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UNISONScotland Womens Organisation



Women in UNISON



Yesterday afternoon (10 June 2009), the Scottish Parliament passed the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill. The bill was passed by 121 votes to zero, with one abstention.

The bill overhauls Scotland’s sexual offences law, and removes all the remaining discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The bill does not make major changes to what is illegal or legal, but it does restructure the law and introduce a clear definition of consent, which hopefully will help lead to more convictions of those who commit rape and sexual assault.

The bill also:

· Extends the crime of rape to include male rape, and ensures that it and other sexual offences laws fully apply to transgender people

· Introduces the offence of sexual assault by penetration (that is, rape with an object)

· Abolishes the old “homosexual offences” of sodomy and gross indecency, introducing instead a set of gender and sexual orientation neutral sexual offences

UNISON, the STUC, other unions, the Equality Network and other LGBT organisations have been working for these changes at the Scottish Parliament since it opened in 1999.

The Equality Network successfully worked for a number of amendments to the bill to ensure that all existing discrimination is abolished. We believe that this bill removes the last sexual orientation discrimination from Scotland’s criminal law. The main direct sexual orientation discrimination now remaining in Scots law is the segregation between marriage (for mixed-sex couples) and civil partnership (for same-sex couples).

Related to that is the discriminatory requirement for transsexual people to divorce before they can have their gender legally recognised. The campaign to open up both marriage and civil partnership to couples regardless of their gender is now a priority.

The new bill will go to the Queen for Royal Assent in July, and will become the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009. It is likely to come into effect later this year.

Eileen Dinning
Scottish Equalities Officer
UNISON Scotland
0141 342 2831 (dd)
07958 121845