A GROUP of LGBT+ charities have said that the UK’s human rights watchdog is “actively harming” transgender people and called on an international human rights organisation to take action.

The charity Stonewall, alongside 30 other LGBT+ charities, has published a letter they sent to the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) – a body which is responsible for establishing whether national human rights institutions comply with international standards.

In it, the charities claim that the Equality and Human Rights Commission – the UK’s human rights watchdog – is a “failed institution” that is “harming the trans community” and “undermining the status of independent human rights institutions and systems”.

It states: “The EHRC as Great Britain’s independent national human rights institution has not only continued to work in a way that is hostile to the rights and dignity of trans people but has escalated its interventions to a point where it is now actively advocating for a roll back of rights.”

They cite the EHRC’s correspondence with UK Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch, which showed EHRC chair Baroness Kishwer Falkner considering Badenoch’s proposal of changing the legal definition of “sex” in the Equality Act.

The charities call such a change “unnecessary, unworkable and unfair” although Falkner claimed it would bring “greater legal clarity” in areas such as the provision of single-sex spaces and “fairness” in women’s sports.

If the law is changed in this manner it could also result in a transfer of rights from trans women to trans men, allowing trans men to be considered in “women-only” shortlists as well as giving them pregnancy and maternity rights.

The proposal to change the definition of "sex" was opposed by the EHRC’s Committees in both Scotland and Wales. 

Last year, GANHRI issued a list of improvements they wanted to see from the EHRC following a periodic review.

It recommended that the EHRC “address key human rights issues in an independent, effective, public and transparent manner, in particular in relations to the promotion and protection of the rights of LGBTI people, migrants and asylum seekers".

The chief executive of Stonewall, Nancy Kelley, said that the recommendations of the EHRC regarding the legal definition of sex would “force most trans people to detransition”.

She added: "The EHRC’s recommendations over the past year are extraordinary, in that they are designed to promote the exclusion of trans people, in particular trans women, from everyday public spaces.

“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.

“All of this has been done without any attempt to consult with LGBTQ+ groups, or to understand either the lived experience of trans people, or the devastating impact these divisive recommendations would have on their lives.

“These are not the actions of a human rights body that is fit for purpose.”

The letter ends by asking GANHRI to take "all possible steps" to ensure that the EHRC acts "in accordance with relevant human rights standards". 

A spokesperson for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “We strongly reject these claims. It is our legal duty to uphold the equality and the human rights of everyone in Britain, including trans people, and this is core to everything we do.

“As recently as October 2022, we were again graded ‘A status’ as a National Human Rights Institution, indicating our full compliance with international recommendations. This is clear recognition of our independence and our compliance with the Paris Principles (the international standard for human rights organisations).

“We also refute any claim our work promotes the exclusion of trans people or that it would ‘effectively force trans people to detransition’. This is simply not the case.

“It is disappointing that trans people are being given the message that the potential change would make it impossible for them to live their day to day lives safely and with dignity. Such unfounded remarks simply generate more fear and concern among a community that already experiences too much discrimination."