JOANNA Cherry has challenged Nicola Sturgeon and Ruth Davidson to a public debate on Gender Recognition Act (GRA) reform after both declined to define what a woman is.

The First Minister, who last year described herself as “feminist to my fingertips”, received criticism this week after she said defining what a woman is would “oversimplify” the debate on transgender rights and risk harming trans people.

At the same time, the former Scottish Tory leader came under fire for dodging the matter saying such “gotcha” questions were unhelpful and there was “too much heat” in the debate. Now SNP MP Cherry – who is against self-identification – has called on them to talk out the issue with her in public.

READ THE FULL COMMENT PIECE: Joanna Cherry: There is nothing transphobic about defining what a woman is

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill was introduced earlier this year, pledging to reduce the time a person has to live in their acquired gender from two years to three months, with a further three-month “reflection period” before they can receive a gender recognition certificate, as well as lowering the age one can be obtained from 18 to 16.

In her column for The National today, Cherry (pictured) says most MSPs are “reluctant to address the detail of the debate” for fear of being branded “transphobic”. But after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) set out the problems self-identification could pose for women’s rights, she said it was time for them to address these “well-founded” concerns.

Cherry said: “There is in fact nothing ‘transphobic’ about defining what a woman is. The Equality Act passed by a Labour Government and supported by the SNP defines a woman as a female of any age. Is that transphobic? You cannot defend women’s rights if you cannot define what a woman is. Likewise, you cannot legislate for trans rights if you are not prepared to define what a trans person is. And the reforms to the GRA don’t do that.

“The EHRC has set out in some detail the problems that self-identification could pose for women’s rights in the fields of criminal justice, single sex spaces, sport and data collection. It is now the responsibility of MSPs to address the EHRC’s well-founded concerns.

“Most of our current MSPs seem reluctant to address the detail of this debate. They are worried about being branded ‘transphobic’, losing their positions, and receiving violent threats. Based on my personal experience, they are right to be worried. However, my personal experience also shows that it’s possible to survive such attacks and to go on arguing for what you believe is right.

“So, here’s my challenge to Nicola Sturgeon and Ruth Davidson. I’ll debate these issues with you in public. Name the date and the place and I will be there.”

Cherry also she has “no difficulty” with reform to the GRA, but she did have difficulty with the policy of self-identification, which was “not in the SNP manifesto and for which our conference never voted”.