UN expert has ‘deep concerns’ for LGBTQ+ rights under Tory government

Prime minister Rishi Sunak

A UN expert is “deeply concerned” about rising anti-LGBTQ+ hate in the UK fuelled by “toxic public debate”.

UN independent expert Victor Madrigal-Borloz shared his assessment of the UK’s LGBTQ+ rights on Thursday (11 May) following a 10-day visit.

He said that abusive rhetoric from politicians, the media, and social commentators has resulted in increased hate speech against marginalised groups in the UK.

“I am deeply concerned about the increased bias-motivated incidents of harassment, threats, and violence against LGBT people including a rampant surge in hate crimes in the UK,” he said.

“All of this is attributed – by a wide range of stakeholders – to the toxic nature of the public debate surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity.”

He also noted concerns around waiting times for gender-affirming care in the NHS and at the lack of movement in the government’s promise to ban so-called conversion therapy. He called its continued U-turns on the issue “perplexing”.

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“The vicissitudes of this and other necessary public policies appear to be connected to political discourse concerning gender-diverse persons and refugees and asylum seekers, two areas in which recent state actions are cause for concern,” he added

UN expert slams EHRC over ‘biological sex’ letter

On asylum, he said that the government’s “current and envisaged asylum policies… could effectually amount to an asylum ban, contrary to international refugee law standards”. He added that LGBTQ+ people “could be specifically affected by any such ban”.

While Madrigal-Borloz lauded the UK or implementing “radical change” and a “robust framework of domestic and international legal protections” in recent decades, his view on the future was cooler.

He was “particularly alarmed” by the recent letter from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to equalities minister Kemi Badenoch regarding redefning sex as “buiological sex” under the Equality Act.

In a meeting with the EHRC on 4 May, the expert “was shocked to hear that the EHRC offered that advice without itself having any definition of ‘biological sex'”, and that a commissioner “conceded” the letter meant to define women as “women who are not trans”.

“It then follows that the objective of the EHRC was to offer the dovernment a formula through which it could carry out discriminatory distinctions currently unlawful under UK law, and that will remain so under international human rights law,” he wrote.

“The Independent Expert is of the opinion that this action of the EHRC is wholly unbecoming of an institution created to ‘stand up for those in need of protection and hold governments to account for their human rights obligations’.”

With both of the UK’s main political parties leveraging trans rights for culture war politics, Madrigal-Borloz reminded politicians they must “carry out evidence-based evaluations, free from stigma” when debating policies on LGBTQ+ lives.

He reported being told that “abusive rhetoric by politicians is trickling down”, “facilitating” hate speech on social media which is fuelling real-world hate crimes.

Campaigners welcome UN expert’s ‘hard-hitting’ LGBTQ+ statement

Anti-conversion therapy campaigner Jayne Ozanne told PinkNews she is “incredibly grateful to the UN Independent Expert for his hard hitting statement, which pulls no punches and clearly calls out the ‘abusive rhetoric’ by politicians that is creating such a toxic atmosphere for LGBT+ people in the UK”.

She continued: “His comments are excoriating, especially of the EHRC and their recent letter regarding the Equality Act as well as the government’s procrastination on making good their promise on banning conversion practices.  For a UN Human Rights Expert to openly admit to being so shocked is deeply embarrassing for the government and should be a major wake-up call to all who care about equality, fairness and decency in modern day Britain.”

Amnesty International UK’s chief executive, Sacha Deshmukh, said that Madrigal-Borloz’s findings were a “much-needed injection of common sense” into the deteriorating discussion of LGBTQ+ rights in the country.

“The rising rhetoric on trans rights in the UK and the real impact it is having on people’s lives and our institutions is toxic and needs to be addressed,” Deshmukh added.

“Anti-trans rhetoric is steadily becoming another wedge issue in the UK that is undermining the domestic and international human rights framework. We are witnessing the UK backsliding on LGBTI+ rights, where we used to be proud in our world leadership.”

The expert’s conclusive statement coincided with the release of an ILGA Europe report that found the UK has plummeted to 17th place in its ranking of European countries by LGBTQ+ safety.

Until 2015, the UK had consistently achieved the number-one spot in the rankings but had fallen massively over the course of several years.

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