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What is Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill?

Protests in support of and against the Bill have taken place (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
Protests in support of and against the Bill have taken place (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)

Scotland’s government is set this week to begin a court challenge against Westminster — which blocked its controversial gender-change legislation,

The Court of Session in Edinburgh will hear the case from Tuesday to Thursday (September 19 to 21), with Lady Haldane presiding and the Scottish government is set to open proceedings with its argument.

After Holywood passed the gender-change legislation in December, the UK Government blocked the move using a Section 35 order to stop the bill from receiving royal assent and becoming law.

Many have been celebrating the reform for empowering transgender people to have fewer roadblocks on their gender-change journey.

However, some, including Harry Potter author JK Rowling, believe that the reform makes girls and women less safe in places such as women’s bathrooms and changing rooms.

JK Rowling, author of Harry Potter and other popular books (Yui Mok / PA)
JK Rowling, author of Harry Potter and other popular books (Yui Mok / PA)

In response, the Scottish government has insisted that the new legislation will not affect the Equality Act, which allows trans people to be excluded from single-sex spaces.

Here’s an extensive look at Scotland’s new Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

What is Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill?

For the past 17 years, those who wished to change their gender on a birth certificate had to abide by the criteria set out in the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

This required them to obtain a gender-recognition certificate before they could change gender.

The current requirements for this ask the applicant to:

  • Be aged 18 or over.

  • Have a medical report confirming a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, which the NHS describes as “a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity”.

  • Get a second medical report detailing any treatment received in relation to the diagnosis, such as hormone therapy.

  • Show evidence of living as the acquired gender for two years.

  • Give an oath of intention to live in the acquired gender until death.

  • Get the approval of a UK Government-appointed panel of two members, one legal and one medical.

Scotland’s new bill removes some of the hurdles currently present, which it says ensures a quicker and easier process for applicants.

The changes it introduces are:

  • The age limit for applications will be cut from 18 to 16.

  • The applicant will no longer be required to have medical reports, including a gender-dysphoria diagnosis.

  • The applicants will have to live in their acquired gender for only three months, instead of the current two years (six months for 16- and 17-year-olds).

  • A three-month “reflection period” will be introduced before the applicant is given their certificate.

  • The applications will be handled by the Registrar General for Scotland instead of the UK panel.

The changes mean the gender laws in Scotland will be different from those in the rest of the UK.