Radical is a civil-rights campaign for truth and freedom on matters of sex and ‘gender’, committed to free expression and equal respect, founded by Rebecca Lowe and Victoria Hewson. This Radical piece is written by Rebecca, the former director of FREER.

There are some organisations that are typically presumed irreproachable: “You can’t criticise x… it’s a national treasure!”. Certain famous charities, and the NHS, come to mind. Yet to think that any person or group is beyond criticism is unhelpful — not least to them. Fair criticism helps us all.

For organisations, however, accountability is often more than a matter of improvement. Accountability keeps organisations focused on the good, and is a prerequisite for many. Any organisation taking taxpayer money, providing core services, dispensing important public information, working with children, and so on, must be formally held to account.

Doing so isn’t to show bad will towards them; it’s required. This isn’t just a matter of improving outcomes, in other words. Being accountable is an essential part of state (and various related kinds of public) behaviour, deriving from obligations to do with respect and transparency, correlative to basic rights.

Nonetheless, it’s easy to revert to assuming the best, particularly about organisations with laudable aims. This kind of thinking is bad enough on an individual level, but devastation can ensue when it’s embedded into the structures that are supposed to ensure accountability. Think of Kids Company. And the Oxfam Haiti scandal. Not only did individuals working within these charities do serious wrong, so did the people charged with holding them to account. Helping others comes with important obligations, not a free pass on how you behave.

With this in mind, let’s turn to the big “sex and gender” news of the week. Regular readers will be aware of our longstanding concerns about institutional capture. We’ve written again and again about how the UK’s core institutions — schools, universities, police forces, healthcare services, prisons — have been ruthlessly captured by a set of “charitable” organisations pressing the ideology of “gender identity”.

This involves not only denying the importance of biological truth, and putting women and children at risk of serious consequent harms, it also often involves the purposeful misrepresentation of law. This has been revealed many times. It’s been revealed by groups such as Fair Play for Women and Sex Matters. It’s been revealed in the fallout of judicial reviews. And none of it is surprising: it’s all there in the policy documents of your local core service providers. Just run a search for tell-tale words — “assigned at birth”, for instance — and you’ll find the evidence, no problem.

On one hand, therefore, it’s great news that the Equality and Human Rights Commission isn’t going to renew its membership of the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme. As the leading employment and discrimination lawyer Naomi Cunningham has neatly and extensively catalogued, “submitting to Stonewall” is not only extremely expensive and time-consuming for organisations, it also also puts them at serious risk of moral and legal wrongdoing:

“If you are a public body, it will distort your policies and decision-making in ways that will expose you to judicial review, and embarrassing and expensive climb-downs of the kind already performed by Oxfordshire County Council, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Office for National Statistics. But worst of all, depending on the nature of your functions, it may cause you to infringe liberties, mis-state the law, commit or condone criminal offences, and put children and vulnerable adults at risk of serious harm”.

But you have to ask (yet again) why organisations like the EHRC didn’t realise this for themselves, sooner. You don’t have to be a brilliant lawyer to recognise, for instance, that, as Cunningham points out, Stonewall’s standard presentation of the law regarding self-identification and single-sex spaces is severely lacking:

“Stonewall constantly pushes the idea that self-identification already has legal consequences, and self-identifying trans women (without a GRC) are automatically entitled to access women-only spaces. Employers that accept this and permit self-identifying trans women to use women’s toilets, locker rooms, or changing or washing facilities, etc may face indirect discrimination claims. This is a provision, criterion or practice that is applied to the whole workforce, but which is likely to put women at a particular disadvantage compared to men: the employer will be required to show that it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. If women suffer sexual harassment as a result of these policies, employers are likely to be vicariously liable for that.” 

This should be obvious to anyone who’s read the Equality Act. Yet many of the Stonewall “Champion” organisations will not only have access to top lawyers, they’ll also have their own legal and specialist HR departments! After all, these organisations (the names of which are now hidden behind a membership paywall on the Stonewall website) include government departments, local authorities, and some of the most successful UK companies. The Times reported late last year that they included:

“Thirty police forces, 57 local authorities and 50 NHS organisations […] along with John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, the Post Office and dozens of universities [and that the] Cabinet Office, Foreign Office, Department for Education and Crown Prosecution Service are also signed up”. 

It’s not only the EHRC that’s currently reassessing membership, however. Last week, Essex University published the Reindorf Review — barrister Akua Reindorf’s inquiry into two serious “no-platforming events” that happened at the university.

Among the review’s 28 comprehensive, and often effectively damning recommendations, are the following: a) that the “University’s equality, diversity and inclusion policy documents, Charter and Strategic Plan should be standardised so that they all accurately describe the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010”; b) that the “Supporting Trans and Non Binary Staff policy and Harassment and Bullying Zero Tolerance policy should be amended to accurately state the law, in particular with a view to ensuring that they are an authoritative source of information for the purposes of the external speaker review process”; and c) that the “Supporting Trans and Non Binary Staff policy should be reviewed by a specialist lawyer and if necessary amended to ensure that it offers adequate protection and is lawful”.

The review’s final recommendation focuses on Essex’s relationship with Stonewall, suggesting the university should “give careful and thorough consideration to the relative benefits and disbenefits of its relationship with Stonewall, bearing in mind the issues raised in this report”.

This is noted particularly regarding how “this relationship appears to have given University members the impression that gender critical academics can legitimately be excluded from the institution”. But it’s clear the review’s findings reflect generally on the legal advice regarding sex and gender that Stonewall has presumably persistently provided to Essex as a member of the Champions programme. As yet, Essex hasn’t renounced its membership — but surely this will come soon.

Not soon enough, however. And that stands for the vast number of public organisations that have also been blindly following Stonewall’s guide. It’s not only matters of law on which the public has been misled, after all. Just think about Stonewall’s general unconditional evangelism of “gender-identity” ideology.

The way in which this ideology has taken hold has not only put some of the most vulnerable children in our society on a medical pathway towards to infertility and long-term health risks, but also to the homophobic assertion that it’s wrong for a gay woman to refuse to have sex with a male-bodied transwoman. Yet Stonewall still claims to be a leading gay-rights charity — as, of course, it once was.

It’s devastating that a charity that has done so much good has fallen so far. But it’s not unthinkable. It never is. Whenever we assume that charities are beyond reproach, we leave unprotected those people they claim to protect, and are at risk of violating basic rights.