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Violence against women and the Gender Recognition Act

Since the Government announced its review of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA), there has been much debate about the proposed reforms, with harmful stereotypes and untruths being perpetuated at the expense of trans and non-binary people’s health, rights, and safety.

The GRA is the legislation that governs how trans people have their gender identity legally recognised – and so have the correct gender marked on their birth certificate. The current process outlined under the GRA is humiliating, physically intrusive and emotionally invasive. It is also financially expensive, complicated and time consuming making it inaccessible to people from less privileged backgrounds. This laborious process perpetuates stigmatisation of trans identities and in its current rendering does not include non-binary identities.

We, alongside other women’s organisations, have been vocal in our support for the reforms of the GRA. You can read our statement on the reforms as well as FAQs on the topic. You can also read our collective response to the GRA which addressed misplaced concerns that the Government’s proposed changes to the GRA will undermine service delivery organisation’s capacity to meet women’s needs. All violence against women services that receive Scottish Government funding provide trans inclusive services and trans inclusion plans have been in place for the last six years. This inclusive approach has not given rise to any concern or challenges. Rather, trans women have added to our movements through their support, voluntary work and as staff members. Organisations providing services to women have responded directly in detail to these concerns, you can read some of their responses here: Edinburgh Rape Crisis, Forth Valley Rape Crisis.

We strongly advocate that Scotland should bring forward legislation to introduce a self-declaration system for legal gender recognition and take action to recognize non-binary people. In doing so, we are hopeful that Scotland will become a country where the norms and structures that enable violence against trans women and non-binary people are broken down and where all identities are respected and protected.

It is our position that trans and non-binary rights are integral to, and contribute to, feminism. As a feminist organisation working to eradicate all forms of violence against women, we challenge the gender inequality that is at the root of men’s violence against women. The underlying foundation of this inequality is the patriarchal notion of gender as binary (male and female). The gender binary perpetuates violence against women by heavily policing what it means to be a man and a woman and determining that men are superior. In recognising that gender is not fixed to biological sex, acknowledging gender can mean different things to diverse people and allowing people to transcend the narrow gender expectations linked to their biological sex, we will be taking enormous steps towards dismantling the patriarchy that results in so much violence to so many people.

Trans women experience sexist attitudes, discrimination and violence, as all women do, as well as experiencing an additional layer of discrimination for failing to conform to the gender norms expected of them. The violence perpetrated against trans women is founded in myths and untruths and often justified on the grounds that they have trespassed from the gender binary and are therefore a danger to the patriarchal norm. Trans people and non-binary people are specifically targeted for hate crime, often in the form of sexual harassment or sexual assault:

• 41% of trans people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months. (Stonewall)
• 79% of trans people who have experienced a hate crime related to their gender identity do not report it to the police. (Stonewall)
• The LGBT Domestic Abuse Project found 80% of trans people had experienced emotionally, sexually, or physically abusive behaviour by a partner or ex-partner. (LGBT Youth Domestic Abuse Project)

The reality faced by trans and non-binary people in Scotland is unacceptably dangerous. We must show through our actions, institutions and legislation that trans and non-binary people are the experts on their own experiences and dismantle the systems that perpetuate violence-causing attitudes.

Zero Tolerance supports reforming the GRA to make it more accessible and simple for trans and non-binary people to legally identify as their gender. If the reforms are passed, Scotland will be taking steps to break down the structural stigmatisation and dehumanisation that permits violence against trans women and non-binary people. In doing so we will challenge the harmful notions of gender binary which perpetuate inequality and violence against all women.




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