Britain’s equality regulator facing special review of A status accreditation
The Britain-wide Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is facing a special review of its ‘A status’ as a national human rights institution after LGBT+ groups raised concerns about its political independence.
The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) agreed to carry out the special review following submissions by a coalition of 30 organisations led by LGBT+ charity Stonewall, who accuse the EHRC of failing to respond to recommendations made when it was re-accredited last October.
It comes after the EHRC told the UK government in April that it should consider revising the Equality Act 2010 to provide that “sex” should only be interpreted as “biological sex”, a position opposed by LGBT+ groups as paving the way for anti-trans discrimination.
Only national human rights institutions with ‘A status’ have independent participation rights at the UN Human Rights Council, its subsidiary bodies and General Assembly bodies and mechanisms.
Robbie de Santos, director of communications and external affairs at Stonewall, said: “Britain’s LGBTQ+ civil society and human rights organisations have expressed their concern about the political independence of the EHRC and its approach to trans people’s rights for some time.
“While we now await the full report from the special committee on accreditation at the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, we welcome the special review and we will continue to support it with evidence.”
He added: “At its periodic review in October 2022, the EHRC received a number of clear recommendations regarding the independence and effectiveness of its work in respect of the rights of LGBTI people, and their co-operation with LGBTI organisations.
“Within months of receiving these recommendations, they were already demonstrating that they were falling short, which then prompted Stonewall and 30 LGBTQ+ and human rights organisations to provide evidence of their concerns once again to GANHRI.
“All countries need effective, independent national human rights institutions to promote and protect human rights. 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.
“We hope that this special review will give the EHRC the scrutiny and recommendations it needs to play the part our communities deserve.”
EHRC chairwoman Baroness Kishwer Falkner 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 disappointed that we will have to defend our accreditation status in this way and remain very confident that we will be able to respond robustly to any questions the SCA may have.
“We have already written to the committee to highlight inaccuracies in the submissions made against us, and to strongly reject claims that we are not compliant with the Paris Principles.
“We take great pride in our independence from government and continue to demonstrate our impartiality through our willingness to robustly challenge them.
“At the EHRC, we keep our eyes on our first public duty, which is to protect and promote equality and the everyone’s rights — not merely those that shout the loudest.”