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Briefing for MSPs in Scottish Parliament on the lack of safeguards in the Gender Reform Bill

Updated: Feb 18 correspondence to


GRR Bill lacks protection for the public or for individuals making life-changing decisions

EBSWA is an alliance of social workers concerned by the consequences of unevidenced beliefs in “gender identity” and denial of the material reality of sex. We believe that the GRR Bill is ill-informed, badly thought-out and poses serious risks to individuals and to public safety.

The government’s refusal during the committee stage of the Bill to take public safety into account in any way offers a clear case for anyone concerned with child and adult protection to reject the entire Bill. We believe that the public would support a principled rejection on the grounds of public safety.

The explained motive of making the process of changing recorded sex “simpler and easier” is an insufficient reason to do away with any safeguards or any clear expectation of rights and responsibilities entailed in acquiring a GRC.

This contrasts with most similar areas of law and policy where formal processes are deliberately put in place in relation to life-changing decisions. This is particularly so where any decision will affect others, and not just the person concerned. The person concerned must also be protected.

For example, in the case of fostering and of adoption, applicants must be thoroughly vetted in a process that can take more than a year. Children need to be protected from applicants who are not suitable to adopt or foster. Social workers are tasked to investigate, to assess risk, to make evidence-based decisions and are criticised where they are found to have ignored or not been aware of important evidence of risk and harm. Public safety should be at the heart of decisions about legislation.

However, the Government has dismissed considerations about public safety in relation to the GRR Bill. The SSSC (and Care Inspectorate) exist to protect the public from unsuitable and dangerous individuals or services. Yet if this Bill becomes law in its present form, it will render the SSSC unable to regulate the workforce by sex, which is one of the most important areas of differential risk and of physical capacity. Additionally inaccurate data about the actual sex of registrants will mean that there is no way to safeguard EA rights and duties e.g., against sex based discrimination, for equal pay, maternity leave provision.

The SSSC is already compromised in this regard by the adoption of belief in gender identity instead of sex in the care sector and by Government. The SSSC does still try to register the workforce according to sex. However, Disclosure Scotland is currently offering confidentiality to applicants about sex if they chose to disguise their actual sex to the SSSC or to employers.

Men pose a much higher risk of sexual and/or physical abuse to others, particularly children and vulnerable adults. Most members of the public agree with policies that limit the opportunities that men have to access children and vulnerable adults in order to limit the risks. This is not because all men are a risk, but because a significant proportion of men pose a serious risk to others in a way that women simply do not. The provision of a female birth certificate to any man who wants one should be completely unacceptable to any MSP who wants to protect children and women.

The government has argued in court that a GRC literally changes a person’s sex. They have confirmed that in court. A minimum safeguard is to ensure clarity in the face of the Bill (Foysul Choudhury’s amendment) that sex is not gender identity and that a GRC does not change the sex of a person for all purposes.

This is important not only for the safety of staff and of other service users. The safety of those who obtain a GRC requires that health and social care professionals do know their sex in order to provide safe care for them.

We should make it clear that even quite stringent safeguards would not eliminate risk. But at the very minimum the Bill should be amended to ensure that possession of a GRC and a female birth certificate or other ID would not entitle the holder to seek to provide or to receive service or facility designated for the opposite to their biological sex. Additionally, a GRC should not entitle the holder to disguise their actual sex when applying to adopt or foster. In any child or adult protection investigation it is important that social workers and police have full knowledge of any adults’ biological sex. Men pose a much greater risk of sexual and physical abuse to children than women and social workers need to know who has the capacity to impregnate girls, to rape and/or to force children to accept criminal sexual abuse. A common abuse of children is to make them accept a male penis in their mouths. These crimes would be recorded as women’s crimes under GRR

We understand that safeguards are opposed by the Government on the grounds that the “rights” of people who believe they belong to the opposite sex should not be restricted in any way. We ask what about the rights of women and children? These are at the heart of our child protection and our policies and law on domestic abuse, and adult protection. Without acknowledgement that sex is a major factor in assessing potential risk, and in investigating and safeguarding children and adults who have suffered harm, we will be abandoning public safety and the whole range of safeguards which have been built up over years at considerable expense.

Maggie Mellon

M.Sc., CQSW, Dip. Child Protection

Formerly Director of Children and Family Services, CHILDREN 1st

Mary Howden

M.Sc., B.A.Hons, CQSW

Formerly Head of Education and Workforce Development SSSC

25 November 2022

For further comment and information phone Maggie Mellon on 07503175418

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