Nicola Sturgeon: Gender law opponents use women’s rights as ‘cloak’ to be transphobic

self ID law protests - Iain Masterton / Alamy Live News
self ID law protests - Iain Masterton / Alamy Live News

Nicola Sturgeon has accused some opponents of her gender reforms of using women’s rights as a “cloak” for their transphobia, misogyny, homophobia and racism.

Speaking shortly after announcing a transgender rapist would be moved out of a women’s prison, she said some critics of her self-ID plans were “deeply misogynist, often homophobic, possibly some of them racist as well”.

The First Minister also told a podcast that as a “general principle someone who rapes a woman should not be in a women’s prison”.

However, she then raised the prospect of exceptions being made by warning “the danger of any blanket approach is you end up having a different effect to the one you want because you catch cases that should be dealt with in a different way”.

Scottish Prison Service guidance states that trans criminals should be sent to a prison that matches their self-identified gender that they were living in prior to their conviction.

Her intervention came shortly after she told MSPs that Isla Bryson, who was this week convicted of raping two women, would be moved from Cornton Vale’s women’s prison in Stirling to a cell in a men's jail.

But she repeatedly refused to say whether she considered Bryson, 31, who was named Adam Graham when committing the rapes and has not legally changed gender, to be a man or a woman.

The First Minister is locked in a battle with the UK Government over her Bill allowing people to self-identify their legal gender by signing a statutory declaration, removing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

The Scottish Secretary has issued a Section 35 order in an unprecedented move to block the legislation over concern about the impact of the Bill on UK-wide women's rights and protections.

But Ms Sturgeon told Global’s News Agents podcast: “I have heard people, politicians, claiming to be defenders of women’s rights who I’d never heard defend women’s rights in the past.

“In fact, I’ve heard some support policies... that run counter to women’s rights. We have legislation looming later in this Parliament on criminal justice reform to try to deal with issues of low conviction rates for rape and sexual assault, we are likely to be dealing with legislation in months to come around abortion buffer zones.

“And I think it will be interesting to see how many of the so-called defenders of women’s rights in the context of the trans debate suddenly don’t think that all women’s rights are actually important.

“And there are some people that I think have decided to use women’s rights as a sort of cloak of acceptability to cover up what is transphobia.”

She said this did not apply to everybody who opposed her Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill but concluded: “There are people who have opposed this bill that cloak themselves in women’s rights to make it acceptable, but just as they’re transphobic, you’ll also find that they’re deeply misogynist, often homophobic, possibly some of them racist as well.”

But Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, tweeted:

Dr Michael Foran, a public law lecturer at Glasgow University, said the Bill would make it easier for trans prisoners to argue they should be in female jail and warned they could sue if their demands are refused.

Highlighting the prison service guidance on where trans prisoners should be housed, he noted there was an ongoing review and “concerns about the risks that this kind of guidance would entail”.

Pressed whether the Bill would affect cases like Isla Bryson, he said: “This is quite complicated but the answer shortly is yes in some context.”

He said the decision on whether a trans criminal is housed in a male or female prison would be affected by whether they have a GRC and are legally female.

“Stronger arguments can be made by someone who is legally female saying ‘this is a woman’s prison, I am legally a woman, I should be entitled to be in this prison’,” he said.

He said the Bill would expand the “scope and range and character of those who can more easily gain access to this legal status of woman”.

Listen to the full interview on The News Agents podcast this afternoon on Global Player