Race Equality - gender bias and promoting gender equality

Policy Piece

The below content sets out some of the actions currently underway on tackling gender bias and promoting gender equality in the context of race. This piece covers the following different areas:

1. Violence against women and girls

2. FGM

3. Housing and poverty

4. Community Cohesion and safety

5. Sport


In the Equality Act 2010 race includes:

  • colour
  • nationality
  • ethnic or national origins

The Scottish Government acknowledges that inequalities remain in many areas of life for minority racial and ethnic people in Scotland and is committed to addressing these inequalities. Within our minority ethnic communities many people continue to face poorer outcomes than the majority of Scots, including higher risk of poverty and in-work poverty, lower employment rates, and under-representation in political and public life as a whole. These rates can impact minority ethnic women in even greater ways.

The Race Equality Action Plan (REAP) was developed as part of the overall Race Equality Framework (REF), the Scottish Government’s overall strategy for promoting race equality and tackling racism and inequality between 2016 and 2030.

The REAP outlines sets out the key actions for the Scottish Government to drive positive change for minority ethnic communities.

The REAP is only the first three years of the government’s 15 year framework. As we move into the third year of the REAP, we have reviewed and prioritised actions to make sure we are able to deliver maximum impact for minority ethnic communities. And, this third year is an opportunity to look ahead to what the next steps will be to take us towards a more equal 2030.

This is a perfect time for groups like the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls to feed into our future plans for improving race equality, keeping in mind principles of intersectionality – a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw.

The REAP Year 2 report will be published in March 2020.

1. Violence Against Women and Girls

Violence against women and girls, in any form, has no place in our vision for a safe, strong, successful Scotland. It damages health and wellbeing, limits freedom and potential, and is a violation of the most fundamental human rights. Women and girls from every part of society experience gender based violence, and an approach that takes intersectionality into account and recognises multiple inequalities is vital. This necessities a deeper understanding of the particular experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender women; women and girls with disabilities; those living in rural areas and island communities; and women and girls from minority ethnic communities.

Forced Marriage

A forced marriage is when someone uses physical or emotion pressure to force another person into marriage without their consent. The Scottish Government considers it to be an unacceptable and illegal practice and we are committed to protecting those at risk, and preventing the harm that can be associated with the practice. The law in Scotland provides both civil and criminal means to do so.

The Scottish Government commissioned independent research into Forced Marriage in Scotland. A final research report ‘Understanding Forced Marriage in Scotland’ was published at the end of January 2017. Findings from that research are informing our thinking on tackling the issue.

In 2011, the Scottish Government introduced the Forced Marriage etc (Protection and Jurisdiction) Scotland Act, which introduced civil remedies for those at risk of forced marriage, and those who have already been forced into marriage. It introduced a civil Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) to protect people and made it a criminal offence to breach an FMPO. To extend protection for those at risk, the Scottish Government took the decision to criminalise forcing someone into marriage. The relevant legislation is contained in section 122 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and came into force on 30 September 2014. The 2014 Act does not replace the 2011 Act, but sits alongside it. Criminalisation of forcing a person into marriage provides an extra layer of protection to victims of a practice that is often accompanied by physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional abuse. This decision was also taken in line with the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, Article 37 of which calls for the criminalisation of Forced Marriage. The Scottish Government is supportive of the principles and aspirations of the Istanbul Convention overall.

The Scottish Government also facilitates a multi-agency Forced Marriage network that meets once a quarter to discuss and address issues in relation to best practice, policy and legislation in our approach to tackling forced marriage.

2. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter, or cause injury to, the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Scots law defines FGM as excising, infibulating or otherwise mutilating the whole or any part of the labia majora, labia minora, prepuce of the clitoris, or vagina of another person.

The Scottish Government considers Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) to be an unacceptable and illegal practice. FGM reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes a severe form of discrimination against women and girls. There are no quick fixes to tackling FGM, and other forms of Honour Based Violence, they are complex and hidden issues and there is no single solution to ending their various forms. The Scottish Government is firmly committed to working with our partners in the public and third sectors, and potentially affected communities, to do everything possible to effectively tackle, and eventually eradicate, this unacceptable practice from our society.

FGM has been expressly illegal in Scotland since 1985 when the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act was passed. Following this, the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2005 re-enacted the 1985 Act and extended protection by making it a criminal offence to have FGM carried out either in Scotland or abroad by giving these offences extra territorial powers. The Act also increased the maximum sentence on conviction on indictment from 5 to 14 years imprisonment. Since then, the Scottish Government have worked collaboratively with the UK Government to extend the reach of the extra-territorial powers in the 2005 Act to habitual (as well as permanent) UK residents. This was achieved through means of a legislative consent motion in the UK Parliament’s Serious Crime Act 2015.

In 2016, the Scottish Government made a commitment to ensure that legislation to address FGM in Scotland is fit for purpose. As a result, the Programme for Government 2018/19 contained a commitment to introduce a Bill strengthening the existing legislative framework for the protection of women and girls from FGM.

The new Female Genital Mutilation (Protection and Guidance) (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on the 29th of May 2019. The Bill introduces two new provisions for FGM Protection Orders and Statutory Guidance:

  • FGM Protection Orders: a form of civil order which can impose conditions or requirements upon a person(s) for the purpose of protecting a person(s) from FGM; or safeguarding them from further harm if FGM has already occurred; or for the general purpose of reducing the likelihood that FGM offences will occur. For example, an order may seize a person’s passport where it has been deemed that there is a risk that they may be taken out of the country to have FGM committed on them.
  • Statutory Guidance: this makes a provision for Scottish Ministers to issue statutory guidance about FGM, or any matter relating to FGM; and a duty to issue statutory guidance on FGM Protection Orders. Those exercising public functions (e.g. Social Services, Police, NHS etc.) will be obliged to have regard to this guidance.

We know that legislation is only one way in which we can work to prevent and eradicate FGM; this needs to be underpinned by a wider policy approach that brings together stakeholders from the public and third sectors, and potentially affected communities to work together alongside potentially affected communities to work together on meeting our objective to eradicate FGM in Scotland. We launched our National Action Plan to Prevent and Eradicate FGM on 4 February 2016. This plan sets out a series of actions and objectives that fall under three categories: Prevention, Protection and Provision.

We are committed to preventing FGM. This means challenging the norms and ideas that perpetrate FGM, raising awareness of the dangers of the practice, and sending a strong message that FGM will not be tolerated in Scotland. We also want to ensure that we are able to protect women and girls from FGM. This means guaranteeing that we are able to identify those at risk of becoming a victim, and then ensuring we have the proper protocols in place to provide them with adequate protection. Legislation is just one of the ways we do this. Last, we have provision. Our aim here is to ensure that victims of FGM are receiving the support that they need. This includes, for example, specialised medical care, or access to mental health support to help with the psychological side-effects that many FGM victims suffer with. We recently published our Year Three Progress Report on the Action Plan, and it is available to view here.

3. Housing and Poverty

We are committed to addressing inequalities in Scotland through our housing and poverty activities, including our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, our Fuel Poverty programme and the Fairer Scotland Duty. Our approach focuses on addressing all inequalities and therefore supports activity where there are intersections between protected characteristics, such as with gender and race, as well as activities designed to address challenges particular to each characteristic.

The Scottish Government’s housing vision is that all people in Scotland live in high-quality sustainable homes that they can afford and that meet their needs. Housing by definition is a universal service – everyone needs a safe, warm and affordable place to live. But it is vital that these services are delivered fairly and equitably.

As part of the Race Equality Action Plan we have therefore taken action to ensure that race equality is embedded (along with other equalities duties) within Scottish Government policies, and in creating the conditions to enable external organisations to comply with these duties. Activities have included:

  • the Scottish Housing Regulator has reviewed its regulatory framework, which now has equality and human rights at its core, and requires social landlords to provide an annual assurance statement to show they are complying with equalities duties;
  • we have revised guidance on local housing strategies (LHS), with input from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, to include a stronger focus on equalities. It asks local authorities to evidence in a LHS that engagement has taken place with ethnic minority communities (including gypsy/travellers) to understand and consider any needs that are additional to those covered by mainstream housing;
  • we have issued a revised Social Housing Allocations Practice Guide which highlights the importance of landlords meeting their legal responsibilities in relation to equalities and human rights when allocating housing;
  • the Scottish Government website contains translated versions of the model Private Residential Tenancy and Easy Read notes, as we know that people from a minority ethnic background are more likely to live in the private rented sector;
  • we recognise that there is under-representation of people from a minority ethnic background in employment, including in the housing sector, and particularly amongst women. We have funded PATH (Scotland) to undertake a “Developing Management and Leadership Skills” programme, which is a personal development course which uses positive action measures to address imbalances in the representation of people from ME communities in all aspects and levels of public life.

We know that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to live in poverty.  In 2013-18, people from visible minority ethnic (non-white) groups were more likely to be in relative poverty after housing costs compared to those from the ‘White – British’ group.  The poverty rate was 38% (30,000 people each year) for ‘Mixed, Black or Black British and Other’ ethnic groups, and 34% (40,000 people) for the ‘Asian or Asian British’ ethnic group. In contrast, the poverty rate for the ‘White – British’ group was 18%, 850,000 people.

We have:

  • developed the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, with a focus on 6 priority family types which have a higher rate of poverty, including minority ethnic households;
  • introduced the Money Talk Team service for low income families, targeted at the six priority groups identified in the Child Poverty Delivery Plan as being most at risk of poverty, including minority ethnic families;
  • introduced the Fairer Scotland Duty which aligns with equalities duties; this package of requirements helps to ensure that public bodies take account of the separate and combined impacts of race and poverty in their decision-making where appropriate;
  • within the development of the new social security system, we have worked in partnership with Happy to Translate and other organisations to make Experience Panels accessible to people with English as a Second Language. As part of this we have run a series of focus group events across Scotland with ethnic minorities to help design the new system.

Housing to 2040 consultation, 2 December 2019 – 28 February 2020

We launched a consultation on the future of housing in Scotland on 2 December to hear from a diverse range of people and organisations, about their views on our draft vision and principles for 2040, and their bold, imaginative and innovative proposals for how to make them a reality. We have been clear that business as usual is not an option and that nothing is off the table. This included questions for which we specifically ask respondents to consider equalities when answering.

The outputs from this consultation will help to inform the Housing to 2040 vision and a route map which we are aiming to publish in summer 2020.

All of the details about the consultation process and background information is available here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/housing-2040/

4. Hate Crime

Tackling Prejudice and Building Connected Communities

In June 2017, the Scottish Government published an ambitious programme of work to tackle hate crime and build community cohesion. We established an Action Group chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Communities with key stakeholders, including Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisation (CEMVO) and Black and Ethnic Minority Infrastructure in Scotland (BEMIS), to take this work forward.

The group’s identified priorities include raising awareness of hate crime and encouraging reporting, improving the data available and hate crime legislation and guidance.

Hate Crime Awareness Campaign

On 26 September 2018 we launched a hate crime campaign to encourage witnesses to report. The campaign was a series of letters addressed to perpetrators of hate crime stating that ‘your hate has no home here’ helping to create ‘One Scotland’ where hate crime and prejudice is not tolerated. The campaign was also strengthened through case studies on social media, which included race and transgender.

The campaign has been further developed following consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, including race equality and faith and belief organisations and we plan to re-launch in March this year.

Hate Crime Legislation

In Scotland, the law currently recognises hate crimes as crimes motivated by prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender identity. However, the Scottish Government have committed to update and modernise the current law on hate crime to so that it is fit for 21st century Scotland and, most importantly, affords sufficient protection for those that need it.

We ran a consultation on hate crime legislation from 14 November 2018 to 24 February 2019 and sought views on what should be included in the new laws. The analysis report was published on 27 June 2019. We also undertook further targeted stakeholder engagement with race equality and gender organisations throughout 2018 and 2019. We will continue to engage with these organisations as we develop our consolidated hate crime legislation, which is expected to be introduced during this parliament.


In February 2019, the Scottish Government published a report ‘Developing Information on Hate Crime Recorded by the Police in Scotland. The report showed that police recorded 6,736 offences across the five hate strands in 2017-18, of which 67% included a race aggravator. A report on ‘Hate Crime in Scotland’ published by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in June 2019 mirrored the findings that racial crime remains the most commonly reported crime. There were 2,880 charges reported in 2018-19, 12% less than in 2017-18 and the lowest number reported since consistent figures became available in 2003-04. We do, however, recognise that all hate crimes do not come to the attention of police.


The Scottish Government encourages anyone who has experienced or witnessed a hate crime or incident to the police or by using a third party reporting centre. Third party reporting allows victims and witnesses to report an incident without contacting the police directly. There are third party reporting centres across Scotland, ranging from Victim Support offices and voluntary organisations representing the five hate strands. Specially trained staff are able to provide support and assistance in submitting a report to the police.

5. Sport

As the national agency for sport, sportscotland makes sure sport plays its part in a thriving Scotland. Our vision is an active Scotland where everyone benefits from sport. Our mission is to help the people of Scotland get the most from the sporting system. The sporting system makes an important contribution to the Scottish Government’s Active Scotland Outcomes.

Our strategy Sport for Life makes an unambiguous commitment that inclusion underpins everything we do. We provide leadership to the sporting sector, to influence and drive the changes needed to address inequalities and ensure everyone has the opportunity to get involved in sport and physical activity. We help partners work together to make the best use of the money, time, information and expertise invested in sport. This means the right partners inside and outside sport working in the right way. By listening closely to what matters to people, the sporting system creates opportunities in sport that really meet people’s needs. We use these insights to make sport more inclusive, with some opportunities tailor-made for specific needs. For example:

  • Community Strides, a partnership project between the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and jogscotland, provides jogging activities for people from minority ethnic (ME) communities, while promoting the benefits of physical activity on mental health. The project aims to break down barriers and address taboos of physical activity and mental health and will lead to long-term change. The project will provide accessible activities to ME communities in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Dundee.

This project is supported by the £1m Changing Lives Through Sport and Physical Activity Fund, launched in June 2018 as a partnership between the Scottish Government, sportscotland, the Robertson Trust and Spirit of 2012. The Fund is supporting organisations across Scotland to deliver positive change in communities across the country.

  • The Royal High Community Sport Hub, local charity The Welcoming, and Edinburgh Leisure, are working together to deliver a community-led project aimed at engaging inactive women and families from the local Syrian refugee community in swimming. A group of 50 local women and their families were identified as looking to engage in swimming in a women-only environment within the area. Initial closed sessions aimed to familiarise and develop the group’s basic water and swimming skills, before giving participants a pathway to attend regular swimming lessons and integrate with the wider community.

The programme has resulted in far wider outcomes than just improving participants’ ability to swim:

  • 90% of participants said they met new people
  • 80% said they had improved their English as a result of the programme
  • Over two-thirds said the programme had helped to improve their confidence, allowing them to integrate better into their community.

After overwhelmingly positive feedback received, the programme will continue and is working with other sports clubs within the Community Sport Hubs so that the programme can offer a range of sports.

The project was funded through sportscotland’s GO LIVE! Get Active programme. This funding supported projects which encouraging more inactive and lapsed active people to take part in sport and physical activity. This includes engaging participants with additional support needs, those from areas of deprivation, the elderly, women and girls, and ME groups.

sportscotland also supports Scottish Governing Bodies of sport (SGBs) to work towards the Equality Standard for Sport. The Standard is a framework for assisting sports organisations to widen access and reduce inequalities in sport and physical activity from under-represented individuals, groups and communities. 49 SGBs are now working within the framework. Three have achieved the Advanced Standard (the highest level) and another four sports are actively working towards this level.