The Scottish Government’s plans to alter the Gender Recognition Act have led to fierce debate in recent months.

The new draft law, which will be published by the end of 2019, aims to make it easier for trans people to self-identify their gender. One of the proposals is to remove the requirement for medical evidence under current legislation.

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This has been supported by many prominent trans, womens’ and LGBTQ groups, and has been opposed by a number of womens’ organisations who argue the new law will have an impact on the safety and “sex-based rights” of women.


One such organisation is ForWomen.Scot, which has been very vocal in the debate around the Scottish law change. The group distributed leaflets across Scotland making a claim about the proportion of Scots who disagreed with the changes, and Ferret Fact Service was asked to fact check the leaflet sent to someone in Edinburgh.

82% of voters disagree with the government's plan to amend the Gender Recognition Act to allow any man to self-identify as a woman. ForWomen.Scot Leaflet

Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it to be Mostly False.

Evidence

Much of the controversy in the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) centres around the idea of self-identification.

Under current legislation, trans people are able to gain a “gender recognition certificate” by applying to a tribunal called the Gender Recognition Panel. This certificate gives legal recognition that a person has transitioned from female to male or male to female.

Someone applying for a certificate must provide two medical reports to the panel confirming their gender dysphoria. This is when a person feels “discomfort or distress because there’s a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity”. They must also provide evidence that they have been living as their gender for at least 2 years.

The new proposed GRA will remove the requirement to provide medical evidence to the panel, and instead people will have to make a declaration that they intend to live permanently as a man or a woman, and that they have already been living as their stated gender for three months. There will be a three-month “reflection period”, after which the certificate will be given. The Scottish Government has announced the proposed law will be subject to a further consultation.

Leaflets produced by ForWomen.scot opposed this move, and argued that “82 per cent of voters” disagree with allowing a person to self-identify as a woman.

This statistic comes from a survey produced by YouGov and commissioned by Pink News.

The poll asked a sample of UK voters, whether a person “should or should not have to obtain a doctor’s approval to change their legal gender on official documentation”.

Only 18 per cent of respondents said they should not have to obtain doctor’s approval, which forms the basis of the ForWomen.scot claim that 82 per cent disagree with the GRA plans.

However, this is misleading as the poll shows only 58 per cent in the UK think a trans person should have to provide doctor’s approval. Eighteen per cent said doctor’s approval was not necessary, and the rest, 23 per cent of respondents, said they didn’t know.

This means that while the majority of those polled believe medical approval is necessary, the claim of 82 per cent being against the proposed change is 23 percentage points out.

A Scottish subsample of 143 people was broadly similar in views, with 60 per cent saying people should get doctor’s approval, 20 per cent saying it wasn’t necessary and 20 per cent saying they didn’t know.

Similar questions have been asked in other surveys in recent years. A poll of English voters by DRG for Wings Over Scotland in May 2018 found similar views on the issue, but asked a different question which may have affected responses.

It asked: “A new government review of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 has proposed that people should in future be legally allowed to decide which sex they are simply by self-definition. Broadly speaking what is your view of the proposal?”

Fifty-five per cent of respondents answered that they thought it was a bad idea, with 19 per cent thinking it was a good idea. This time 26 per cent said they didn’t know.

An earlier poll commissioned by Wings Over Scotland asked a slightly different question which said that self-identification would “mean abolishing all current single-sex public spaces, such as women-only changing rooms and men-only toilets” and that the new law would “make it a hate crime to disagree with someone about which sex they were”. This also found similar results with 58 per cent saying the law change was a bad idea, 18 per cent thinking it was good, and 24 per cent undecided.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: Mostly False

The claim on the leaflets distributed by ForWomen.scot contains misleading figures. While the majority of those polled in the UK and Scotland appear to be opposed to the potential change in law, there is not 82 per cent opposition as suggested. The figures do not take into account around 20 per cent of those polled who chose ‘don’t know’ as an option, thus giving a false impression of the strength of opposition to the potential law change.

This claim is Mostly False

Mostly False – The claim may contain a kernel of truth but leaves out facts which lead one to a different impression.

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, working to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Email us at factcheck@theferret.scot or join our Facebook group.

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