Photo: Flickr/Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, UK government

EHRC ‘did not seek consent’ before advising Scottish government on trans reform, SHRC says

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has condemned the Equality and Human Rights Commission for advising the Scottish government on transgender policy without its permission.

The Scottish human rights group has released a statement “clarifying its mandate” after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) wrote to the government in an attempt to pause plans in Scotland to reform the Gender Recognition Act

While the UK government’s plans to reform the law ground to a halt in 2020, the Scottish government said it will introduce a bill on 3 March this year.

Tensions have risen between the bodies after EHRC chair Kishwer Falkner sent a letter to the Scottish government at the end of January, writing that “detailed consideration is needed” before “any change is made” to the act.

She added that the reform, which seeks to simplify for the process for a transgender person to legally change gender, could affect “data, participation and drug testing in competitive sport, and practices within the criminal justice system”.

Under the terms of section 7 of the Equality Act 2006, the EHRC is not empowered to take human rights action in Scotland where it falls within the mandate of the Scottish Human Rights Commission

The Scottish Human Rights Commission

The Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) said the EHRC did “not seek consent” before writing the letter.

“Under the terms of section 7 of the Equality Act 2006, the EHRC is not empowered to take human rights action in Scotland where it falls within the mandate of the Scottish Human Rights Commission,” the statement said. 

“Where it proposes to take such action, it is required to seek our consent.”

Photo: Flickr/Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, UK government
The SHRC has criticised the EHRC for intervening in policy affecting transgender people in Scotland Photo: Flickr/Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, UK Government

It added: “This (or any other) devolved legislation and policy is for the Scottish Human Rights Commission to make.”

The SHRC said it has written to the EHRC to request a meeting “to review the terms of our working relationship”. “We look forward to this meeting taking place shortly,” it added. 

LGBT+ groups have called for Falkner’s resignation after VICE World News reported earlier this month that senior leaders at the EHRC had met privately with anti-trans groups, and that staff were quitting the body due to an “anti-LGBT” culture.

It also released unpublished guidance from EHRC, detailing plans to prevent transgender people from entering single-sex spaces unless they hold a Gender Recognition Certificate.

The EHRC also came under fire for speaking out against the Scottish government’s guidance on filling out a question on sex in the census, which instructed people to answer according to how they live their lives, instead of what is on their birth certificate. 

The revelations prompted LGBT+ groups to demand an international review of the EHRC, claiming it is “no longer fit for purpose” due to its views on transgender people.  

A group of charities, including Stonewall, Galop and the Good Law Project, wrote to the United Nations’ National Human Rights Institutions to request the probe.

A spokesperson for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “We value our close relationship with the Scottish Human Rights Commission, with whom we share a strong commitment to promoting and enforcing human rights.

“As Britain’s regulator of the Equality Act, we have a mandate to consider and advise policy-makers on equality issues across Scotland, England and Wales.

“We are wholly committed to working effectively with the SHRC towards our shared goals, even where our assessments diverge.”

Photo Credit: Flickr/Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

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