WOMEN’S groups in Scotland have hit back at an intervention from a UN official who called on the Scottish Government to pause its transgender law reforms.

In a letter co-signed by six feminist organisations, Reem Alsalem was told groups were “surprised and disappointed” by her comments.

The heads of Engender, JustRight Scotland, Scottish Women’s Rights Centre, Scottish Women’s Aid, Amnesty International Scotland and Rape Crisis Scotland, accused Alsalem of failing to speak with human rights or feminist organisations in Scotland before making her intervention.

Earlier this month, Alsalem, the UN’s special rapporteur on violence against women, claimed Scotland’s proposed changes to gender recognition law posed a global risk – despite other countries enacting similar reforms.

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In a letter to the UK Government, she said the Scottish Government’s proposals to make it easier to obtain a gender recognition certificate (GRC) would “potentially open the door for violent males who identify as men to abuse the process of acquiring a GRC and the rights associated with it”.

The response to Alsalem refuted points made by the UN special rapporteur, including her claims that the law change would risk the safety of women in single-sex spaces.

We revealed on Wednesday that an expert from Ghent University, in Belgium which has carried out similar gender self-ID reforms said abuses of the system simply “haven’t occurred”.

It is expected that the law would not affect the sanctity of single-sex spaces set as defined in the Equalities Act, because that is a piece of UK legislation which cannot be altered by rules made at a Scottish level.

The letter stated: “The Equality Act is legislation reserved to the UK Westminster Parliament. As such the bill does not make changes to the 2010 Equality Act, which includes a number of exceptions that allow for provision of single-sex spaces and for exclusion of individuals when this is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.”

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The authors said trans women and non-binary people had been able to access rape crisis services in Scotland for 15 years and that in that time “there has not been a single incident of anyone abusing this”.

It added: “Your letter mentions the specific example of support services for women who have experienced sexual violence.

Most rape crisis services in Scotland provide lifesaving support for women, men and non-binary people.

“All specialist violence against women and girls organisations have robust safeguarding procedures in place which include risk assessment at the point of service delivery.

“There is no rape crisis service in Scotland that requires a gender recognition certificate.

“Where services are available to women only, women are not required to provide ‘proof’ of their sex.

“All rape crisis services in Scotland are inclusive of transwomen and have been for 15 years. In those 15 years, there has not been a single incident of anyone abusing this.”

The signatories also appeared to take aim at Alsalem’s arguments more broadly, emphasising that they believed the human rights of women and trans people were “deeply interconnected and dependant on shared efforts to dismantle systems of discrimination”.