Tag Archives: EHRC

Lib Dems should stand up against EHRC claims on sex and Equality Act

In February, the Women and Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch wrote to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to ask them to consider the current definition of “sex” in the Equality Act.

It should not be a surprise that the EHRC replied this week identifying eight areas, ranging from book clubs to sport to access to single sex spaces in which amending the Equality Act so that sex means what they call “biological sex” would bring “greater legal clarity.”

It is not an exaggeration to say that this, if implemented, would have a massive impact on trans people’s ability to live their lives. Not only that, but women who aren’t trans, but who don’t look “feminine enough” could face challenge in single sex spaces. It would essentially make life more miserable and dangerous with no gain for anyone.

Not only that, but part of the requirement for getting a Gender Recognition Certificate is that you do use single sex spaces after you have transitioned. So restricting those to sex on your original birth certificate creates a Catch 22.

The EHRC is led by Kishwer Falkner, who was once a Liberal Democrat Peer but now sits in the Lords as non-affiliated after leaving the Party over our continued opposition to Brexit. She was appointed by the Government to her current role in December 2020 and the organisation has been adding to the anti-trans mood music since.

I have spent my adult life campaigning for women’s rights and I’m far from being done. The Scottish Lib Dem Women constitution cites smashing the patriarchy as an aim and I am here for that.

I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of threatening behaviour from men in a public place and to actually fear for my life.

None of that makes me think it is ok to stop trans women accessing women’s spaces, or fail to do them the most basic courtesy of respecting their identity. Because if you don’t accept them as the women they are,  how on earth are they supposed to go about their lives? What facilities are they supposed to use?

Falkner says in her letter to the Government that she wants to see a more informed and constructive debate on these issues. One way to do that would be to target the misinformation and fear being spread by anti trans groups and to recognise that this is part of a global effort to undermine women’s rights and LGBT rights.

Liz Barker pointed this out in her International Women’s Day speech in the Lords:

Women have different life experiences, different economic circumstances and all sorts of differences between us, yet we have common aspirations for safety, health, autonomy and prosperity. It is important to bear that in mind as we have this debate, because it takes place against the background of a campaign originated and orchestrated by Christian nationalists in the United States, Europe and across Russia, which is very definitely about curbing the aspirations and autonomy of all women.

In the United States and places like Poland and Hungary the focus is on anti-abortion activities. In Africa, the focus is against equality and LGBT rights. In the US and UK, the key focus of this campaign is anti-gender.

The constant drip feed of anti trans stories in the media brings to mind the constant drip feed of anti EU stories over many years. And we know that didn’t end well.

It is therefore hardly surprising that trans people are worried and fearful about their safety in this sort of environment as hate crimes against them soar.

Women are equally understandably worried and fearful about their safety as violence against women and girls increases. The threat to women’s safety is not trans women though – it is predatory men in a society structured in such a way that those men are rarely  held to account for their behaviour.

If we turned our attention to dismantling the power structures and the culture that enables that to happen rather than picking on trans women, the world would be a lot safer for all women.

EHRC officials met LGBT representatives the day after the letter was released. And it is fair assessment, from Jane Fae’s account, that they do not fully understand what they are talking about. I am in awe of our own Helen Belcher for keeping her cool through that meeting and calmly and forensically questioning them on their assertions:

Well, I can understand that might be an aspiration but when your letter talks about reasons for, erm, excluding trans women from women’s spaces, how, how do you expect me to live my life? How do you expect me to be a councillor and represent my constituents? How do you expect me to do my work in Parliament if I cannot use women’s facilities? …

That’s a really basic element of human rights and the proposal seems to me to demand that I am openly identifiable as trans in any interaction with public services. So how does that square with my right to privacy?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 27 Comments

Equalities – how the ‘General Duty’ was saved

It was fitting that, on the 20th anniversary of the death of Stephen Lawrence, the government decided to listen to campaigners and save a key element of our equalities laws.

Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD) played a leading role in the campaign to save Section 3 of the 2006 Equality Act which provides a vision and mission statement for Britain’s equality watchdog.

This is known as the ‘general duty’ and both informs the work of the watchdog – the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) – which itself is responsible for setting the standard for the rest of our public services.

That is …

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Jo Swinson MP writes…Equality is about more than ticking boxes

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) would never have become a valued and respected national institution if it was allowed to continue on the path it was on. Labour’s tired old way of working was turning equalities into a burden. When people heard the word equality they also heard bureaucracy and red-tape. Instead of being about fairness it was more about frustration.

If Labour’s method of ticking boxes and filling out forms led to equality, then why did they leave behind a society with so much inequality across the board? Twenty percent wage gaps between women and men, nonexistent social …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 40 Comments

Lynne Featherstone to reform Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Guardian reported on Tuesday that Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone is to reform the Equality and  Human Rights Commission, cutting its budget and removing some of its responsibilities, most notably its obligation to assess how Government policies would affect the poorest.

Now, if ever there was a quango in need of reform, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is that body. Dysfunctional seems to be the best word to describe the EHRC. Wasteful would be another. For three years running, the National Audit Office qualified its accounts. Last year was the first year since its formation in 2007 when it managed to …

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Equalities and Human Rights Commission fails to get its accounts right for third time in a row

The news this week that for the third year in a row there are huge problems with financial control at the Equalities and Human Rights Commission raises questions not only about the future of its senior management but also about the paucity of political debate over its future.

There have only been three sets of annual accounts since the EHRC was formed – and each time the National Audit Office has refused to approve them so deep are the problems with the EHRC’s financial (non-)control.

It’s a perfect record: three sets of accounts, three sets of problems:

In 2008, a year after the

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