The UN Special Rapporteur for Violence Against Women and Girls, Reem Alsalem was vocal opposition to Scotland’s GRR bill in 2022. So why has Reem Alsalem been so silent as other UN member states across Europe introduce self-ID policies of their own?
As Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform was being debated and voted on in Holyrood there was one name that kept being repeated around anti-trans circles. Reem Alsalem. The UN Special Rapporteur for Violence Against Women and Girls whose comments feature heavily across the anti-trans British press, was referenced during the debate in Holyrood, spoke directly with Scottish Parliament on the matter and even penned her own letter to the UK Government in opposition to the bill.
In the letter dated 29th November 2022 regarding the proposed GRR bill in Scotland Alsalem references the then proposed reduction in time a trans person has to live in “acquired gender” before applying for a GRC, the move to a statutory declaration as opposed to a panel of gatekeepers and a “legal presumption” that anyone with a GRC has a right to access women-only services before stating;
“I share the concern that such proposals would potentially open the door for violent males who identify as men to abuse the process of acquiring a gender certificate and the rights that are associated with it.”
To quickly make sure everyone is on the same page; she’s saying that somehow reducing the time trans people have to wait to obtain a GRC and replacing the rather pointless gatekeeping we have right now with a statutory declaration would somehow lead to violent men abusing women. She cites a “legal presumption” that simply does not exist as a GRC has never been a requirement to use women-only services.
The letter presses on with this regardless stating that Alsalem’s “insistence on safeguarding and risk management protocol does not arise from the belief that transgender people represent a safeguarding threat” and is “instead based on empirical evidence that demonstrates that the majority of sex offenders are male, and that persistent sex offenders will go to great lengths to gain access to those they wish to abuse.” Alsalem highlights that “one way they can do this is by abusing the process to access single-sex spaces or take up roles which are normally reserved to women for safeguarding reasons”.
She later issued a further statement on this subject too. Stating that “we are where we are today” due to Scottish Parliament ignoring survivors of violence – something which she evidences in the first letter by pointing at 5 anti-trans campaigners who were asked to put their complaints in writing rather than be granted a private session. Suffice to say she was very vocally opposed to Scotlands GRR Bill. So, as Euan Yours points out on Twitter, the silence from the UN Special Rapporteur on self-ID policies elsewhere in the UN is quite peculiar. Peculiar enough that he pressed her for an answer which is, frankly, kind of lackluster.
There is the issue of capacity and the mandate can still intervene on laws that have passed. Don’t worry… im looking to engage on these laws in a number of countries in the most strategic yet realistic way possible. Stay tuned!
— Reem Alsalem UNSR Violence Against Women and Girls (@UNSRVAW) February 16, 2023
It’s very much “trust me bro” and “we’re working on it”. But she very clearly isn’t and hasn’t been. Numerous countries such as Brazil, Ireland and Belgium have had self-ID policies since as early as 2015. Belgium’s process also mirrors Scotland’s proposals with the three month reflection period Reem Alsalem referenced in her letter as potentially leading to violence. Countries such as Spain, Finland and recently Germany have also passed self-ID policies.
None of these have, to my fairly extensive searching, received any where near the same kind of opposition from the UN Special Rapporteur. Which begs the question why has Reem Alsalem been so silent on these issues? What makes the UK and Scotland so unique? To borrow the phrasing of Lord Michael Cashman; are we suggesting that British men are uniquely more violent than men from other countries?
If that were the case you would expect that the UN Special Rapporteur would have showed up in our news cycle condemning the UK for its violence against women and girls on numerous occasions before now. Yet her name almost exclusively appears in the UK media in connection with her opposition to self-ID policies on our island specifically. Which leads us to the same conclusion we draw every week; the UK media is manufacturing transphobia.
We already knew that the UK media was specifically working to incubate bigotries. Many of the mainstream arguments used by anti-trans campaigners of all kinds have come out of the UK and our media’s decision to sympathetically platform anti-trans positions and ideas. Even phrases like “what is a woman?” began in UK based anti-trans groups before being hijacked by American Conservatives like Matt Walsh.
The story here is no different. Rather than report on the facts; ie a GRC does not impact spaces which already operate on a self-ID basis as confirmed by the UK government, the UK media once again allowed anti-trans campaigners to replace facts with fiction and allowed ideas like the ones which Alsalem repeats in her letter to take hold in the public consciousness surrounding trans issues.
Baroness Berridge, Liz Truss' House of Lords accomplice here first of all saying that spaces mostly operate on a self ID basis and second of all saying THERE ARE NO PLANS TO CHANGE THIS.
You lost transphobes. You lost before you even started playing, that's how badly you lost. pic.twitter.com/gytq9XFYWM
— intact breastuccino (@notCursedE) September 25, 2020
I don’t know if Reem Alsalem is aware of the bigotry she is participating in and/or enabling in the UK. But its largely besides the point because whether or not she’s a bigot or a fool the outcome is the same; she put her official title on the headlines next to abject anti-trans hatred which has been used to further hurt my community. In her shoes? I’d be so ashamed, I’d resign.
Thank you to Euan Yours for the idea that built this article, I hadn’t personally fully come to notice the silence from Alsalem on self ID around the world until I saw his tweet. But it was kind of like when you’ve been sitting in a loud room and then go to a different one, you don’t immediately notice the lack of noise until someone’s like “it’s quiet in here isn’t it?” Thank you!