Stonewall slams EHRC in letter to global human rights watchdog GANHRI
On 10 May, Stonewall announced that it, along with 30 other LGBTQ+ groups, was sending a letter to GANHRI (the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions) to highlight the recent failings of the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). This is a follow up to a similar message from the LBGTQ+ charity last year to GAHNRI requesting a special review of the UK rights committee.
Stonewall is accusing the EHRC of failing in its duty to uphold the rights of trans people in the UK. On top of this, the charity highlighted that the EHRC is falling short of the standards set out in the Paris Principles. These are a list of the qualities that a national human rights body needs to uphold – including “pluralism, independence and effectiveness.”
The actions of the UK’s human rights watchdog, the EHRC, are not those of a human rights body that is fit for purpose. Today, with 30 LGBTQ+ organisations, we’re sending a letter to GANHRI outlining our grave concerns. Please RT to support. 🧵👇
— Stonewall (@stonewalluk) May 9, 2023
The EHRC’s failings
Late last year, GANHRI enumerated for the EHRC the ways in with it was failing in its duties. The improvements that GANHRI requested included the following:
- Regain trust that the EHRC has the will to tackle key human rights issues effectively and independently: GANRHI highlighted LGBTI rights as one of several key issues where the EHRC must do more to ensure they are addressing matters in an “independent, effective, public and transparent manner”, and in line with international human rights standards.
- Cooperate with civil society organisations: the report outlined the need for EHRC to take clear and visible steps to strengthen its working relationship with other human rights bodies to improve its understanding. However, since then, the EHRC has continued its work to undermine trans rights without any meaningful consultation with LGBTQ+ groups.
- Ensure its commissioning board meets requirements of diversity and pluralism: the report was clear in stating that the EHRC’s legislation is inadequate, and amendments must be made to its inner mechanics to ensure a wider range of voice, opinion and lived experience amongst its Commissioners.
A full list of GAHNRI’s earlier recommendations to the EHRC is available here. Contrary to these recommendations, however, the EHRC has ramped up its transphobia.
Division in the ranks
This came to a head with its recent letter to Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister. It spoke about investigating the potential ‘benefits’ of redefining the word ‘sex’ in the Equality Act to mean sex-assigned-at birth. This would strip trans people of a swathe of their existing rights and protections.
Stonewall pointed out that the EHRC had failed to heed GANHRI’s warnings. In support of this, the charity highlighted that the Wales Committee of the EHRC was in disagreement with the EHRC’s new direction:
The Committee expressed serious concerns that the proposed change to the definition of sex in the Equality Act 2010 would
result in the diminution of the rights of trans people with a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). They advised that it is
important that any potential changes do not weaken the protections that the Act currently provides to trans people.
And that this disagreement was shared by its Scottish counterpart, which stated that:
there is a concern that changing the definition of sex could diminish trans people’s rights; for example, legal colleagues advised that, if the proposed change were implemented, obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate would no longer change a person’s sex in discrimination law. The Committee considered the Commission should be advancing the rights of minorities and not potentially diminishing rights for some groups.
Stonewall went on to provide point after point of critique from the two committees. The charity used these issues as a clear sign for GANHRI that the UK’s equalities watchdog is failing.
Stonewall’s letter to GANHRI
The letter to GAHNRI concluded that the EHRC is:
not an institution that has listened to civil society, to the recommendations of the Subcommittee on Accreditation or to its own national committees. It is not demonstrating a commitment to the human rights of all persons, nor is it functioning in a pluralistic, independent and effective manner as mandated under the Paris Principles. It is a failed institution, it is harming the trans community in Great Britain, and it is undermining the status of independent human rights institutions and systems.
Nancy Kelley, Chief Executive of Stonewall, offered further comment that:
The EHRC’s recommendations over the past year are extraordinary, in that they are designed to promote the exclusion of trans people, in particular trans women, from everyday public spaces. If they were made law, the EHRC’s changes would effectively force most trans people to de-transition, a situation that would shame our nation.
Both the letter and Kelley’s supporting statement pointed out the sheer lack of attempt to consult LGBTQ+ organisations about the changes. They also called attention to the devastating effects that the EHRC’s proposal would have on trans people in the UK.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Fae, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, resized to 770*403.
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