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Statement on the EHRC

Out for Independence is appalled at the EHRC’s responses to both GRA Reform and the petition on banning conversion therapy. Both responses demonstrate a thorough lack of understanding of facts surrounding either issue.

Regarding GRA Reform, the EHRC’s letter to Shona Robinson was vague, citing nebulous concerns of ‘some lawyers’ without naming any specifics, and rehashed the same issues that have been settled through two rounds of consultation. Publicly wading into this issue so late, after the consultation process has finished, can only be interpreted as intending to sow further confusion and misinformation about the process.

We are further concerned that the letter explicitly calls for gatekeeping, reserving the ability to correct a birth certificate for only ‘a small defined group’. We are also concerned by the call for ‘more detailed consideration’ when Scotland has had two full consultations between 2017 and 2020. Either the EHRC is unaware of the activity of the Scottish Government or is spreading disinformation.

The EHRC also weighed in on a potential UK-level ban on conversion therapy. The views expressed in their consultation response are abhorrent. They misunderstand the issue of conversion therapy entirely and seem to regard it as a medical treatment and not a form of torture. The Scottish Parliament is far ahead of Westminster in its work toward a conversion therapy ban. Our Equalities, Human Rights & Civil Justice Committee have this to say about the issue of consent to conversion therapy:

“In a similar way to legislation that exists to protect victims of domestic abuse or female genital mutilation, the definition makes it clear that consent to such practices can never be informed and should not be available as a defence to those undertaking conversion practices.”

The EHRC, however, has determined that despite overwhelming evidence of the harms conversion therapy causes, individuals are able to consent to it. Moreover, they argue that children should be able to consent and consenting to conversion therapy is a matter of Gillick competence. Let us reiterate: conversion therapy is torture. No one, adult or child, can consent to torture, and there are no consequences for Gillick competence because conversion therapy is not medical treatment.

Moreover, the EHRC has not only recommended a consent loophole, but openly advocated for maintaining exceptions for therapy to ‘reconcile a person to their biological sex’. This is nothing less than advocating conversion therapy for trans people.

It has been noted by the Equality Network that the EHRC is not independent of government and that its board is appointed directly by Liz Truss. Their interference in Scotland’s GRA process and the conflict they are raising between Scotland’s conversion therapy ban and their response to the Westminster consultation is another example of a government we didn’t vote for hindering our legislative processes.

For all its flaws, the Scottish Government is moving toward a comprehensive GRA reform & conversion therapy ban, while Westminster is interfering in the process. This is one more reason independence is necessary for both the flourishing of Scotland and of our LGBTQ community.