HUMAN rights experts in Scotland have dismissed calls to postpone gender recognition reform plans, disputing concerns raised by a UN official over women’s safety.

The chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) said that Reem Alsalem, the UN special rapporteur on violence against women and girls, appeared to voice support for self-ID for transgender people in a previous letter in 2021, contradicting comments she made two weeks ago.

Alsalem wrote a nine-page letter to the Scottish Government outlining fears that the proposals to make it easier for transgender people to obtain a gender recognition certificate (GRC) could be abused by predatory men.

READ MORE: Explained: The key facts about Scotland's Gender Recognition Act Bill

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill is currently making its way through Holyrood and would include the removal of a gender dysphoria diagnosis as a condition for obtaining a certificate. 

The proposed changes, where applicants would still be required to submit a statutory declaration made in front of a notary public or justice of the peace, are similar to those in numerous countries around the world that already have self-ID policies in place, including the Republic of Ireland, Belgium, Malta, and Argentina. 

In her letter, Alsalem said the plans could “potentially open the door for violent males who identify as men to abuse the process”.

We previously told how a European human rights expert dismissed Alsalem's claims and said abuses of the self-ID system in Belgium "haven't occurred" since it was introduced in 2018, or in any country where it is in place. 

The National: The Scottish Government are pursuing self-ID through the Gender Recongnition Reform BillThe Scottish Government are pursuing self-ID through the Gender Recongnition Reform Bill

And, Scottish women's and human rights groups hit back at Alsalem's claims and said they were “surprised and disappointed” by her comments.

Ian Duddy, chair of the SHRC, told a Holyrood committee the issues raised by the special rapporteur have already been discussed at length by the Scottish Parliament and experts.

He also told the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee that Alsalem’s letter contradicted a letter written by her in 2021.

He said: “She is one voice of several within the UN and there are a range of opinions within the UN.

READ MORE: Michelle Mone to take immediate leave of absence from House of Lords

“I note that the letter she recently submitted contradicts an earlier letter she sent in 2021 where she appeared to support self-ID with a number of other UN special rapporteurs.

“We are working through our response but my personal view is that I’m not convinced she has provided new evidence that has not already been debated at length within Parliament.”

He said the SHRC stood by its submission to the committee in June which said that “unnecessary barriers to legal recognition can be removed while upholding the rights of all”.

In response to a question by Tory MSP Pam Gosal on whether the Bill should be postponed to consider Alsalem’s concerns, he said: “We think the Bill is appropriate in terms of striking that balance and simplifying a process that already exists in terms of issuing gender recognition certificates.”

Committee chair Joe FitzPatrick said there had been no correspondence from Alsalem regarding providing evidence to MSPs.

Duddy also referenced the heated debate the gender reform proposals have created – especially on social media.

He said: “I am concerned as well about an underlying narrative that’s being developed that trans people are sexual predators.

“I worry about that because they are a marginalised and vulnerable group.”

He added: “We think women’s rights and trans rights can go hand in hand. Human rights are indivisible and we don’t think there’s a hierarchy of rights.”

READ MORE: What time is the SNP Westminster leader announced and how does the vote work?

The principles of the GRR Bill were backed by the majority of MSPs on Holyrood's equalities committee, except for the two Tory members. 

It passed the first stage of scrutiny on October 27, passing overwhelmingly despite opposition from some backbench SNP MSPs and the Tory benches. 

MSPs worked through over 100 amendments during the second stage of scrutiny last month, and a final debate is expected before the Scottish Parliament goes into recess for the festive period. 

The Bill has undergone two lengthy consultations and is one of the main shared policy briefs in the SNP-Green Bute House agreement.