NICOLA Sturgeon has hit back at JK Rowling’s accusation that she is a “destroyer of women’s rights”, insisting she is a “passionate lifelong feminist”.

The Harry Potter yesterday posted a picture of herself wearing a T-shirt making the claim about the First Minister in “solidarity” with protesters gathered outside Holyrood.

The demonstrators warned the Scottish Government’s gender reform plans could erode women’s rights and make it easier for sexual predators to abuse others by pretending to be transgender in order to access women’s safe spaces such as refugees and changing rooms.

READ MORE: JK Rowling wears t-shirt accusing Nicola Sturgeon of 'destroying women's rights'

A Holyrood committee this week approved the general principles of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill in a split 5-2 decision, with its Tories members objecting.

The Bill is intended to simplify and speed up the process of changing one’s gender in the eyes of the law.

The legislation will end the need for a medical diagnosis, cut the minimum time for acquiring a gender recognition certificate (GRC) from two years to six months, and lower the age for obtaining a GRC from 18 to 16.

SNP and Green ministers say the changes will not dilute women’s rights and preserve single-sex spaces and services.

Asked in a series of media interviews if she was a destroyer of women’s rights, Ms Sturgeon said “No”, she was not.

Asked about Ms Rowling’s T-shirt and yesterday’s protest, Ms Sturgeon said: “You know, people are entitled to express their views and they're entitled to express their views and whatever way they think is fair. 

“I've always thought that on this issue, where people have very strong views, we should all try to treat each other with respect and that's what I will continue to do.

“In terms of the legislation, it is going through the scrutiny process in the Scottish Parliament.

“The committee that's been looking at it published its report yesterday and gave approval by majority to this legislation and the parliament as a whole will look at it in the week after the October recess. So that process of scrutiny is there.

“This bill is about reforming an existing process that is degrading and traumatic for trans people, seeking to make it less traumatic for those who want to legally change their gender. 

“It doesn't give any additional rights to trans people, nor does it take any rights away from women.”

READ MORE: Holyrood committee backs gender recognition reforms that 'will not remove women's rights'

Asked if victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse were wrong to object to the Bill in case men tried to use it to gain access to women’s safe spaces, Ms Sturgeon said: “Victims of sexual assault and abuse are never wrong to express concerns. 

“But it's abusive men who are responsible for that, not trans women, and we need to focus on those who commit those appalling acts of sexual violence and domestic abuse against women and my government has done a great deal legislatively in terms of support for those who work with victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse and always will do. 

“It's men who attack women and we need to focus on that, not on further stigmatising and discriminating against a tiny group in our society that are already one of the most stigmatised.

“And I say this as a feminist, a passionate, lifelong feminist, I've spent much of my life campaigning for women's rights. 

“We don't have to look very far to see the real threats to women's rights right now. 

“They come from men who attack, sexually and violently, women; who try to abuse women in a misogynistic way. 

“They come from lawmakers in parts of the world trying to take away a reproductive rights and access to abortion.

“They come from oppressive regimes and places like Iran, which we're seeing women rise up admirably against right now. 

“These are the threats to women's rights and feminists should focus on them, not on trans women, who are not the threat to women's rights.

“Any man who seeks to abuse the law on gender recognition for nefarious purposes would be committing a criminal offence under the proposed Bill that's before the Scottish Parliament.

“It's right to make a degrading and traumatic process simpler for trans people and to make sure that our protections for anybody who would seek to exploit that legislation.”