FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has urged critics of the Scottish Government's proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) to focus on the “real threats to women”.

She said that while many criticisms on GRA reform are sincerely held, they were "not valid".

Sturgeon listed a number of threats she said women experience in the world, including women’s safety, sexism, abuse from “predatory men” and anti-abortion laws in Texas.

She said the proposed reforms would help trans people, who she described as “one of the most stigmatised minorities in our society”, change their gender in the eyes of the law.

The First Minister described the current system as “degrading, intrusive and traumatic”.

READ MORE: Be braced for a fight – but gender recognition reforms WILL happen

The Gender Recognition Reform Bill seeks to simplify the process of someone legally changing gender by bringing in self-identification.

Under the current law, the UK Gender Recognition Act 2004, obtaining a gender recognition certificate means getting a medical diagnosis, taking a minimum of two years to complete.

The new law would remove the medical part and shorten the time to six months.

The proposal has received pushback from some Tories as well as some in the SNP.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme, Sturgeon said: “Gender recognition reform is about changing an existing process to make it less degrading, intrusive and traumatic for one of the most stigmatised minorities in our society.

“And I think that is a good thing to do. It does not change in any way shape, or form, legal protections that women have.

“And that's something that's very important to me as a lifelong feminist.

“We shouldn't forget that there are big threats to women's safety and women's rights. They come from sexism, misogyny, principally from abusive and predatory men.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP had committed in their manifesto to reform the GRANicola Sturgeon said the SNP had committed in their manifesto to reform the GRA

“And we see lawmakers in other parts of the world Texas, for example, trying to take away the right of women to control their own body.

“So we should focus on the real threats to women, not the threats that, while I appreciate that some of these views are very sincerely held, in my view are not valid.”

Host Martin Geissler also asked the First Minister whether SNP ministers would get a free vote on the issue – and asked about concerns the bill was being “rushed” through.

Sturgeon said: “We take decisions before we get to votes both in parliamentary groups and in government as to whether free votes apply.

“There have been decisions taken to in the past to allow people free votes.

READ MORE: Scottish Government to press ahead with gender recognition reform

“That's not a point we've got to yet but generally, the principle is for ministers is that collective responsibility applies.

“I don't think anybody could accuse me of rushing into this. There's been two public consultations. We have listened very carefully.

"But you know, we had a manifesto commitment to move forward with this.”

The policy has been supported by the Scottish Greens, who entered a co-operation deal with the SNP last month, with a bill to reform the GRA to be introduced to the Scottish Parliament in the first year of the parliamentary session.