By Rachael Wong
Something incredible happened today.
In a historic move, the UK government has blocked Scotland’s controversial self-ID bill (the ‘Gender Recognition Reform Bill’).
That’s right. A law, which would allow anyone over the age of 16 to self-identify as the opposite sex and have this legally recognised, has been deemed so problematic by the UK government that it is employing a never-before-used veto power to stop it in its tracks.
The power is found under section 35 of the Scotland Act which allows the UK to block Scottish laws that would have “an adverse effect” on UK-wide law – in this case, UK equalities legislation.
In a letter to Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – who strongly supported the law despite concerns voiced by countless women – the UK government's Scottish Secretary of State Alister Jack said the Bill would have an "significant impact" on protections contained in UK equality law.
The Secretary noted that such adverse effects would include “impacts on the operation of single-sex clubs, associations and schools, protections such as equal pay and chilling effects on single-sex spaces.” He added that the Bill also “risks significant complications from having two different gender recognition regimes in the UK” and “allowing more fraudulent or bad faith applications.”
Sturgeon has called the move a “full-frontal attack” on the Scottish Parliament saying that the Scottish government will defend the legislation.
If anything is a “full-frontal attack”, it is the way in which the Bill would strip away protections for women and children.
By making it easier for someone to change the sex recorded on their birth certificate, the Bill would have grossly undermined women’s sex-based rights and single-sex spaces, not to mention the detrimental impact it would have had on the safeguarding of vulnerable, gender dysphoric children by encouraging and facilitating social transitioning (a gateway to more serious, irreversible medical transitioning).
The UK government’s decision to block this dangerous legislation is a phenomenal win for women, children and reality. Women’s Forum Australia applauds the decision and celebrates with all the women (and men!) who fought so fiercely to expose the dangers of this harmful legislation (this is not the first time the UK has shown common sense when it comes to matters of gender ideology).
Meanwhile, in Australia, the Queensland government is still forging ahead with its similarly problematic self-ID bill. Submissions on the Bill were due last Wednesday 11 January, with the Bill’s public hearing set for this coming Tuesday 24 January.
It is worth noting that Queensland Attorney-General and Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman, relied on the attempted Scottish reforms as part of her risk assessment for Queensland’s self-ID bill (the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Bill’):
“I am advised there is no evidence in Australia or internationally to suggest that trans women pose an increased danger to cisgender women...Further, the Scottish Government, as part of a literature review conducted in the course of preparing an Equality Impact Statement on proposed birth certificate legislation, did not identify any evidence supporting the claim that trans women are more likely than non-trans women to sexually assault other women in women-only spaces.”
One can’t help but notice the similarities between Sturgeon’s and Fentiman’s blinkered approaches.
Both have ignored the voices of women in supporting legislation that has vast and harmful implications for women and girls. Both have ignored comments from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls that self-ID laws are open to abuse from sexual predators. Both have ignored real-world evidence that trans women – that’s biological males – do indeed pose an increased danger to actual women, particularly when it comes to sexual assault. And both are dead set on passing their bills in spite of all this.
This is not leadership, or democracy, or good law making. It is blind ideology.
We must show respect and compassion to all people, but not at the expense of the rights and safety of women and girls, not by removing safeguards for vulnerable children, and not by attempting to rewrite reality.
If the UK is willing to make such a monumental intervention to protect women and girls from the adverse effects of self-ID legislation, the Queensland government must take a long, hard look at its own self-ID bill and ask itself: “Do Queensland women and girls similarly deserve protection from the dangerous consequences of laws that allow biological males to self-identify into female-only spaces and services?”
If the answer is yes – as it should be – the Queensland government must abandon its own ill-conceived self-ID bill and resume its duty of care to women and girls in its state.
Rachael Wong is the CEO of Women’s Forum Australia
Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.
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