The University of Essex has been warned that its links to Stonewall have resulted in it misrepresenting the law on transgender issues.
In a report, barrister Akua Reindorf warned of “potential illegalities” in the university’s trans policy. The report was commissioned after two academics were dropped from separate speaking engagements at Essex, when trans activists branded them ‘transphobes’ and claimed their views could cause harassment to students.
Reindorf said the policy on supporting trans and non-binary members of the university could give the impression that newspaper letters written by the academics on transgender issues could amount to unlawful harassment.
She said: “This policy is founded on an erroneous understanding of the law. The policy is reviewed annually by Stonewall and its incorrect summary of the law does not appear to have been picked up by them.
“In my view the policy states the law as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is. To that extent the policy is misleading.”
In my view the policy states the law as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is.
The policy claimed that “gender identity or trans status” are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, but Reindorf explained this is not the case, and that the law instead protects the characteristic of ‘gender reassignment’.
The report added: “Moreover, it cannot be said that the examples given would invariably amount to unlawful discrimination or, in some cases more accurately, harassment.”
Reindorf warned the university over its links to the LGBT lobby group, saying: “In particular, it should consider that this relationship appears to have given university members the impression that gender critical academics can legitimately be excluded from the institution.”
Following the review, Essex’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Anthony Forster issued an apology to the two academics. The report said they had been treated in an “unnecessary and disproportionate” manner.
this relationship appears to have given university members the impression that gender critical academics can legitimately be excluded from the institution
Prof Forster said the report “makes clear that we have made serious mistakes and we need to do our very best to learn from these and to ensure they are not repeated”.
He added: “The review notes the particular responsibility placed on universities to protect freedom of speech within the law, and to ensure that a diversity of voices and views can be heard on our campuses”.
A guide to what schools can and can’t do in the name of equality and human rights
Christian teachers, parents and pupils are increasingly facing difficulties as the education system becomes more secular. Pressure groups with their own agendas are approaching schools offering advice, training and resources. Often this is backed up with vague appeals to the ‘Equality Act’ to make schools feel they have no alternative but to follow the advice given.