Three human rights organisations bravely capitulate


I wrote an article published yesterday (by the feminist charity FiLiA ) on the question of “trans rights”: what are the fundamental human rights in question, and how can they be reconciled with the rights of others, particularly women. I was particularly critical of human rights organisations that have not used their expertise and legitimacy to find a way through the conflict of rights but instead repeat simplistic mantras and demand “no debate”.

Today was “IDAHOBIT” (what used to be known as the International Day Against Homophobia, now the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia), and by coincidence the Directors of Amnesty International UK, Liberty and the UK Director of Human Rights Watch released a statement.

They had nothing at all to say about homophobia or biophobia. The joint statement (in full below, with my comments) was all about “trans rights”

“Human rights are universal and belong to everyone. Yet too often in the UK trans people are spoken about and treated as though their rights don’t matter.”

Ok…. which rights are you talking about?

The toxic media coverage about trans people has recently spiked. At times of crisis and political change, marginalised groups are often singled out for abuse and hate.

Hold up. You were talking about rights, now you’ve swerved to media coverage? (media coverage is wall to wall COVID right now, what spiked?when? What exactly are you talking about?) Can you hold onto a single thought and follow through… which rights?

History has shown us time and time again the dangers of setting the rights of one marginalised group up for debate. But we know that our rights and freedoms are bound together.

Again, what are you talking about? Human rights are universal. How they apply in specific situations is often debated. Could you say what rights you are talking about, or is that too “dangerous” to debate?

What’s more, this isn’t an equal conversation or level playing field. Key voices are missing – trans and non-binary people, and in particular young trans people. They are so often spoken about, not listened to. As a society, we need to make space so they can be finally heard without having to defend who they are. We need to do this because denying rights leads to dehumanisation.

How do young people come to have this specialist knowledge about rights? If you have taken your own advice and listened to them can you tell please us what rights they have told you they have, and whether in your expert view these are actually rights?

This is already happening in Hungary, Russia and the US, where trans people are facing serious human rights abuses, and new and vicious attacks on their fundamental rights.

Again, some specifics please. What “this “are you talking about? Which fundamental rights? How does this relate to the situation of trans people in the UK?

“We cannot allow this to happen here.

Allow what?

Today, as we mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), our collective of UK human rights organisations wants to remind people that trans rights are an indivisible part of human rights.”

I consider myself reminded, thank-you.

There followed three separate statements from the directors, each adding precisely nothing of substance:

Benjamin Ward, UK Director of Human Rights Watch said: “For too long now, trans people in the UK have been dehumanised and their voices silenced. It’s time for people in the UK to stand together with trans people and for the human rights and humanity we all share.”

What are you talking about Ben? How are trans people being silenced? Why must the people of the UK stand together, can’t they be allowed to have different views from each other and talk about them openly (you know, like in a democracy….)?

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said: “Trans people often face extreme discrimination, and right now we’re seeing growing threats to their human rights in the UK and abroad. But the biggest human rights organisations are united by their side – we won’t rest until trans people can live freely as themselves, without inequality or abuse.”

Can you say what you mean by extreme discrimination Kate? What threats to which rights?

Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, said: “We must, as a human rights movement, demonstrate that we will forever stand by the side of trans people and I’m proud to join others to spread this message on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.”

Martha, human rights are universal, and sometimes they come into conflict – the rights of religious liberty, freedom of belief, people’s right to privacy for example. Why as a human rights movement must you “forever stand by the side” of one particular group that is making demands on another for “rights”? Isn’t your job to stand up for everyone’s right?

These organisations have a combined annual turnover of almost £25 million, a staff of human rights researchers and lawyers, a Nobel peace prize to their name and a shared mandate to uphold everybody’s human rights according to international treaties. They could not bring themselves to be brave enough to set out the “trans rights” they demand we all stand together to support.

No sense of what “trans rights” mean or how they relate to women’s rights in situations such as women’s prisons, refuges, sports, single sex services. Nothing about freedom of speech or belief. Nothing. Just repeat the mantras, “ask the young people”, and god forbid don’t question what they say.

This is what Human Rights Watch says about itself:

Human Rights Watch defends the rights of people worldwide. We scrupulously investigate abuses, expose the facts widely, and pressure those with power to respect rights and secure justice. Human Rights Watch is an independent, international organization that works as part of a vibrant movement to uphold human dignity and advance the cause of human rights for all. Our work is guided by international human rights and humanitarian law and respect for the dignity of each human being.

This is what Liberty says about themselves

“We’re independent. Our principles are guided by evidence, expertise and the human impact. We’re not swayed by political agenda, profit or popular opinion. Liberty stands on the side of freedom and justice. We’re not afraid to speak uncomfortable truths and we challenge intolerance, discrimination and the abuse of power wherever we find it.”

This is what Amnesty International says about themselves

“Amnesty International is completely independent. We challenge human rights abuses wherever they happen, regardless of which government or group is responsible. This doesn’t always make us popular …Our work is underpinned by independent research in the field….We cross-check our research with a network of trusted sources and experts so it’s watertight…We cover all human rights, everywhere…We face difficult issues head-on.

I have never seen organisations sounding less like brave, independent, principled, carefully researched defenders of human rights.

What they sound like is scared.

And although the joint statement was a carcrash, its message comes through loud and clear; I think its primary intended audience is people working in the sector who might be thinking of bringing some nuance to this topic.

If you want to keep your job and your career prospects, its simple. Forget about standing up for women’s rights, gay rights, child safeguarding, freedom of speech, freedom of belief, or human rights frameworks, if any of this comes into conflict with the demands of “right thinking” young people and organisations like Stonewall and Mermaids. We the trustees and senior leadership of the organisations with a mandate for protecting everyone’s human rights won’t back you up.


7 Responses to “Three human rights organisations bravely capitulate”

  1. 1 Michael Biggs

    Very incisive analysis!
    Liberty’s former acting Director, Corey Stoughton, had worked for Obama administration where she litigated to abolish sex-segregated facilities.

  2. 2 Floriana

    As these organisations have deserted us, they should ask themselves why all these new human rights groups are springing up: Standing For Women, Fair Play for Women, WPUK, LGB Alliance, We The Females etc. etc.

  3. “Trans rights are women’s rights are human rights.” Well at least they’ve dropped the pretence that it’s about anything other than men wanting women’s rights.

  4. 4 Janet

    “Trans rights are women’s rights are human rights”. Well, at least they’ve dropped the pretence that it’s about anything other than men wanting women’s rights. Tough luck, women who want to be men. You only count when you can be used as a figleaf.

  5. “Trans rights are women’s rights are human rights”> Well, at least they’ve dropped the pretence that it’s about anything other than men wanting women’s rights.

  6. 6 Janet Wright

    “Trans rights are women’s rights are human rights”. Well, at least they’ve stopped pretending this is about anything other than men wanting to take something that belongs to women.

    Why don’t transmen get men’s rights? Because they’re women, they’re not important.

  7. 7 Nicholas Davies

    In all these quotes you could substitute women for trans and that would be equally true but the reaction wouldn’t be a pat on the back from the columnists and commentariat of the woke left, it’d be cries of ‘transphobe’ and demands you be shunned and sacked from your job

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