A small number of influential actors

A reminder to consider the likely impacts:

The “unregulated roll-out” of gender self-identification in Scotland has taken place with weak or non-existent scrutiny which could be putting women and girls at risk, according to new research.

University of Edinburgh academics Dr Kath Murray and Lucy Hunter Blackburn argue that decision-making on sex and gender identity issues has been directed towards the interests of a specific group, “without due regard” for the wider population.

Published on Monday in the university’s journal Scottish Affairs, the study claims that policy makers have been over-influenced by those lobbying for the rights of trans people to the “detriment” of women and girls.

Why is that? Why has it been so quick and easy? I don’t suppose I’ll ever really understand it.

Within the last two years, proposals by the Scottish and UK Governments to reform the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) to allow people to change their legal sex based only on making a legally-registered self-declaration have sparked an intense debate on how sex and gender identity should be defined in law and policy.

Equalities Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville announced last month that the government’s plans for reforming the 2004 Act – which would make it easier for transgender people to get legal recognition of their “lived gender” – would be delayed and consultation reopened.

The report’s authors state: “It is clear that here, and elsewhere, public authorities have repeatedly failed to assess properly the impact on other groups who have specific protections under the Equality Act 2010, as the Act requires, and that little thought has been given to the possibility that such policies might be open to abuse by individuals with malign intent, irrespective of gender identity.

Which amounts to believing in magic, when you think about it. Normally public authorities are well aware of the existence of individuals with malign intent, but here somehow that awareness simply left the building. “Yes, darlings, any man who wants to can simply declare himself a woman and be legally recognized as such, because what could possibly go wrong?” It seems so obvious what could go wrong, and yet…

“On one analysis, the analysis simply reflects that women remain, as a class, less powerful than men.

“From another perspective, it is a story about policy capture that demonstrates how a small number of influential actors appear to have secured a monopoly on how sex and gender identity are understood within Scottish policy-making.”

And most of those influential actors are men, so the two analyses or perspectives are connected.

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