Skip to content

Bristol protest planned over blocked gender recognition bill

Image: Unsplash / Alexander Grey

By Eva Radhika Gurnani, News Editor

Trans Liberation Front has organised an ‘emergency protest’ tomorrow in support of Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

Following news that the UK Government will block Scottish reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, charities and activist organisations across the country are demonstrating, including the Bristol action group Trans Liberation Front. The protest will begin at 1pm on 22nd January at the College Green. Attendees are encouraged to wear face coverings and bring placards.

The Gender Recognition Reform Bill, introduced a few weeks ago by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, intended to lower the age at which Scottish people can change their legally-recognised gender to 16 and establish a self-identification system to make the procedure easier. The new law would bring Scotland’s gender recognition system in line with international practice supported by the United Nations and adopted by 30 other countries.

This would see a significant departure from the current bureaucratic process, whereby to make these changes trans people must apply to a UK gender recognition panel, present an official gender dysphoria diagnosis, and provide evidence they have lived in their affirmed gender for at least two years. In addition, those applying are obliged to disclose any treatment they have undergone relating to gender dysphoria and take an oath of intention to live with their newly-recognised gender until death.

While Scottish devolution was established in 1998, Westminster can still block legislation from the Scottish parliament using a Section 35 order if it is believed that the bill could have an ‘adverse impact’ on UK-wide laws. On Monday, Scottish secretary Alister Jack confirmed that the new bill will not be sent to receive Royal Assent, claiming it conflicts with equality legislation across the UK.

This has been described as a ‘nuclear move’, since the UK Government has never used this power before to block Scottish legislation, prompting backlash from both Scottish Ministers and campaigners for transgender rights. Jack’s decision frames gender recognition as a 'reserved' matter to be legislated in Westminster, however many maintain the ability to amend gender recognition laws is included within Scotland’s devolved powers, which enable the Scottish parliament to amend legislation as it affects Scottish people.

Not only has the move sparked a constitutional debate, but it has also been criticised as a major setback for transgender rights, which the charity Stonewall claims are being used as ‘a political football.' Speaking of their plans to protest, Trans Liberation Front called the intervention a 'disgraceful treatment of trans people, which has culminated in the pathetic attack on Scottish devolution.'

Find out more about the bill here.