FEMINIST campaigners have insisted that the push for equal right for women and trans people are “deeply interconnected” as they dismissed claims that gender reforms will impact access to single-sex spaces.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, supported by all Holyrood parties except the Conservatives, would remove the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria before an application for a gender recognition certificate (GRC) can be made.

The legislation would also drop the minimum age for an application to be made to 16 from 18 and cut the length of time required for a trans person to live in their acquired gender from two years to three months and a subsequent three-month reflection period.

Holyrood’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee has been taking evidence on the Scottish Government proposals.

Speaking to MSPs, Catherine Murphy, executive director of feminist and equalities group, Engender, said: “The proposed reforms to the gender recognition act will not negatively impact on women’s equality and rights.

“Polarisation and inaccuracies in some areas of the public discourse around the Bill unfortunately have led to a perception that this Bill and the broad aims of trans inclusion and rights are fundamentally in conflict with the aims of women’s equality.

“Engender does not share or uphold that view. We are confident that reform will not have any adverse effect of the capacity of the Equalities Act.

“We do not believe that trans equality and women’s equality are in competition with each other. Rather we see the paths to equality for women and trans people as deeply interconnected and dependent on shared efforts to dismantle patriarchal intersected systems of oppression that impacts barriers to full equality.”

Some opponents have claimed that the Gender Recognition Act will impact single-sex spaces such as toilets, despite the proposals not altering who can use certain spaces under teh Equalities Act. 

Ms Murphy told the committee that the proposed legislation “would not substantively change how people access public spaces and toilets”.

She added: “It does not create an additional duty of owners or proprietors to do any more policing of those single sex spaces and certainly exists at this moment in time.

“I do not think that this bill in any way changes the currently status quo with regard to accessing these spaces.”

Sandy Brindley, chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, added: “It’s never been the case that any single sex services as far as I'm aware in Scotland...has ever required a gender recognition certificate so as somebody to provide proof of their gender.”

Earlier, Susan Smith from For Women Scotland, claimed that those who have “self-excluded from women’s services” have been “demonised”. 

She added: “By erasing and conflating sex in law and policy, the Scottish Government will not resolve any of those equalities but they will make it considerably harder to monitor injustice and fight for change.” 

Engender and Amnesty International told MSPs they would like to see a provision in the Bill for those who may wish to return to identifying with the gender they were assigned at birth.

The Bill currently requires a statutory declaration to be made for a GRC to be acquired, with concerns being voiced that an attempt to de-transition could result in the holder being criminalised with up to two years in prison or a fine.

Naomi McAuliffe, the Scotland programme director for Amnesty International, said she did not believe that de-transitioning was common, but added: “When developing a new law, there should always be an avenue for a potential outcome, even if it happens to one person throughout Scotland, there needs to be a proper process for that happening.

“Whether that is re-applying for a different gender certificate, whether that is voiding one, whatever, but certainly to make sure to protect those individuals from any kind of prosecution under this.”

Ms McAuliffe’s stance was supported by Engender executive director Catherine Murphy.

“Whilst it’s extremely rare, or seems to be, we do recognise that it’s a possibility,” she said.

“So we want to make sure that those laws are not used against people who then choose to de-transition.”

A submission from MurrayBlackburnMackenzie, a policy think tank which is opposed to large parts of the law, also pushed for the change in a submission to the committee.

“The idea of living in an acquired gender until death raises legal questions in relation to de-transition and how a person who wishes to de-transition could do so, without being liable to having made a false declaration,” the submission said.

“There is no provision for this in the draft Bill. This is a significant omission that fails to account for applicant vulnerability, particularly in relation to young people, who may be more likely to apply for a GRC.”