EHRC to be investigated by UN group following complaints from LGBTQ+ charities

Kishwer Falkner, wearing a multi-coloured scarf, speaks in a white room.

A United Nations-backed organisation is reportedly investigating the UK’s human rights commission following multiple complaints against its treatment of LGBTQ+ rights.

Following complaints from 30 separate LGBTQ+ rights organisations against the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) has opted to investigate the human rights organisation.

The independent human rights administrative body works with the United Nations to uphold human rights standards internationally in collaboration with national human rights institutions (NHRIs), which include the EHRC.

The review, which is reportedly set to take place in March, was agreed upon after the GANHRI received the complaints from civil society and human rights organisations headed by Stonewall. Other nonprofits included Mermaids, The Kite Trust, LGBT Consortium, and LGBT Foundation.

The open letter, published in May 2023, criticised the EHRC for its “lack of political independence” and “opposition to progressive reform” towards imporving gender recognition in the UK.

In a statement released in November, Stonewall said that the EHRC was “falling short” of its duties in upholding its independence and institutional effectiveness.

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It continued that it was concerned the EHRC was now “set on a course that would lead directly to a rolling back of trans people’s rights in Great Britain,” stressing that it was “already causing harm to the community by facilitating a politically manufactured culture war.”

“All countries need effective, independent national human rights institutions to promote and protect human rights,” Robbie de Santos, Stonewall’s director of communications, said.

“With anti-trans hate crime and prejudice rising, and Britain sliding down the international rankings on LGBTQ+ rights, LGBTQ+ people in Great Britain need a more robust and independent human rights watchdog.”

EHRC could lose UN status following review

Depending on the result of the review, GANHRI could potentially dictate whether the EHRC can keep its A status as a UN-backed NHRI.

In justifying the review, GANHRI also cited the recent report by independent UN expert, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, who said in May that the commission wanted to give the government a “formula through which it would carry out discriminatory distinctions” against trans people.

Madrigal-Borloz added that he was “particularly alarmed” by recommendations made by the EHRC to change the definition of sex in the 2010 Equality Act to mean ‘biological sex’.

In response, GANHRI urged the EHRC to ensure it is upholding the standards expected of NHRIs and to remain “independent” and “effective”.

Stonewall’s chief executive, Nancy Kelley, also said the EHRC’s recommendations to change the Equality Act were “extraordinary” and “designed to promote the exclusion of trans people”.

“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,” Kelley said.

In a statement to PinkNews, a spokesperson for the EHRC said: “We take seriously our duty to protect and promote equality and human rights for everyone. That includes considering, carefully and impartially and on the basis of evidence, how the rights of one person, or group, might be affected by the rights of another.

“We are very confident that we can respond robustly to any questions the Committee may have in March. In the meantime, we remain focused on continuing to fulfil our role as an A status National Human Rights Institution.”

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