Nicola Sturgeon suggests JK Rowling is not a ‘real feminist’ as she hits back in deepening trans row after Harry Potter author wore t-shirt accusing SNP leader of ‘destroying women’s rights’ with gender bill

  • First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants legislation to make it easier for transgender people to ‘self ID’ 
  • JK Rowling backed  For Women Scotland activists who gathered outside Scottish Parliament yesterday
  • Ms Rowling donned a t-shirt branding Nicola Sturgeon a ‘destroyer of women’s rights’, sharing it on Twitter

Nicola Sturgeon today ratcheted up her row with JK Rowling by suggesting that the author is not a ‘real feminist’ – and that she is – after the Harry Potter author branded the SNP leader a ‘destroyer of women’s rights’.

The First Minister fought fire with fire after she was attacked by the star and declared: ‘I’ve spent my entire life campaigning for women’s rights, and I’m a passionate feminist with lots of evidence behind that’.

And in a thinly-veiled attack on the feminist credentials of Ms Rowling, and members of For Women Scotland (FWS), she said: ‘There are not shortages of attacks on women that feminists, real feminists, as I consider myself to be, should be focusing on right now’, and accusing them of trying to ‘stigmatise and discriminate’ against transgender people.

Yesterday Ms Rowling donned a t-shirt branding Nicola Sturgeon a ‘destroyer of women’s rights’. She did so as she lent her support to campaigners who gathered outside the Scottish parliament to protest against the devolved government’s controversial gender reforms.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill aims to make it quicker and easier for individuals as young as 16 to change sex with no requirement for medical reports or evidence. Campaigners have claimed that a move to self-identification and the removal of medical involvement in obtaining a gender recognition certificate will pose a risk to women in single-sex spaces.

The First Minister was asked directly about JK Rowling’s t-shirt and dismissed her critics on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, declaring: ‘Abusive men are a risk to women – that is what we should be focusing on.

‘We shouldn’t be seeking to further stigmatise and discriminate against a tiny, tiny group in society that are already one of the most stigmatised groups in society.

‘There are many, many real threats to women out there right now, from attacks physical attacks, attacks of sexual violence to the removal of abortion and reproductive rights to what women in countries in Iran are going through.

‘The threat to women in our society today is not from trans women, it is from abusive men, from lawmakers who want to take away our rights and that is what we should be focusing on.’

Nicola Sturgeon today accused JK Rowling and others of discriminating against transgender people and suggested that she was more of a feminist than them

JK Rowling (pictured wearing a t-shirt with the message ‘Nicola Sturgeon, destroyer of women’s rights) today threw her weight behind Scottish campaigners who marched on Holyrood in a protest against controversial transgender plans

Demonstrators from Women Scotland (FWS) gathered outside the Scottish Parliament this morning for a rally in opposition to the proposals, claiming they are putting women’s rights ‘in crisis’

FWS bosses this morning called on activists to ‘come, lend your voice and send a message that women matter’, as a committee meeting on the issue was held

Nicola Sturgeon has led the fight to introduce the legislation and a Holyrood committee yesterday endorsed the proposed Bill, insisting it ‘will not change or remove women’s rights’.

But hundreds of women gathered outside the Scottish Parliament to oppose the changes, brandishing banners accusing the First Minister of wanting to erode rights and setting out the definition of a biological woman.

Ahead of the demonstration, Miss Rowling, 57, posted a picture of herself on Twitter wearing a t-shirt bearing the slogan ‘Nicola Sturgeon – Destroyer of women’s rights’.

Ms Rowling, who has faced death threats from trans activists, wrote: ‘I stand in solidarity with @ForWomenScot and all women protesting and speaking outside the Scottish parliament. #NoToSelfID’.

Dozens of protestors at the rally For Women Scotland (FWS) also wore the t-shirt, which caused a campaigner to be ejected from a parliamentary committee in June while a minister was giving evidence.   

The  plans have faced a backlash in recent months, with a watchdog warning this week that allowing people to self-identify could cause ‘confusion’ about their status in other parts of the UK.

FWS bosses this morning called on activists to ‘come, lend your voice and send a message that women matter’, as a committee meeting on the issue was held.

Posting a picture of herself wearing a t-shirt with the message ‘Nicola Sturgeon, destroyer of women’s rights’, Harry Potter author Ms Rowling lent the group her support. 

She tweeted: ‘I stand in solidarity with @ForWomenScot and all women protesting and speaking outside the Scottish parliament. #NoToSelfID’.

Asked by journalists about the post, a spokesman for the Scottish Government said he had not seen it. 

FWS says it campaigns to protect and strengthen women and children’s rights, and aims to ‘protect ‘sex’ in law and policy’, ‘help people speak up’ and ‘promote evidence-based discussion’.

A statement on its website adds: ‘We believe that there are only two sexes, that a person’s sex is not a choice, nor can it be changed. Women are entitled to dignity, safety and fairness.’

Speakers at today’s rally included former Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont and Maya Forstater of Sex Matters.

Ms Lamont told demonstrators that upon its establishment, the Scottish Parliament ‘was a Parliament where policy, where action, where law was shaped by an understanding of what created division and inequality’.

She said: ‘The particular role was for the committees, which would breach the wall of the Parliament and allow the people of Scotland to participate in what the world could be. That has not happened.

‘It is not their job to decide before the committee meets who they will listen to, who they will speak to, and only listen to those who already agree with them.

‘I’m not saying that the committee should agree with everything that we say. But they should listen, they should challenge, they should argue, they should probe.

‘They should not dismiss, because in that world of dismissal, you shoot the messenger. You ignore the message, you make bad law and other people live with the consequences.

‘So my challenge is to my friends and all of the people in there who have the honour of being elected members. Your job as lawmakers is not just to put into law what you think is right, but understand the laws of unintended consequences.’

Ms Lamont said she is ‘conscious’ of the importance of women’s rights.

She told the crowd: ‘I was told 40 years ago, by young men: ‘Now is not the time. There are other campaigns that matter. There are other people that are more vulnerable’.

‘I said then, if you don’t address women’s inequality we will never have true equality, and that is as true now as it was then.’

It comes as a majority of MSPs on the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee today recommended the general principles of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill should be approved. 

Committee convener Joe FitzPatrick said: ‘We believe these important reforms will improve the lives and experiences of trans people.’

Papers lodged alongside the Bill by the Scottish Government estimate the changes could result in the number of people applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) increasing from 30 a year to 250-300.

Five MSPs on the committee backed the legislation but the two Conservatives – Pam Gosal and Rachael Hamilton – opposed it.

The Bill sets out plans to speed up the time it takes to obtain a GRC, and also lowers the age for obtaining one from 18 to 16.

A medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria would no longer be required, removing the requirement for doctors’ reports.

The period of time someone must have lived in their ‘acquired gender’ before applying would be reduced from two years to three months under the legislation – although a three-month ‘reflection period’ would be introduced to the process.

A previous consultation by the Scottish Government found 60% of respondents backed moving to a system of self-declaration.

A majority of MSPs on the committee backed removing the need for any medical evidence or diagnosis ‘believing that trans people know their own minds’.

However some on the committee were ‘concerned that the removal of the requirement for gender dysphoria and the requirement for medical evidence may extend the GRC process to a large and more diverse group of people’.

They fear this ‘could potentially mean the process is open to abuse from bad faith actors, particularly predatory men’.

Concerns have also been raised about the impact the reforms could have on single-sex spaces for women and girls – such as female-only toilets or changing rooms.

A rally was held outside the Scottish Parliament this morning by women’s rights campaigners

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has led the fight to introduce legislation which aims to make it easier for transgender people to be legally recognised as their preferred gender

FWS says it campaigns to protect and strengthen women and children’s rights, and aims to ‘protect ‘sex’ in law and policy’, ‘help people speak up’ and ‘promote evidence-based discussion’

A statement on its website adds: ‘We believe that there are only two sexes, that a person’s sex is not a choice, nor can it be changed. Women are entitled to dignity, safety and fairness’

The report said most MSPs on the committee agree that while such views are ‘sincerely held’, they are satisfied the Bill would not change any of the existing protections women have under the Equality Act 2010, ‘including the ability to exclude trans people from single-sex services where proportionate and appropriate’.

The committee report said: ‘The majority is satisfied that the Bill will not change or remove women’s rights, make changes to how toilets and changing rooms operate, redefine what a man or a woman is, nor change or expand trans people’s rights.’

Mr FitzPatrick said MSPs had heard a ‘wide range of views’ while scrutinising the legislation.

It comes after a list of problems with the proposal, including access to services, was sent by the Equality and Human Rights Commission to the UK and Scottish governments.

The watchdog said ‘practical difficulties or confusion are likely to arise in cross-border situations’ if the Equality Act is passed by Holyrood.

The letter said people who changed their gender in Scotland but in another part of the UK would face difficulty over their ‘legal status and rights.’

Officials added issues would arise regardless of whether the UK government accepted GRCs given out in Scotland. 

Both employers and services would struggle to determine a person’s legal gender and may have to take the ‘intrusive or offensive’ measures of asking to see a birth certificate or GRC, The Telegraph reported.

The watchdog urged both governments to ‘work constructively together’ to sort out the issues it raised before the bill goes ahead.

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