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London Halts Scotland’s Gender Change Law

LGBT – The British government decided on Monday January 16 to block a Scottish law facilitating the recognition of gender change, auguring a legal battle between London and the independence government of Edinburgh, which denounced a “frontal attack” against the institutions local.

Adopted on December 22 by the Scottish Parliament after heated debates, this text notably lowers to 16 the age required to request recognition of a gender change.

According to the Minister responsible for Scotland in the British government, Alister Jack, this law would have an “opposing impact on the functioning of equality legislation” across Britain.

A “frontal attack” on The Scottish Parliament

After “careful consideration”, the British minister explained that he had decided to use a provision which makes it possible to prevent the text from obtaining the assent of the king and from entering into force. “My decision today is about the impact of the legislation on the operation of equality protections,” he stressed, “I did not take this decision lightly.”

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon denounced on Twitter a “frontal attack on our democratically elected Scottish Parliament and its ability to make its own decisions”.

The Scottish government “will defend this law” and “the Scottish Parliament”, she added, denouncing a “Westminster veto”.

“We will defend this law absolutely”
The text introduced by the independence government removes the requirement for a medical and psychiatric diagnosis when applying for a gender recognition certificate. It reduces the period an applicant must live in their acquired gender from two years to three months, with an additional three-month reflection period, and raises to 16 (from 18 previously) the minimum age for applying for this certificate.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government thus becomes the first to use this blocking mechanism, risking triggering a legal and political showdown, while the Scottish government was recently denied the right by the Supreme Court to organize a new independence referendum.

“We will defend this law absolutely, in a solid and rigorous way and with a high degree of confidence”, declared Nicola Sturgeon on Monday morning, before the central government in London made its position known. “We will defend the text before the Supreme Court” if necessary, she warned.

Women’s Safety Concerns

As soon as the law was passed, the British government had warned that it was considering blocking the text. Adopted after heated debates in the local parliament, the gender recognition law is accused by its opponents of endangering women, in particular regarding access to spaces reserved for them.

The Scottish government insists that the text does not affect British law which authorizes the exclusion of transgender people from certain reserved spaces, such as changing rooms for example.

“We share the concerns that others – including the Commission on Equality and Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women – have about the text, especially on security issues for women and children,” a British government spokeswoman said earlier in the day.


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