Mon 9 Jan 2023 — 3 min

The UK government has announced plans to impose significant restrictions on the validity of Gender Recognition Certificates (GRCs) granted in countries outside of England and Wales.

Kemi Badenoch, the Equalities Minister, has shared her intention to “update the list” of approved countries from whom GRCs, or their equivalent, will be accepted in response to Scotland passing legislation to reduce the difficulty experienced by trans people in obtaining a GRC. This list is intended to ensure that only sufficiently “rigorous” international processes for changing legal gender are approved.

In Badenoch’s letter to Parliament she states:

It should not be possible for a person who would not satisfy the criteria to obtain UK legal gender recognition to use the overseas recognition route to obtain a UK Gender Recognition Certificate. This would damage the integrity and credibility of the process of the Gender Recognition Act.

The Times attributes claims to “UK government sources” that in order for Scottish GRCs to be included on the approved list, the legislation must be amended to require a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

It is confusing that such a statement has been made only now, given that several countries which currently do not require any diagnosis or psychological opinion in order to change legal gender(Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, and Switzerland) are currently included on the approved list. This, therefore, seems to be a reactionary move in response to the Scottish legislation, by a government which is committed to maintaining a policy of hostility towards trans people.

Badenoch’s statement is clear, however, that this update is likely to affect more than simply Scottish trans people - the review is likely to remove many of the countries listed above that were previously approved. This represents a further step towards the increased marginalisation of trans people within the UK, and will further enforce our reputation as a trans-hostile nation on the international stage. This is to be done by Statutory Instrument - and therefore without any Parliamentary debate.

In addition to such moves, the Government has threatened to deny royal assent in order to overturn the democratic decision of the Scottish Parliament on an overwhelming mandate - with the 2021 manifestos of the SNP, Scottish Labour, and the Scottish Greens (representing over 70% of the vote) including pledges to reform and simplify Gender Recognition.

Stonewall has rightly criticised such attempts, stating that blocking the legislation would be “disastrous” for trans people. In a statement, Nancy Kelley (Chief Executive) and Colin Macfarlane, (Director of Nations) emphasised that:

”The reforms are one of the most consulted on in the Scottish Parliament’s history, and the new law was passed by a resounding cross-party majority, with support from MSPs in all parties.”

This interference highlights the immeasurable threat that the current Government poses to trans people, and the increasing need for trans people to fight to protect even their existing rights.