Defining what a woman is would harm trans people, says Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon - Russell Cheyne - Pool/Getty Images
Nicola Sturgeon – Russell Cheyne – Pool/Getty Images

Nicola Sturgeon has provoked backlash from feminist groups after she refused to define the word “woman”, claiming that doing so would harm transgender people.

The First Minister has become the latest politician to express reluctance to explain what she believes a woman to be, arguing that to “oversimplify” the debate around trans rights would cause suffering to a vulnerable group.

Some trans activists argue that a transgender woman is literally a woman, regardless of their biological sex.

In an interview with The Times ahead of Thursday’s local elections, which has seen SNP plans to allow Scots to change their legal sex simply by making a declaration become a doorstep issue, Ms Sturgeon declined to offer a definition.

Asked to define the word woman, she said: “I’m not going to. I’m just not going to get into this debate at a level that’s about simplified and lurid headlines.”

She added: “Trans people are amongst, possibly the most, stigmatised and discriminated-against minorities in our society.

“And every time we oversimplify this debate, trans people actually suffer. And I think it’s important, they’re such a tiny minority, that we actually take the issues around protecting and enhancing the rights of trans people seriously.”

Her comments came weeks after Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, struggled to say whether he believes it is possible for a woman to have a penis.

Boris Johnson has said that the “basic facts of biology” are “overwhelmingly important” in distinguishing between a man and a woman.

First Minister vows to fight ‘until my dying breath’

Ms Sturgeon’s reforms at Holyrood would allow Scots to change their legal sex by signing a declaration, removing the need for a medical diagnosis or a doctor’s approval.

Several grassroots women’s groups have been established to fight the changes, claiming that they pose a risk to women’s safety and rights in fields such as sport and the workplace.

However, the First Minister said that she would argue “until my dying breath” that there was no conflict between women’s and trans rights.

Susan Smith, a director at the campaign group For Women Scotland, said that Ms Sturgeon’s refusal to define women was “depressing, but not unexpected”.

Feminist backlash over SNP’s proposals

Ms Smith accused her of dismissing legitimate concerns about her plans to change the law.

For Women Scotland has said politicians that should have no issue with using the dictionary definition of “adult human female” when asked to define a woman.

She added: “This is a First Minister who claims to stand against sexism in politics, yet can’t bring herself to meet and talk to women harmed by her policies. Her track record on dealing with harassment and abuse in her own party leaves much to be desired.

“Her self-ID proposals are not about ‘trans people’ but for anyone who chooses, for whatever reason, to change sex in law.

“All the evidence of harms to girls in school forced to use mixed-sex facilities, to women in prison, to the hundreds of girls who are being affirmed as the opposite sex and set on a path to lifelong medicalisation is to be dismissed and discounted.”

Published by anthonyhayble

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