with the time required for a person to live in their required gender being reduced from two years to three months with a further three month reflection period – Ms Gomersall said there would still be a statutory declaration made.

“I don’t see why anyone would do that unless they were trans,” she said.

“I think it’s also important we acknowledge the stigma and hostility that still comes about in society today unfortunately with being trans.

“I don’t think that anyone would put themselves through that in order to commit a crime that they would be able to commit regardless of whether they have that certificate or not – it has no bearing on it.”

She added: “We have to be really clear on what having a gender recognition certificate does and accessing single-sex spaces is simply something it doesn’t do.”

Children and Young People’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson also told the committee it was important not to dismiss concerns of women’s groups.

He added: “There’s certainly a lot of discussion we should be having about those individuals who are a risk, but rather than implying a whole category of people are a risk and restricting their rights, we need to look at how to strengthen the protections against those individuals who are a risk.”

The committee also heard from sports bodies on the Bill, with sportscotland strategic partnerships manager Malcolm Dingwall-Smith saying the Bill would have no impact on a section of the 2010 Act that allows trans people to be barred from the sports of their acquired gender if the governing body deems it interferes with “fair competition or the safety of competitors”.