Timeline of efforts to sabotage the EHRC’s work to protect everyone’s rights

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is Great Britain’s national human rights institution. Stonewall and associated organisations have tried three times (January 2022, June 2022, May 2023) to get the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) to censure the Equality and Human Rights Commission for doing its job.

In February 2024 together with 38 groups defending sex-based rights, Sex Matters wrote to GANHRI calling on it to stand up for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Our letter was backed by a detailed submission of evidence about the campaign of threats and reprisals against the EHRC.

The timeline below is a log of the campaign of reprisals for acting to protect those with gender-critical beliefs from unlawful harassment and discrimination.

UPDATE: In April 2024 the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) confirmed to the EHRC that it remains fully compliant with the ‘Paris Principles’, which provide the benchmark for high-performing, independent National Human Rights Institutions.

March 2021

EHRC leaves Stonewall

“We wrote to Stonewall in March to let them know that we would not be renewing our membership, and this has now expired.”

23rd April 2021

EHRC intervenes in Forstater v CGD Employment Appeal Tribunal

Karon Monaghan KC, representing the EHRC, argues that in the original tribunal, the employment judge “adopted the wrong approach when determining whether the Claimant’s [‘gender critical’] belief fell within the scope of s.10 of the Equality Act”.

1st May 2021

Stephen Whittle and Robin Moira White discuss EHRC’s intervention

Whittle was an influential trans-rights lawyer and campaigner at the time of the GRA. White ia a current trans-rights lawyer and campaigner.

Whittle says: “EHRC now run by Government appointees who have zilch knowledge of trans lives.”

White says EHRC is not “correct in law”.

18th May 2021

Stonewall and 38 organisations publish a letter criticising the EHRC for intervening in Forstater

They say:
“… We are frustrated that you then chose to intervene in a case to say that so-called ‘gender critical’ beliefs should be a protected philosophical belief.

“It was a kick in the teeth to trans people to see the EHRC appear to put their organisational weight behind a movement that has only contributed to rising hate for trans people in communities, creating a policy environment where it is harder for trans people to access their rights. That the EHRC chose to add their weight to this intervention has sent a deeply damaging message to trans people about their validity and worth. This intervention has lost the trust of trans people and LGBTQ+ people more broadly.”

28th May 2021

EHRC responds to critics, defends decision to intervene

Kishwer Falkner says: “Defending the right to believe that sex is immutable in no way impacts on our commitment to uphold the rights of trans people.”

10th June 2021

26th January 2022

EHRC publishes cautious position on reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 in Scotland 

It raises concerns about the potential consequences of self ID and says:
“We consider that more detailed consideration is needed before any change is made to the provisions in the Act. The potential consequences include those relating to the collection and use of data, participation and drug testing in competitive sport, measures to address barriers facing women, and practices within the criminal justice system, inter alia.”

26th January 2022

EHRC publishes cautious position on proposed legislation banning conversion therapy

It recommends that legislation should initially focus on banning conversion therapy attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation and that legislation to ban conversion therapy attempting to change a person to or from being transgender should follow “once more detailed and evidence-based proposals are available which can be properly scrutinised”.

26th January 2022

Stephen Whittle reports “many EHRC staff” feel betrayed

Whittle says staff feel betrayed by the letter and very unhappy with forthcoming single-sex services guidance.

26th January 2022

LGBT Foundation “severs ties” with the Equality and Human Rights Commission

It says the two statements “are extremely damaging and cannot be supported in any circumstances” and “EHRC can no longer call itself a true human rights organisation.”

26th January 2022

Liberty calls for the EHRC’s status as an NHRI to be reviewed

“For the EHRC to make such a damaging intervention calls in to question whether it is serving its purpose and Liberty supports the calls for the EHRC’s status as a national human rights institution (NHRI) to be reviewed.”

26th January 2022

Stonewall demands a review of the EHRC’s accreditation as an A-status national human-rights institution

“We believe the EHRC is no longer fit for purpose.”

28th January 2022

Stephen Whittle say staff are angry and depressed

“Would leave if they could.”

2nd February 2022

Vice reports that “EHRC met privately with anti-trans groups”

VICE complains that the EHRC held meetings with gender-critical groups Fair Play For Women and LGB Alliance.

2nd February 2022

Colin Macfarlane of Stonewall Scotland says EHRC has lost its way

2nd February 2022

Stephen Whittle comments on “anti-trans rot amidst the EHRC Commissioners”

Calls for the entire board to be replaced.

4th February 2022

Vice reports that staff are leaving the EHRC due to ‘transphobia’

“I was seeing our upcoming publications and guidance pushing for trans rights being changed – or completely scrapped and shelved permanently – meanwhile the Board was building links to anti-trans groups. It was awful.”

10th February 2022

Stonewall-led coalition submits complaint to GANHRI

Signatories include the Good Law Project, Liberty, Gendered Intelligence, TransActual, Mermaids, Trans in the City, GIRES, Sparkle, Trans Safety Network, LGBT Consortium, LGBT Foundation, Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland, Galop, Feminist Gender Equality Network, Steph’s Place UK, and the Outside Project.

“We believe that recent statements made by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Great Britain’s NHRI, indicate that they can no longer be considered compliant with the Paris Principles, and are no longer fit for purpose as a National Human Rights Institution.” 

11th February 2022

Former legal director agrees with Stonewall

Grey Collier says EHRC doesn’t meet the standard for EHRC accreditation.

10th February 2022

Colin Macfarlane of Stonewall says the EHRC has gone rogue

11th February 2022

Another former legal director attacks EHRC’s legal analysis

She calls it a “profound and wilful misinterpretation of the law”.

16th Febuary 2022

Board effectiveness review commissioned

On Board interviewed all ten non-executive commissioners (including the Chair) and all members of the senior leadership team (including the chief executive).

1st April 2022

GANHRI rejects Stonewall’s complaint

EHRC says: “We are pleased that the Sub-Committee on Accreditation assessed evidence of our independence and effectiveness and upheld our position, declining a special review of our work.

“As we launch our new strategy, we are reaching out to organisations that have been critical of the EHRC, encouraging them to put aside past disagreements and to work with us and other like-minded organisations to protect everyone and to achieve a fairer society for all.”

4th April 2022

EHRC publishes new guidance on single-sex and separate-sex services

The guidance confirms that it is lawful and legitimate to provide female-only spaces and therefore to exclude men who identify as women from them. 

5th April 2022

Several organisations release statements condemning the guidance

“This new EHRC guidance is appalling and harmful. It encourages bigotry and discrimination. Its ‘examples’ include invitations to organisations to blanket ban trans women from exercise classes and women’s toilets on a ‘biological’ basis.” Trans Legal Project

27th April 2022

Robin Moira White calls EHRC guidance a “train wreck”

At a seminar at Matrix Chambers.

17th May 2022

Robin Moira White publishes “train wreck” analysis

Article published by Trans Legal Project.

30th May 2022

TransLucent submits a 61-page complaint to GANHRI

TransLucent (previously called “Steph’s Place” and a signatory of the Stonewall complaint to GANHRI) makes a new complaint including accusations of “collusion with ‘anti-trans’ groups and individuals”.

1st June 2022

Stonewall resubmits evidence to GANHRI

Together with the Good Law Project and 30 other civil-society organisations, Stonewall’s lawyers send a letter and submissions to GANHRI, calling for the EHRC to lose its A status. It complains that EHRC Chair Kishwer Falkner “has spoken in support of anti-trans ‘gender critical’ beliefs and appears to have liaised disproportionately with ‘gender critical’ groups in her capacity as Chair” (citing the VICE article of 2nd February 2022). It complains that “the EHRC is now, like the government, substantively out of step with mainstream civil-society organisations in its stance on equality and human rights” and again raises the EHRC’s position on conversion therapy, and its new single-sex services guidance. 

1st July 2022

Board Effectiveness Review completed

“Chairwoman and the Board have been instrumental in effecting radical change by re-positioning the Commission as a rigorous, objective regulator in the field of equality and human rights as opposed to its perceived historic position as an advocate for activist groups.”

2nd September 2022

A trans-rights protest group undertakes a dirty protest outside EHRC’s offices

Masked representatives of the anonymous group “Pissed Off Trannies” ceremonially deliver the urine to the EHRC offices in Westminster, London and stage what they described as a “piss-in”, leaving over 60 bottles of urine outside the offices of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and pouring urine over the entrance. One of the protesters pours urine over himself. 

14th October 2022

GANHRI re-accredits EHRC as an ‘A status’ organisation

This follows a routine assessment. The assessment report includes recommendations that the EHRC:
• widens its human rights protection mandate
continues to address human rights issues across all relevant areas
• cooperates with civil society organisations
ensures pluralism and diversity in its board membership
• advocates for formalising the selection and appointment process of our Commissioners
• advocates for amendments regarding the provisions for dismissal of Commissioners
• advocates for greater financial autonomy from central government.

21st November 2022

BBC Woman’s Hour story on “women in quizzing

Woman’s Hour says that Brain of Britain had its first all-women final, although in fact it included a male competitor, Emma Laslett.

23rd November 2022

EHRC board meeting considers paper on amending the Equality Act

The board welcomed and noted the paper, including the legal and policy issues that arise from the drafting of the Equality Act 2010 in relation to the concepts of sex, gender, and gender reassignment and interaction with the GRA and whether and how the EHRC can seek to clarify the law, convene debate on the balance of rights, and support decision-making.

This appears to be the board meeting that discussed BBC Woman’s Hour describing the Brain of Britain final as “all women”. Baroness Falkner was accused of calling trans-identified male Emma Laslett a “bloke in lipstick” (she has said in interviews she was reporting what was being said about Laslett).

16th December 2022

Victor Madrigal-Borloz claims that self-ID is an international human rights imperative

The UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity writes to the Scottish government claiming that “legal recognition of gender identity” via self-identification is an “international human rights imperative”.

12th January 2023

Minister for Women and Equalities meets with chair of the EHRC

Discussed “the increasing contestation of how the term sex in understood in law and in practice. Recent cases in both the English and Scottish Courts, such as Fair Play For Women Ltd. v UK Statistics Authority [2021] EWHC 940 and For Women Scotland Ltd [2022] CSOH 90, have raised legitimate questions about the definition of sex in the Equality Act 2010.” (referred to in letter on 21st February.)

18th January 2023

EHRC Board discusses amending the Equality Act 2010

The board discussed the additional legal advice relating to the definition of sex in the Equality Act 2010. The board agreed that the Commission should advise the government on the definition of sex in the Equality Act, subject to a further special board meeting to be held before 30th March, to discuss the wider implications, communications and stakeholder considerations, and to take note of their consultation on this matter with the statutory Scotland and Wales committees.

21st February 2023

Minister for Women and Equalities writes to EHRC asking about the Equality Act

She requests considered advice from the EHRC on the benefits or otherwise of an amendment to the 2010 Act on the current definition of “sex”, along with any connected or consequential enactments, bearing in mind the advantages and disadvantages that such a change might entail for affected groups.

February 2023

Dossier of complaints produced by staff

Gavin Mansfield KC instructed to investigate


28th February 2023

Extraordinary meetings of Scotland and Wales Committees

Minutes from Scotland and Wales committees show they oppose clarifying the Equality Act

1st March 2023

Extraordinary Board Meeting

The Chair proposed that she write to the Chair of the Scotland and Wales Committee setting out why the board was not able to accept its advice and why the board had reached the conclusions it had. Commissioners agreed this approach.
The board then discussed the recommended response from the commission to the 21st February 2023 letter from the Minister for Women and Equalities. A small group of commissioners considered that the draft letter was an acceptable starting point, subject to some amendments. However, following discussion, a majority of commissioners favoured a substantially revised letter to be agreed at the next board meeting.

30th March 2023

EHRC board meeting

Board finalises letter. All commissioners bar one were in favour of sending the letter, as amended, to the minister.

3rd April 2023

EHRC Chair Kishwer Falkner writes to the Minister for Women and Equalities on clarifying the Equality Act

“A change to the Equality Act 2010, so that the protected characteristic of ‘sex’ means biological sex, could bring clarity in a number of areas, but potential ambiguity in others.
“Our response to the Minister’s request for advice suggests that the UK Government carefully identify and consider the potential implications of this change.
“Should they wish to pursue work in this area, we recommend detailed policy and legal analysis be undertaken, in compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty and with due regard to any possible disadvantages for trans men and trans women.”

9th May 2023

Stonewall publishes a third letter to GANHRI together with 35 organisations 

“This is not an institution that has listened to civil society, to the recommendations of the Subcommittee on Accreditation or to its own national committees. It is not demonstrating a commitment to the human rights of all persons, nor is it functioning in a pluralistic, independent and effective manner as mandated under the Paris Principles. It is a failed institution, it is harming the trans community in Great Britain, and it is undermining the status of independent human rights institutions and systems. 

The letter is signed on behalf of Claire’s Trans Talks, Equality Network, Feminist Gender Equality Network, Gendered Intelligence, GIRES (Gender Identity Research and Education Society), Global Butterflies, Hidayah LGBT, Intercom Trust, Kite Trust, LGBT Consortium, LGBT Foundation, Live Through This, London Friend, Mermaids, Ozanne Foundation, Proud Trust, Sparkle, Spectra, Star Support LGBTIQ+, Translucent, Stonewall, The Outside Project, Trans Activism UK, Trans Actual, Trans in the City, Trans Media Watch, Trans Safety Network, and Yorkshire Mesmac.

11th May 2023

Victor Madrigal-Borloz disparages EHRC in UK mission report

16th May 2023

“Pissed Off Trannies” attack again

Protestors unload bottles of urine into EHRC door. Police had to do a controlled explosion on a bottle with a device inside.

17th May 2023

Two MPs tweet accusing EHRC of “taking rights away” from trans people

EHRC tweets for International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia attracks comments by Ben Bradshaw MP and Angela Eagle MP

23rd May 2023

Channel 4 exposé

Channel 4 reveals that investigation is underway following complaints of “bullying, harassment and discrimination – along with a wave of resignations”. Including accusation of calling Emma Laslett a “bloke in lipstick” during a board meeting on 23rd November 2022.

25th May 2023

Whittle comments

“Staff are the real experts in Equalities & Human rights… whereas the Commissioners clearly do not understand.”

26th May 2023

EHRC announces that the investigation has been suspended

“This investigation has been paused. This is while we seek legal advice on the impact of leaked confidential information. We must ensure its integrity and that it is fair to all parties concerned.”
Statement from Kishwer Falkner in The Telegraph.

24th October 2023

Investigation closed

“The Minister for Women and Equalities commissioned an independent legal expert to review the handling of complaints against the EHRC’s Chairwoman, Baroness Kishwer Falkner. The EHRC co-operated fully with the review and its Board has now considered guidance which has flowed from it.

“In the light of the conclusions and guidance shared with the Interim Deputy Chair and Board as a result of the review, the Interim Deputy Chair, supported by the Board, has decided that the investigation into the Chairwoman should now close.”

16th November 2023

Melanie Field poses with trans-rights activists at TransLucent conference

Melanie Field poses with Nancy Kelley, Stephen Whittle and Robin White at Conference held by Steph Richard’s TransLucent organisation.

Nancy Kelley says “we all agree” on the Equality Act.

27th November 2023

28th November 2023

EHRC publishes response to GANHRI

“We reiterate to the SCA our strong assurance that the EHRC is committed to promoting and upholding human rights, as our record strongly demonstrates. We have a statutory duty to protect and promote equality and human rights for everyone. That includes considering, carefully and impartially and on the basis of evidence, how the rights of one person, or group, might be affected by the rights of another. “

9th May 2024

EHRC retains “A” status accreditation

The SCA has now confirmed to the EHRC that it remains fully compliant with the ‘Paris Principles’, which provide the benchmark for high-performing, independent National Human Rights Institutions.

In its published report it states:
“In light of all the information provided by the EHRC, the SCA considers that no further review of the Institution is required at this time. The EHRC is encouraged to focus on the recommendations made by the SCA in 2023. The EHRC is also encouraged to continue to engage with civil society organisations, including those working on transgender rights, in a meaningful and constructive manner.”