The Council of Europe condemns transphobia in Britain

The Council of Europe condemns “toxic” transphobia in the UK.

Since 1949, the CoE has upheld human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. Britain is a founder member. It now has 46 members: the Russian Federation was expelled after invading Ukraine. The Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, visited the UK this Summer, met young trans people as well as politicians and civil servants, and condemned “an increasingly toxic discourse against trans people” here.

Her report (pdf) is written in diplomatic jargon but is still hard-hitting. I have had to translate parts of it.

She found the stories trans people told of intolerance, discrimination and violence “harrowing”. The media reports a great deal on trans, focusing on questionable allegations that we are dangerous, or that the rights we seek to live our lives quietly are dangerous. She quotes the CoE Parliamentary Assembly resolution condemning highly prejudicial “gender critical” and anti-trans narratives. The UN Expert said the press assumes “predatory determinism”- trans are dangerous by nature. Press and politicians frequently assert we are a threat. When we speak up for our human rights or even just talk about our lives, this is called “gender ideology”, a bad, dangerous thing. MPs and government ministers should oppose this slander, but instead spread it. Some politicians seek to get votes out of anti-trans hate, she says. So, the LGBT+ community does not trust the government.

The government and media claim trans rights are incompatible with women’s rights or LGB rights. The Commissioner says this is false. Trans women and cis women “have a shared experience of prejudice, gender inequality, harmful stereotyping, and … violence”. The government and media attempts to provoke conflict make it more difficult to support human rights generally. There is no evidence we are a threat.

She notes that in 2018 the Tory government recognised gender recognition procedures were “intrusive, costly, humiliating and administratively burdensome” and “perpetuate[d] the outdated and false assumption that being trans is a mental illness.” She says there are barriers to legal gender recognition and they should be removed. The World Health Organisation confirms trans is not a mental illness. The English gender recognition process still requires a psychiatric report, and that is stigmatising. It causes human rights violations. We need self-determination, say the CoE and UN: we know who we are. Nine countries have self-determination for trans people, and there is no evidence that the procedure is misused or infringes others’ rights.

The Commissioner fears the media and political attacks on trans people will weaken our legal protection in the Equality Act. Trans people suffer frequent discrimination, she says. Politicians and media constantly claiming a Trans Threat pressures organisations to exclude trans people.

Kemi Badenoch, minister for Equalities, has decided not to proceed with a conversion therapy ban. The commissioner condemns this. She says conversion practices inflict severe pain and suffering, even long-lasting psychological and physical damage.

She recommends:

Politicians should stop saying trans people are a threat, and refute allegations in the media that we are dangerous.

Children should have comprehensive relationships and sexuality education including about the existence of LGBT+ people.

The government should combat intolerance, discrimination and hate crime.

The government should rebuild trust with LGBT+ community and organisations like Stonewall and the LGBT Foundation.

There should be “quick, transparent and accessible” gender recognition, self-determined, not obstructed by psychiatric gate-keeping.

Trans exclusion should be exceptional, only occurring when justified by “concrete, objective facts”. Normally, we should be included by services and society. We know those “concrete, objective facts” are unicorns, never observed by objective investigators.

There should be a comprehensive ban on conversion practices, including attempts to convert trans people. She does not mention the government’s assertion that there is conversion from cis to trans, because it is ridiculous.

It’s sad this has to be said. But the European human rights body Winston Churchill campaigned to create has utterly condemned the British government and large parts of our news media.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission welcomes her report, in particular her call for self-determination of trans gender recognition. They said hostility to trans rights affects women’s rights. Sadly, I could not find a similar statement from the EHRC.

4 thoughts on “The Council of Europe condemns transphobia in Britain

  1. Bloomin’ Europeans coming over here, listening with kindness, promoting harmony & human rights, being nice, trying to reduce hate crime, and via an organisation we – the British – were integral in setting up to fight against the causes of the horrors of the last war – how very dare they! 😋

    On a more serious note, thank you for highlighting the key findings from the report. To see what many trans people – the old and the young – are faced with… it’s awful.

    I am hopeful – still – that this is a blip in the slow route to progress and better rights for all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Commissioner also condemns the government’s “Human Rights” Bill to repeal the Human Rights Act and require divergence from ECHR human rights decisions; is concerned that the Police Crime Courts and Sentencing Act stops people exercising their freedoms of expression and assembly, and the Public Order Bill will make that worse; supports the rights of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities; says the Rwanda deportation plan is “batshit crazy”- oops, actually she says it is “inconsistent with the UK’s obligations under international instruments, in particular the Refugee Convention.” She opposes the extradition of Julian Assange to the US, because of “negative consequences for media freedom and the right to information”. She has lots to say about children’s rights, including about child poverty- She says “the government could not care a toss”. Or something like that. Oddly enough, her concerns about children do not include that the Bad Trans, or woke doctors obsessed with gender ideology, might give trans children puberty blockers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for another excellent article, Clare.

        There is an even better report from the UN’s Independent Expert on Violence on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity to the UK, just in time for the MSPs’ vote on GRA Reform on Wednesday. It has so much of what I have been waiting for on rebutting the transphobes; non-existent threat, the right of gender recognition for trans people based on self-ID, non-binary identities, the fallacy of sex and gender binaries, etc.

        If we can use both these sources, we could be seeing the high-tide mark for transphobia in the UK, and also push back against our scape-goating by the UK government.

        What is encouraging to me is the relatively progressive attitude of the Scottish government. If the Gender Reform Bill passes on Wednesday, which looks likely, then the anticipated lack of any consequential harm from its operation should make transphobes’ already self-contradictory and baseless theoretical arguments look increasingly absurd to ordinary cisgender people who aren’t familiar with the debate south of the border.

        Coupled with the lack of any harm caused by the Republic Of Ireland’s self-ID law since its adoption a few years ago, it should make it very hard for Westminster to resist our modest calls for equality of gender recognition with cisgender people.

        Like Lynn Jones (above), I am hopeful for progress on our rights.

        Liked by 2 people

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