Have an informed opinion on the Gender Recognition Consultation
There is currently a Scottish Government review looking at changing the process of applying for legal recognition of the gender with which a person identifies.
There was a bit of an online stooshie about it last week after Wings Over Scotland published an article on the subject.
The article argues, based on polling evidence, that the Scottish public is strongly against the proposed changes.
Personally, to go off tangent for a bit, I’m not sure if public opinion is overly relevant when judging a policy.
The same article also berates the Scottish Parliament for repealing the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act(OFBA) because it is a popular policy. Thing is, we live in a parliamentary democracy and the job of our parliamentarians is to have the time, ability and expertise to make decisions on complex issues on our behalf. OFBA may well be popular but it is soon to be repealed because it is illiberal and unworkable. As we have argued before it is a dangerous law that clashes with key pillars of a civil society.
I think the politicians are correct to ditch it but if you don’t agree then vote against them next time. That’s how democracy works. It would be chaos if all politicians did was enact laws that were popular.
Still, public opinion should be taken into account at some level.
However, in order to do that you first have to find out what that public opinion actually is. In the case of Gender Recognition Act, this hasn’t been achieved as the polling question used to justify the claim that the public are against it is highly leading.
The first part of the question omits some key parts of the proposals which might alter a respondent’s opinion on the matter.
Really, the new proposals are the streamlining of an already existing process to fit best international practice. Moving from a ponderous medicalised model to a simplified self-declaration model.
The system some people are getting all hot under the collar about is already being used in Norway, Denmark, Malta, Colombia, Argentina, and the Republic of Ireland. Hardly bastions of immorality.
The proposals will not make it as simple as a person just filling in an online-form and hey presto, that’s you a different sex under the law.
Applicants need to provide a statutory declaration that they:
- are applying of their own free will;
- understand the consequences of obtaining legal gender recognition; and
- intend to live in their acquired gender until death.
This declaration needs to be witnessed by a person authorised to administer oaths.
According to the research paper.
The Scottish Government’s research into countries using self-declaration systems of legal gender recognition has not identified evidence of false or frivolous statements being made by applicants. However, under the proposed self-declaration system for legal gender recognition, if an applicant were to make a statement in a statutory declaration that is false in a material particular, this would be an offence.
So, the actual change still involves a serious legal commitment that the vast majority of people will not enter into lightly.
If trying to design a fair polling question, then comparing the old and the new systems accurately would seem only fair. In my view, this poll fails to do so.
However, it is worse than that. This polling question then goes on to speculate about the abolition of all single-sex public spaces and making it a hate crime to disagree with someone based on which sex they were.
I can’t see any mention of these two changes in the legislation and adding them to the polling question is obviously going to skew the results one way.
Don’t get me wrong, I think there should be a healthy public debate on these and other controversial issues.
I don’t like it when opinions are shut down because they are not politically correct or happen to be challenging. A mature society should be able to respectfully discuss any issue regardless of how dark, uncomfortable or potentially offensive the discussion gets. I’ve supported the right of people to express dubious opinions several times on these pages.
Still, part of a mature discussion means basing opinions on solid evidence and this polling falls far short of that in my assessment.
I’m all for a public debate on the issue which is exactly what the current consultation process is all about. If you feel strongly about the law then get involved. Start by reading the publication.
But let’s face it, this law change will have zero impact on the vast majority of us.
While it raises ethical issues, most of the criticism I see of the new proposals seem to take the form of an ungrounded moral panic. People worried that if you make it easier for folk to change the sex on their passport then this will lead to hoards of male abusers lurking in female public toilets. This seems overblown. If anyone wants to access public toilets for nefarious purposes then there are easier ways to do so than going through the proposed legal processes. Just open the toilet door, they are seldom locked. Stick on appropriate clothing if you want to blend in.
Sure, no doubt some will try to abuse the law, but let’s not pretend they won’t be an insignificant minority.
Others, no doubt will use the law with good intentions but come to regret they ever did.
Still, the majority of people will just be taking advantage of a less bureaucratic system. The vast majority won’t be doing so flippantly. They will still be making a big legal commitment that for many will have come after years of hardship and contemplation. Their decision to do so will be a personal one and is unlikely to have any serious impact on the rest of us.
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