July 16: Although quite surprisingly but inevitably, five daughters of hereditary peers are taking the government to the European Court of Human Rights to challenge the law that bars women from standing for election to the House of Lords.
For a slight contextual understanding, the members of House of Lords are called “Peers”, which is why the ‘House of Lords’ in the United Kingdom is also called the ‘House of Peers’. The House of Lords Act 1999 removed the entitlement of most of the hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords. The last creation of a non-royal hereditary per occurred in 1984. Life peers and 92 hereditary peers still retain the right to sit and vote in the House of Lords, though their powers are limited. When a chair of any peer vacates due to some circumstances, the by-elections are conducted within three months of such incident. Those who are named in the Register of Hereditary Peers can be the contestants. As for now, except one all the hereditary peers are male.
The ladies are being represented by DLA Piper law firm in the case, who will present forth to the Honorable Bench the orthodox system of primogeniture, which means preferring males over females for passing down the father’s estate. Under the system, even an illegitimate son has an edge over daughters. This makes them contend that they are being stripped off their human rights as they can’t stand for by-elections to the Lords, although some titles are created by writ and can be inherited by a woman. The case forms a crucial part of the “daughters’ right” campaign, stating the conservative practice as discriminatory on the grounds of gender and breach of the right of free election. The group aims to get the word “male” removed from legislation, so that daughters of hereditary peers have “the same rights to sit in the House of Lords as their brothers, uncles and nephews”.
The case would be directly heard in European Court because national courts don’t have the jurisdiction to adjudicate any provision based on legality of parliamentary procedure.