Michelle Snow & Jaz Sakura-Rose
Stonewall have announced that every major LGBTQ+ organisation, with support from the Good Law Project, have reported the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to the United Nations.
They have also reported the EHRC to the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANRHI) whose role is to accredit and screen national human rights institutions like the EHRC and grant them the right to sit on UN committees including the UN Human Rights Council.
The move has been made in response to “…recent statements made by the EHRC” according to Stonewall, who are leading the action.
Recently the EHRC have been hit with a string of accusations of transphobia after they chose to intervene in the Scottish government’s proposed update of the Gender Recognition Act that would make it easier for trans people to change their legal sex. The EHRC also published their response to the England & Wales conversion therapy ban consultation with a call for a delay in banning the practice for trans people, resulting in trans people remaining legally unprotected from the brutal practice.
Vice News and Steph’s Place reported that leaders of the EHRC have held meetings with representatives from transphobic groups Fair Play for Women and the LGB alliance. Vice also reported that Alasdair Henderson, a member of the EHRC’s board, represented Keira Bell as a barrister in her attempt to limit trans youths access to trans healthcare and was the first person in the EHRC to suggest that they intervene in Maya Forstater’s employment tribunal.
And yesterday Vice news reported that new unpublished EHRC guidance concerning the provision of single sex spaces under the equality act included demands that trans people can only access spaces aligned to their gender identity if they have a gender recognition certificate. In response, Stonewall stated that: “Guidance of this nature would effectively seek to erase trans people from public life, and to make it impossible for them to participate in even the most basic social functions safely and with dignity.” Jolyon Maugham, director of the Good Law project later announced that they would proceed with a legal challenge if this new guidance was published.
According to Stonewall they have submitted a 19 page document that contains a dossier of evidence that they claim proves that the EHRC falls short of international standards for national human rights institutions. These standards are outlined in the Paris Principles, a list of requirements that national human rights institutions like the EHRC must follow “to be effective and recognized by the international community.” Currently the EHRC is classified by GANRHI as an A-graded national human rights institution but Stonewall are calling for their current status to be reviewed.
If the decision is made to downgrade the EHRC’s status as a national human rights institution, they would lose their right to vote at GANHRI meetings and would lose the right to participate in the UN Human Rights Council. This would be a major blow to the EHRC’s credibility on the world stage and in the UK where the government are due to host an international LGBT conference they have titled ‘Free to be me’.
The coalitions dossier is said to include evidence that shows the EHRC are not operating independently from government and have suffered governmental interference in the form of politically motivated appointees to the EHRC board. Alasdair Henderson was appointed to the EHRC board by Penny Mordaunt during her tenure as Minister for Women and Equalities in 2018. It was later reported that Henderson had ‘liked’ social media posts that claimed the words ‘misogynist’ and ‘homophobe’ are “highly ideological propaganda terms”. He would then go on to represent Keira Bell in her case in 2020.
Stonewall also claimed that the EHRC have a ‘complete absence’ of financial autonomy. Currently the EHRC is funded by the Government Equalities office which is lead by Government Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss. The Paris Principles requires that institutions like the EHRC: “not be subject to financial control which might affect its independence.”
This is not the first time the EHRC’s performance and political independence has been called into question. Two years ago the EHRC were heavily criticised for dropping plans to launch an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative party.
Signatories to Stonewalls statement include trans organisations Gendered Intelligence, TransActual, Trans in the City, Sparkle, Mermaids, the Trans Safety Network, Steph’s place and Cliniq. Other signatories included the LGBT Consortium, Galop, The Outside Project, Spectra and the LGBT Foundation (who recently announced they were cutting ties with the EHRC).
This comes after a long series of embarrassing human rights related incidents in the UK. In January 2022 the Council of Europe approved a report that condemned the “extensive and often virulent” attacks on LGBT+ rights in Hungary, Poland and the UK.
Also, in April 2021 the UN’s independent Human Rights Council experts condemned the findings of the UK government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities and referred to portions of the report as ‘reprehensible’.
The EHRC, the UK Government and the UN have yet to comment on the submission from Stonewall and the LGBTQ+ organisations. We have reached out for comment and will update this if required with their response.
For more information on the EHRC’s descent into transphobia, Steph’s Place have compiled their findings from their investigations on their website.
For Michelle Snows opinion on what this means and how the community should respond click here.