The Weekly Round-Up: no-fault divorce, Russia’s suspension and support for trans rights
12 April 2022
In the news:
Russia has been suspended from the Human Rights Council following a UN General Assembly resolution adopted on Thursday. 93 nations voted in favour of Russia’s suspension, 58 abstained and 24 voted against. The resolution was adopted in a meeting of a special emergency session on the war in Ukraine. Before the vote, Ukranian ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya alleged that “thousands of peaceful residents [of Ukraine] have been killed, tortured, raped, abducted and robbed by the Russian Army”. Following Russia’s suspension, Russian Deputy Permanent Representative Kuzmin announced that Russia had decided to leave the Council before the end of its term and that the Council was monopolised by states that “for many years have directly been involved in blatant and massive violations of human rights”. Earlier last week, Twitter limited content from over 300 official Russian government accounts, including that of President Putin.
On Wednesday the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020) came into force, introducing no-fault divorce to domestic law. Couples no longer need rely on adultery, unreasonable behaviour or years of separation as legal reasons for divorce and can instead separate by mutual agreement and avoid “unnecessary finger-pointing”. The Act also removes the possibility of disputing a decision to divorce and introduces a minimum 20-week period from the start of proceedings to the granting of a conditional order of divorce.
In other news:
Following the government’s announcement that it will ban conversion therapy for sexual orientation, but not for gender identity, more than 100 organisations have pulled out of what was to be the first-ever international LGBT+ conference. The UK was set to host to this first-of-its-kind conference, called “Safe to Be Me”. Following the boycott by so many organisations however, the government has cancelled the event. Several LGBT+ organisations signed an open letter, organised by Stonewall, saying they could not support the conference unless the government extended the ban on conversion therapy to cover attempts to convert transgender people. On Tuesday the government’s first LGBT+ business champion resigned over the exclusion of trans conversion therapy from the ban.
Data from this year’s gender pay gap reporting mechanism revealed that women in the UK are still paid on average 90p for every £1 earned by men. Some well-known employers with particularly damaging reports include EasyJet, where women earned on average just 36p for every £1 earned by men, and HSBC Bank, whose male employees earned on average twice the amount of their female counterparts.
In the courts:
- Privacy International, R (On the Application Of) v Investigatory Powers Tribunal)  EWHC 770 (QB) – the High Court dismissed an application for judicial review by the claimant Privacy International. The claimant contended that the defendant Investigatory Powers Tribunal had erred in law in finding that the regulatory regime for sharing bulk personal datasets with foreign intelligence services was compatible with Article 8 of the ECHR. According to the claimant, the datasets were not obtained with end-to-end safeguards, sharing was not limited to data collected and stored in a compliant way, and the circumstances in which data might be shared was not clear in law. The court dismissed the application, holding that the tribunal did not err in law and correctly identified measures necessary to comply with Article 8.
- Allen v Primark Stores Ltd  EAT 57 – the claimant alleged that a provision, criterion or practice (PCP) by her employer amounted to indirect sex discrimination as she was required to be available for late shifts, which she could not guarantee due to childcare responsibilities. The Employment Appeals Tribunal held that the Employment Tribunal (ET) had erred in its test of indirect discrimination by including in the pool for comparison two men who did not experience the same PCP of requiring their late shift availability. The ET had thereby failed to address the specific PCP and its finding that the PCP did not discriminate against women was unfounded. The claimant’s appeal was allowed and the matter remitted for rehearing.
- Her Majesty’s Attorney General for England and Wales v British Broadcasting Corporation  EWHC 826 (QB) – the High Court will issue an injunction to prevent the BBC from disclosing the name and image of an individual, “X”, in a television programme. The programme would broadcast allegations that X is an extremist and misogynist who abused two former partners and used his status as a Covert Human Intelligence Source (CHIS) for MI5 to terrorise and control them. The court agreed that X may pose significant danger to women in a relationship with him but found that the public interest in knowing X’s identity (to protect other women considering a relationship with X from his abuse) would be undermined by the extensive protective measures which would be implemented to protect X as a CHIS. The injunction will therefore prevent identification of X but allow the BBC to convey the main story elements, including allegations that MI5 should have known about X’s abusive behaviour and stopped using him as a CHIS.
On the UKHRB: