A UN expert has told MSPs that the debate surrounding gender reform in Scotland has been used by some as a “proxy” to promote discrimination against transgender people and question the legitimacy of their very existence.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the United Nations independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, was giving evidence to the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice committee at Holyrood on Monday night when he made the comments.

Madrigal-Borloz was invited back to give evidence to MSPs after first giving his opinion on the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill in June.

Last week, he published a letter urging MSPs to pass the legislation because it would bring Scotland in line with international human rights standards.

It followed a conflicting letter published by Reem Alsalem, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, who claimed violent men could abuse the system of self-identification, which is included in the Scottish Parliament bill.

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However, while Madrigal-Borloz insisted that he would not comment specifically on Alsalem’s letter, he said that he felt compelled to restate his support of the bill after growing concerned with the general tone of the debate in Scotland.

He said: “As I monitored the public and parliamentary debate in relation to the bill, I have become increasingly concerned about the misrepresentation of the United Nations long-standing position in relation to legal recognition of gender identity based on self-identification.

“I’m also concerned about narratives that appear to be utilising the discussion around the bill as a proxy for reigniting exclusionary discussions on the very existence and rights of trans people.”

He said that the narratives deployed by critics of the bill “often use stigma against trans men and trans women, generally through a trio of rhetorical levers: the rights of non-trans women and girls, the rights of children, and the issue of sports.”

He added: “I have also grown concerned about the toxicity of this debate and its impact on the safety and security of all, but very particularly trans, persons.”

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“As these are the very myths that drive much of the violence and harassment that is inflicted upon them.”

When asked by Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton about whether he thought stopping convicted sex offenders from applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate was a “reasonable” measure to take, Madrigal-Borloz said that explicitly connecting sexual violence and transgender people without any administrative or judicial findings that it was an issue in other countries with self-ID was “problematic”.

“I am convinced that women are, of course, right to fear violence at the hands of predators – predatory men, in particular. They are massively affected by it.

“But one of the ideas that I find quite problematic in relation to these connections is there is this connection made with the idea that trans women are actually just men in dresses. There is something that is quite off about that, and I think creates significant possibilities for stigma and discrimination.

“Trans women are not men in dresses. They are certainly not predatory men in dresses. They are not men at all.

“And although, of course, I don’t think that trans communities and populations need to provide evidence of lack of abuse in the systems that have legal gender recognition based on self-identification, I think it is telling that in none of those countries is there administrative or judicial findings of predatory men abusing the system to obtain access to places that they, as men, would not be entitled to gain access.”

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Later on in the evidence session, Reem Alsalem said that just because data is not “consolidated” on the violence faced by women at the hands of men utilising self-identification to gain access to women’s spaces, does not mean that it doesn’t exist.

She told MSPs: “The fact that data doesn’t exist – or isn’t consolidated, I think it exists – but isn’t consolidated or isn’t sought for is not a reflection that we don’t have a problem.

“It’s a reflection on the fact that nobody is looking for it because we have victims and organisations telling us, they’ve been telling us for many years now, that it is a problem.”

It comes as more than sixty Scottish LGBT wrote to MSPs on the eve of the final stage of debate on gender reform urging them to back the legislation.

Supporters of the bill also sent a whopping 33,255 emails in support to MSPs at Holyrood as of Monday morning, with 1500 postcards set to be delivered to the parliament on Tuesday morning.

Over nine hours have been set aside for MSPs to debate 153 different legislation amendments over Tuesday and Wednesday, with the Tories claiming the hard time limit will impact the parliament’s ability to scrutinise the bill.

The Gender Recognition Reform Bill has faced two lengthy consultations and numerous attempts by opponents to delay or block its passage.

Supporters of the reforms staged a last-ditch attempt to bring as many MSPs onside as possible, following the rebellion of six SNP MSPs during the first stage of debate.

The LGBT groups who signed the letter come from all over Scotland.

The letter reads: “This week, the Scottish Parliament has a historic opportunity to continue Scotland’s journey towards full social and legal equality, for all LGBT+ people, by passing a new law which will remove bureaucratic and dehumanising barriers to legal gender recognition for trans men and women.

“As an LGBT+ community we have seen the repeal of Section 28, protection from discrimination, and equal marriage as some of the key steps forward in a country that respects all who live here, no matter who they love or who they are. In this journey we have learned that we are stronger when we are united.”

Dr Rebecca Crowther, policy coordinator at the Equality Network said: “This letter reaffirms what many of us already knew, that the vast majority of LGBT+ people support reforming the Gender Recognition Act and this bill proposed by the Scottish Government. LGBT+ people have seen huge steps forward to their rights in two decades, and we urge MSPs to continue to make progress forward by backing the Bill.”