A Feminist Review of the Human Rights Act
Announcing the Independent Human Rights Act Review in December 2020, the then Justice Secretary Robert Buckland gave one concrete example of why the Review was necessary: the House of Lords “essentially strik[ing] down” the rape shield in the case of R v. A (Complainant’s Sexual History)  UKHL 25.
At the Conservative Party Conference in October 2021, the new Justice Secretary Dominic Raab also implied that the HRA is harmful for victims of gendered crimes when he highlighted a case in which a person “convicted of beating his ex-partner” could not be deported due to his right to family life.
While opponents of the HRA have long portrayed the Act as a ‘criminal’s charter’, this implication that it poses a particular threat to women is more recent and appears deliberate. But what has been the impact of the HRA on women’s rights?
As the Independent Human Rights Act Review reported at the end of October 2021, we ask what a Feminist Review of the Human Rights Act would find.
The workshop considered three broad, related questions:
- What have been the uses and limitations of the HRA for women and those of minority sexes, genders and sexual orientations?
- Where the HRA has not been helpful for women’s or SOGI rights claims, to what extent is this a failure of ‘rights’ discourse in general, the limitations of the substantive rights under the ECHR in particular, and/or the structure or application of the HRA in the UK courts?
- What is the potential for the future of the HRA? How/Should it be reformed to better protect women’s and SOGI rights? Or should rights claims be replaced with something else entirely?
This workshop was free courtesy of funding from the British Academy and co-hosted by Prof Nicola Barker (University of Liverpool) and Feminist Legal Studies.
Introduction and Panel 1
An Overview of the Independent Human Rights Act Review and the Government’s Proposals
Nicola Barker (Liverpool) Gender-Auditing the Human Rights Act
Harriet Samuels (Westminster) – Feminist Influence and the HRA in Public Interest Litigation
Kay Lalor (MMU) – Feminist Jurisprudences and Intersex Embodiment: The Possibilities and Limits of a Feminist Reading of the Human Rights Act 1998 for Intersex Rights
Loveday Hodson (Leicester) – SOGI rights under the Human Rights Act: marginalising Strasbourg's influence before the English courts
Angela O’Hagan (Glasgow Caledonian University and Women’s Budget Group) - Applying Human Rights to Address Gendered Economic Inequalities
Merris Amos (Queen Mary) – Challenges and Opportunities: Using the Human Rights Act to Protect Social Rights
Katie Cruz (Bristol) – ‘My Body, My Business’: Privacy, Discrimination and (De)criminalisation
Nikki Godden-Rasul (University of Newcastle) – Vulnerability and Positive Human Rights Obligations: The Case of Policing Sexual Violence
Shazia Choudhry (Oxford) – When Women’s Rights Are Not Human Rights: the Non Performativity of Human Rights for Survivors of Domestic Abuse in the Family Courts in England
Ruth Fletcher (Queen Mary) – Rights as Time-Tools