AN expert opposed to gender recognition certificate reform has failed to point to any international examples of self-ID being “abused”.

On Tuesday, MSPs heard from the Equalities and Human Rights Committee (EHRC), which has withdrawn its support for the Scottish Government’s planned reforms of the Gender Recognition Act.

Ministers want to make it easier for trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate (GRC) which allows them to legally change the sex on their birth certificate and other legal documents.

Opponents to the reforms have claimed the changes would threaten single-sex spaces and have suggested predatory men could obtain a GRC to legally gain access to these spaces and attack women and girls.

READ MORE: Joanna Cherry challenges Nicola Sturgeon to public debate on gender reform

Representatives from the EHRC discussed the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill in a committee meeting with MSPs.

Pressed by Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy (below), on whether other countries with more lax laws around gender self-ID – the principle that people are recognised in law as the gender with which they identify – the organisation’s two experts failed to give examples.

The National:

Alasdair MacDonald, the EHRC’s director of policy and human rights monitoring, said the organisation’s investigations into self-ID had not been focused on “abuse of the system”.

He added: “Our emphasis has been less about any abuse of the system but rather understanding the implications of broadening access to this process and what that means for services and data collection.”

Melanie Field (below), the EHRC’s head of strategy and policy did not provide an example of abuse of more relaxed self-ID laws, but acknowledged the debate in the UK was “particularly heated”.

The National:

She added: “I’m not aware that we’ve had any formal discussions with our international counterparts on this but I’ve been involved in some informal discussions and I think the overriding thing I would take away from those is that there is a real recognition that domestic context matters.

“There is a recognition that debate in the UK is particularly heated and that that is not replicated across other states necessarily.”

In the previous panel giving evidence to the committee, MSPs were told there was international evidence from countries including Argentina, Denmark and Malta, which showed relaxing gender recognition laws “made trans people’s lives easier”.

Vic Valentine, a manager at the Scottish Trans Alliance pointed to research from Transgender Europe which analysed how thousands of trans people had been affected by relaxed self-ID laws.

READ MORE: Britain gripped by 'moral panic' over trans rights, claims Mhairi Black in viral speech

They said: “Of more than 17,000 people who had been legally recognised, there were two cases of repeat applications and both of those were around people who had come out as trans, transitioned, had been legally recognised and obtained legal gender recognition and then faced a significant amount of hostility and discrimination due to their transition and felt unable to continue to live in a way that reflected how they felt about themselves.

“And actually those people went on to reapply when their circumstances changed later."

MSPs were also told the framing of trans people as a "threat" to women was reminiscent of attitudes towards gay men in the past. 

Stonewall Scotland director Colin Macfarlane said: "I think we have to be very careful in the public discourse around this that trans people are human beings, they are valid, they are not a threat to the wider public and some of the framing around this subject has been really unfortunate.”

Macfarlane, a gay man who came out in the late 1990s, added: “A lot of the discourse around this is reminiscent of the discourse around lesbian, gay and bi identities and particularly around gay men – that we were predatory, that we were somehow a threat to children, that we were a safeguarding risk, that there was something inherently dangerous about us."

The EHRC changed its position on gender recognition reform earlier this year, claiming the Government’s plans had not adequately taken into account the consideration of women’s sex-based rights and concerns about single-sex spaces.

Argentina and Malta passed ground-breaking gender self-ID laws in 2012 and 2015, respectively.

Currently, trans people in Scotland must be diagnosed with gender dysphoria and have lived in their gender for at least two years to obtain a gender recognition certificate or one can be obtained by having surgery to remove or add secondary sexual characteristics such as breasts or a penis.

The Scottish Government’s much-delayed bill would mean trans people could legally change their sex on documents without a medical diagnosis, and it would lower the age for doing so to 16.

The changes would also mean a trans person would only need to live in their gender for at least three months before applying rather than two years.