Another week, another Equality and Human Rights Commission revelation.
This week, Vice World News exposed leaks that found plans to exclude most transgender people from using public bathrooms.
The Good Law Project, Stonewall and a growing number of other LGBTQIA+ organisations have now joined together to call for an official review of the body's status as a UN international human rights body.
What happened this week?
Vice World News found guidance is being drawn up to exclude transgender people from single-sex spaces unless they have a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).
These certificates are difficult to get hold of. An arduous medicalised two-year process is required to legally change your gender. Waiting times to start this are at record highs. Some patients wait four years - to get their first appointment.
As few as 1% of trans people have the certificates.
According to Vice, whistle-blowers say the watchdog’s chief, Baroness Kishwer Falkner, wants to “exclude trans people” from single-sex spaces to “protect women’s rights.”
How significant is this?
The reports say guidance was due to be published last month. But we only found out about it because of a leak. The EHRC has now, two days after being asked for comment, denied this is the plan.
Either way, as trans journalist Jane Fae explains, there is a legal distinction between ‘guidance’ and ‘code.’ Only code stands up in court. - Medium
We haven't had any new 'code' after the current Conservative government refused to lay new ones before Parliament, as the Equality Act requires. - GOV.UK
But new guidance is on the cards, and it will likely be published on their website. It will still have an impact. Businesses, in particular, look to the EHRC for advice and come to legal agreements with them.
For now, though, there is no right to ask people for their gender recognition certificate, and questions are already being raised about how you could even ‘police’ the guidance. It's also widely regarded to contravene the Equality Act - leaving it facing legal challenges it would likely lose.
As the week ends, the EHRC faces a different legal challenge though. The UK's biggest LGBT charity Stonewall, backed by the Good Law Project, has called for it to lose its coveted UN status as a body of international rights. - BBC
Haven’t we been here before?
Yes, in 2020. Plans like this were expected to be in reforms to the Gender Recognition Act. They're also no dissimilar to America's many so-called 'bathroom bills.'
The trouble with them is they don’t do, what they purport to do. The most infamous, North Carolina's, was repealed after they made women more likely to be the victim of harassment.
“Bathroom bills reduce people to their appearance – when its peoples’ behaviour that deserves the attention,” Trans Media Watch's Helen Belcher told me last summer when planned UK single-sex laws were shelved. "Women start to get singled out because of their appearance. It’s ultimately a law enforcing gender stereotypes.”
Rules like this create a hostile, judging environment, in a space that we all agree should be safe.
It was going to cost North Carolina $3.76 billion in lost business after huge multinationals pulled out of the state. So it was repealed.
We've already seen over 130 companies band together to condemn the similar rumoured 'single-sex protection' plans. - Forbes
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Leaked equality watchdog (EHRC) planned guidance suggests they want to exclude most transgender people from public bathrooms. These kinds of rules decrease the safety of women, the direct opposite of what the plans purport to do. The watchdog now faces a legal challenge over its international status.
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