Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Joint Committee on Human Rights Report into Sexual Orientation Regulations

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (members both of Commons and Lords) was set up at the time of the passing of the Human Rights Act to seek to ensure that provisions of UK law were consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The 6th report of this session scrutinises the Northern Ireland Sexual Orientation Regulations from the point of view of compliance with human rights law.

Whilst our human rights law derives from the European Convention the International Covenant on Civil and Political (ICCPR) rights and other human rights instruments cover the same ground, in addition, for example, to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (text here ).

The 6th report can be found here and its summary and recommendations here.

The Joint Committee:
  • expresses its support for the regulations, stating they are substantively part of human rights obligations
  • support limited exemptions on doctrinal grounds for religious bodies but don't support wider exemptions
  • support the inclusion of harassment (though with narrower definitions of harassment)
  • support the inclusion of both the education sector as well as the school curriculum, asking the Government to clarify this with respect to the Northern Ireland regulations.
This is an important act of parliamentary scrutiny and goes to considerable lengths to derail the use by the religious right to seek to use human rights arguments to carve out exemptions the size of a bus within the regulations.

Regulations covering Great Britain are eagerly awaited.

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