- The UK’s human rights watchdog, the EHRC, is a ‘failed institution’ which is recommending the UK Government change equalities law in a way that rolls back the rights of trans people. This course of action goes against the advice of its own national committees
- These grave concerns are outlined in a letter signed by a coalition of 30 charities, led by Stonewall, to GANHRI, who are responsible for ensuring national human rights institutions meet international human rights standards
- Last autumn, GANHRI wrote to the EHRC to outline numerous ways in which the UK body was falling short of expectations – but instead of heeding this warning, the EHRC has continued on its trans-hostile path and is now actively advocating to roll back trans rights in the UK.
London, UK: The UK’s national human rights institution, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), has completely failed to engage with significant recommendations given to it for improvement to their governance and conduct, and is instead doubling down on its attempts to roll back trans rights and to seek trans people’s exclusion from public life, a coalition of leading LGBTQ+ charities has warned.
Last October, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), the organisation responsible for establishing whether national human rights institutions are compliant with international human rights standards, issued a lengthy, and pointed, list of improvements they wanted to see from the EHRC following their periodic review.
These recommendations came amid a backdrop of concerns that the composition of the EHRC’s board is politically motivated, and multiple complaints from civil society organisations that the EHRC was failing to represent, or even consider, the interests of vulnerable groups such as LGBTI people, people with disabilities, and migrants and asylum seekers.
The improvements GANHRI outlined it wanted to see from the EHRC include:
- 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.
However, since this review the EHRC has escalated attempts to undermine the long-established rights of trans people in the UK, most notably in April when it sent a letter to the Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch on the merits of redefining the term ‘sex’ in the Equality Act to make it clear that trans people would no longer be protected. This was a measure so controversial that it was faced with unequivocal opposition from the EHRC’s own Scotland and Wales Committees, as demonstrated in published minutes.
Such a change, if it was implemented by the UK Government on EHRC’s recommendation, would make it impossible for trans people to live their day to day lives safely and with dignity, spurring 30 LGBTQ+ organisations to come together in unity to call on GANRHI to show leadership and ensure the EHRC changes course and once again acts in line with the Paris Principles which set out international human rights standards.
Nancy Kelley, Chief Executive of Stonewall, (she/her) said: ‘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.
All of this has been done without any attempt to consult with LGBTQ+ groups, or to understand either the lived experience of trans people, or the devastating impact these divisive recommendations would have on their lives. These are not the actions of a human rights body that is fit for purpose.’
Read the letter from 30 LGBTQ+ organisations to GANHRI.