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Feminist campaign group loses legal battle over definition of word ‘woman’

For Women Scotland lost a legal battle over the definition of the word ‘woman’ in the Equalities Act, which a court ruled included trans women.

Lauren Gilmour
Wednesday 01 November 2023 18:51 GMT
For Women Scotland has lost a legal challenge over the definition of the word ‘woman’ (Jane Barlow/PA)
For Women Scotland has lost a legal challenge over the definition of the word ‘woman’ (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)

A feminist group has lost a court appeal over the legal definition of the word woman.

Campaigners For Women Scotland (FWS) raised concerns over the definition of the word “women” in the Gender Representation on Public Boards Act 2018, saying that the use of the term was an attempt to override the Equality Act 2010 back in 2021.

The legislation, which was passed two years ago, aimed to increase the number of women on public boards.

In the Act, they used the term “woman” to represent both born women and trans women, or those who “live as women”, which FWS says was legally incompetent.

For Women Scotland argues that trans women are biologically male, and should be recognised as such in the equality act.

But the inner house of the Court of Session has thrown out the challenge, arguing that a person with a gender recognition certificate (GRC) is legally their acquired gender and possesses both the protected characteristic of gender reassignment and of sex.

On Wednesday, the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Malcolm and Lord Pentland refused the motion on the basis that the guidance did not conflate two separate protected characteristics.

The ruling read: “A person with a GRC in their acquired gender possesses the protected characteristic of gender reassignment for the purposes of section 7 (of the Equalities Act).

“Separately, for the purposes of section 11 they also possess the protected characteristic of sex according to the terms of their GRC.”

However, the judges also held that people without a GRC retain the sex in which they were born.

The ruling added: “A person with a GRC in the female gender comes within the definition of ‘woman’ for the purposes of section 11 of the EA, and the guidance issued in respect of the 2018 Act is lawful.

“The reclaiming motion is refused.”

The debate surrounding trans rights in Scotland has been tense over the last few months.

But Scottish Greens MSP Maggie Chapman said the ruling was “welcome” and an “important day for trans rights”.

She said: “Trans women are women, and have been subjected to some of the most appalling bigotry and prejudice as part of a culture war that has been knowingly and purposefully stoked by some politicians and media.

“With anti-trans hate crimes soaring and the UK government actively rolling back rights and using an anti-democratic veto against the gender reform that our Parliament overwhelmingly voted for, a lot of trans people are feeling attacked like never before.”

Naturally, we are hugely disappointed in today’s judgment, which has ruled that women’s protections under law may – in some cases – include men who have obtained a GRC

For Women Scotland

Meanwhile, a statement on the For Women Scotland website read: “Naturally, we are hugely disappointed in today’s judgment, which has ruled that women’s protections under law may – in some cases – include men who have obtained a GRC.

“We are obviously still analysing the decision and will be speaking to our legal team in due course to consider the possibility of a further challenge.

“Many thanks to all those who have donated and supported us.”

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