A piece in today’s Times:
Rape suspects are able to self-identify as female, it was revealed after a freedom of information request by a feminist policy think-tank.
Police Scotland said that if a rape or attempted rape was perpetrated by a “male who self-identifies as a woman . . . the male who self-identifies as a woman would be expected to be recorded as a female on relevant police systems.”
Campaigners claim that the position could lead to a “distortion” in society’s understanding of crime and the measures needed to tackle it. They also say the policy is at odds with what Humza Yousaf, the justice secretary, has said should be legal proof that a suspect is female.
The issue is the latest in the controversial debate around sex and gender identity and Scottish government attempts to change the law and follows concern over moves by public bodies to “erase” biological sex data from official records.
Dr Kath Murray, of the Edinburgh-based policy analysts Murray Blackburn Mackenzie, said that a person’s sex at birth was hugely relevant information in the case of rape.
“Recording and presenting violent and sexual offences committed by male as ‘female’ distorts our understanding of the nature of offending by women and men,” she said. “It obscures whether changes shown in statistics are due to real changes or only to changes in recording. In extremis, it may lead to the development of policies and projects based on false information.”
She added: “Sex should be the default category, and we would suggest further discussion is needed on how gender identity is recorded as a separate category for those who wish the information to be captured.”
Yousaf has previously stated that Police Scotland record a person’s gender identity rather than their sex, unless directly relevant to the crime, but he has not publicly commented on what the policy is in relation to serious sexual offending.
However, in answer to a written query from Johann Lamont MSP, he appeared to contradict the Police Scotland position. In his letter, seen by The Times, he said a person born male would need a full gender recognition certificate — “and so is legally female” — for that person to be statistically recorded as having committed rape.
Ms Lamont said the discrepancy was serious and needed to be explained.
In October, a draft document by Roger Halliday, the chief statistician, concluded that “questions about a person’s biology should not be asked, except potentially where there is direct relevance to a person’s medical treatment” and insisted that only “in a small number of instances, it may be necessary to record a person’s legal sex . . . on an individual basis for a very specific purpose”.
The Scottish government said that the guidance was being developed to “support public bodies collect, present and use data on sex and gender”.
Detective Superintendent Fil Capaldi said: “The sex/gender identification of individuals who come into contact with the police will be based on how they present or how they self- declare, which is consistent with the values of the organisation.
“Police Scotland requires no evidence or certification as proof of biological sex or gender identity other than a person’s self-declaration, unless it is pertinent to any investigation with which they are linked as a victim, witness or accused and it is evidentially critical that we legally require this proof, or there is reason for further enquiry based on risk.”
The Scottish government declined to comment, saying that “this is a matter for Police Scotland”.
• A centre is being set up to tackle stalking and abusive behaviour. The Centre for Action Against Stalking will be unveiled at the first ever international stalking conference next week and will work with the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) to focus on stalking and young people, what motivates perpetrators, and cyberstalking.
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