The Forensic Medical Services Bill, which passed unanimously in the Scottish Parliament this week, is a landmark piece of legislation that will support victims of the most heinous crimes. I commend the legal protections it has brought, as well as those who worked incredibly hard to bring it to fruition.
I was dismayed, however, to see such an important piece of legislation accompanied with a fresh wave of hostility towards trans people in Scotland, particularly trans women. At a time when human rights are under attack across the world, it saddens me that the progressive leadership we need in Scotland simply isn’t there.
Some people have been led to believe that the amendment that passed on Thursday will guarantee a victim’s right to receive care from their preferred gender. This isn’t true. The amendment is purely one of rhetoric and will not change the way in which these vital services are accessed. “Sex” and “gender” do not have statutory definitions in Scots law, which means they are used interchangeably. All this amendment has done in practical terms is to embolden those who seek to deny trans women the same rights as cis women.
The true barrier to guaranteeing victims their preferred gender of care provider is a lack of female doctors. Many more women must be recruited and trained in all parts of Scotland if we are to make sure that the current right to request gender-specific care becomes a right to access gender-specific care. At present, victims are subject to a postcode lottery. Though the government has been slow to prioritise this recruitment, improvements have been made over the past three years and many people are working hard to resolve this situation.
It is of real regret to me that the majority of Scottish Parliamentarians have failed to recognise the real-world impact that voting for this amendment has had on an already-marginalised group. Nobody deserves to have their existence turned into a political football. Yet the vitriol I have seen on social media has been completely beyond the pale. This is not okay.
I am a feminist through and through, and I will always prioritise the fundamental human rights of those who face oppression - including both cis and trans women. The struggle we face against misogyny is a collective one. I will not leave anyone out in the cold.