UN expert condemns UK over toxic debate on trans issues

In a recent report, a UN expert outlined concerns about the growing toxic and hostile environment that trans people face in the UK.

A transgender flag being waved at LGBTQ pride march referencing need for EHRC to priortise trans people.

A UN expert on sexual orientation and gender identity expressed deep concern over the increasing amount of abuse and anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech directed toward trans people in the UK. He attributed the uptick in abuse to problematic messages from politicians, the media, and social commentators.

After visiting the UK from April 24 to May 5, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, said: “I am deeply concerned about increased bias-motivated incidents of harassment, threats, and violence against LGBT people, including a rampant surge in hate crimes in the UK.”



Eighty UK academics formally issued a statement supporting Victor Madrigal-Borloz’s visit, affirming that they welcome any recommendations he makes following his visit to the UK.

Madrigal-Borloz expressed disapproval over the delay in banning so-called conversion therapy, and noted the disproportionate number of LGBTQ+ people living in homelessness, the years-long waitlist for gender-affirming care, and lack of comprehensive sex education.

He shared further concerns about the recent advice from the UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission that promoted a reduction in human rights protections for trans people, stating: “These actions were admittedly with the objective of withdrawing trans women from legal protections to which they are entitled under the Equality Act.”

After the publication of Madrigal-Borloz’s statement, Adam Long of the National LGBT Federation (NXF) stated: “It comes as no surprise that the United Nations Rapporteur on sexual orientation and gender identity has delivered such a critical report on the state of LGBTQ+ rights in the UK, highlighting a toxic atmosphere of hostility fuelled by large sections of their press in addition to political & government figures more interested in stoking a ‘culture war’ than addressing real issues.”

“Most damningly, he calls out the UK’s Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC), declaring their actions in targeting trans rights as unbecoming of a body charged with upholding equality. This comes after a broad coalition of LGBTQ+ organisations across Britain declared ‘no confidence’ in a body charged with upholding their rights,” Long continued.

He concluded by saying: “As the NXF and the LGBT+ sector here in Ireland have cautioned many times, we must absolutely avoid the contrived and manufactured ‘culture wars’ that Britain – and large parts of the US – have become embroiled in recent years and ensure that we move forwards, not backwards on LGBT+ equality.”

This criticism comes two weeks after over 30 LGBTQ+ organisations joined forces to craft a letter to the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) outlining their concerns about the harm the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is causing to trans people by restricting trans rights in the UK.

On May 3, the organisations shared the letter which said: “[we] raise our profound concern about the actions of Great Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which is failing to meet its basic duties as a National Human Rights Institution, as set out in the Paris Principles.”


GANHRI is responsible for determining if human rights institutions are complying with international human rights standards. In October 2022, GANHRI criticised the EHRC for failing to support trans people and issued a long list of necessary improvements for the EHRC to implement.

GANHRI demanded that the EHRC do more to protect trans people, including consulting with LGBTQ+ groups to improve its understanding of trans communities and diversifying the commissioning board to ensure an accurate range of lived experiences were represented.

Nancy Kelley, Chief Executive of Stonewall, said: ‘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 EHRC appears to have ignored these recommendations. As an example, in April, the EHRC sent a letter to Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch advocating to redefine the term ‘sex’ in the Equality Act and remove protections for trans people.

After the move caused outrage among LGBTQ+ activists, a spokesperson for the EHRC issued a statement: “Our job is also to explain the law, which, in relation to sex and gender issues, can be complex. Where people’s rights may compete, we have a duty to advise on how best to strike an appropriate balance. In some cases, we do so in difficult, technical areas of law that can attract strong views and disagreement…”


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