Stonewall slams EHRC in letter to global human rights watchdog GANHRI

Stonewall banner at Pride in reference to the EHRC letter and GANHRI
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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 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:

Read on...

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  • 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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  • Show Comments
    1. What gibberish.Nobody is “assigned”a sex at birth.I have delivered lots of babies.They were all either boys or girls .You may as well say we are assigned a species at birth as well.We are what we are,some people need to get to grips with that fact.

      1. It’s a shame that you are unwilling to accept the reality of gender as a social construct. No-one is claiming that biological sex is not real, but that the sex we are assigned when we are born, based on our genitalia, sometimes does not match with the gender we feel very strongly – often from very early in our lives – that we are. Your attitude will only cause harm to the “some people” you seem to despise.

        1. That’s rubbish. It’s a bait and switch TRAs use to push their Men’s Rights Agenda. And how the hell is a man supposed to “feel” he’s a woman anyway? How could he possibly understand what being a woman feels like? Apart from the gender stereotypes you mentioned.

        2. Note, also, that you contradict yourself. First you say that “No-one is claiming that biological sex is not real” but then you talk of “the sex we are ASSIGNED when we are born…” (emphasis mine) If you’re not claiming that biological sex is not real or, at least, doesn’t matter, why all this talk of sex assignment at birth? Why not just say “the sex we were born as” and then go on to talk about the usual gender ID nonsense? Unless you really don’t believe that biological sex is real. Be honest. Which is it?

          This is, of course, the “bait and switch” I was talking about in my last post. Gender activists, trying to defend a ludicrous position (that biological sex does not exist) will retreat to the “sex and gender are different” position, like you did, and then, at the first chance, go back to saying sex isn’t real, hoping that nobody notices your intellectual dishonesty. Well, I did. Most other people do too.

    2. Nobody has to conform to gender stereotypes anymore but you are either male or female.I dont despise anyone but just because a man feels like he is a woman doesnt mean he is one.I feel the real harm is done when troubled teenagers are encouraged to take puberty blockers,hormones and testosterone which their bodies dont need and then undergo life changing irreversible surgery on perfectly healthy bodies.

    3. Sex is not a social construct, it is defined by your chromosomes, not genitalia. There are of course a very, very small number of individuals where the chromosome issue is not clear., such as intersex which is quite different from people being defined by one sex and feeling they prefer to live as another gender.
      What I absolutely object to is under 18s being allowed to transition. I work for a number of very well known charities, we are required to treat ALL under 18s as a safeguarding risk, this means they are unable to make important decisions that could put them at risk of harm. As that’s the case, how can they choose to change gender?

      1. Agreed. All this rubbish about Gillick Competences ignores the fact that even so-called “puberty Blockers” have permanent and irreversible effects, unlike going on the pill or similar. And that, by definition, they’re given to people before puberty. It should be obvious that people change a great deal during puberty, that they’re different people after puberty than they were before. Gillick competence does not, and should not, apply to pre-pubescents. Ever.

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