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Royal Family must lose Equality Act exemption after Meghan Markle’s racism claims, say campaigners

Emma Powys Maurice March 18, 2021

Oprah Winfrey interviews Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (Harpo/Joe Pugliese/ Getty)

Campaigners are calling for the Royal Family to be stripped of their Equality Act exemptions after Meghan Markle’s racism allegations.

The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination, harassment and victimisation in wider society, and all public sector organisations have a legal obligation to adhere to it – all of them, that is, except the Royal Family.

The royal household is funded by the taxpayer and recognised by the Treasury as a public body, but is granted a special exemption from the sweeping legislation. Patrick Vernon OBE, a prominent equalities campaigner, says it’s time for that to change.

“We need to consider changing race equality legislation to ensure that Royal Family and also private members’ clubs are brought in line with the rest of society,” he told The Independent.

The Equality Act comprises 12 protected characteristics, including race, religion, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, pregnancy and disability.

If forced to comply with the Equality Act like all other public bodies, the Equality and Human Rights Commission would be free to investigate allegations raised by Meghan Markle and Prince Harry in their Oprah interview, or at least undertake an independent review on race equality.

“It was quite clear from hearing Meghan that she had at least had three protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act where she experienced discrimination as a pregnant, mixed-race woman with mental health problems,” Vernon said.

“If Meghan was working for the NHS or the Met Police, she would have the right to take forward action.”

He continued: “It feeds to wider discourse around white fragility and the to need to include Afriphobia as another ground for discrimination, which pertains to people of African descent and heritage.

“We recognise antisemitism and Islamophobia – but society and major institutions do not acknowledge anti-blackness, which is a major factor in how Black people are discriminated against in the workplace, receiving healthcare, at school and the criminal justice system.”

Vernon’s sentiments were echoed by Stand Up To Racism, a campaign group comprising thousands of memberships across the UK, as well as Black Lives Matter UK, which told The Independent that the monarchy is “historically rooted in colonialism and white supremacy” and Harry and Meghan’s concerns only reflect this.

“The treatment of Meghan Markle is only further evidence that black people in Britain cannot escape racism, even if they are situated in the nation’s wealthiest and most powerful institutions,” a spokesperson said.

Meghan and Harry’s interview with Oprah has prompted renewed scrutiny of the treatment Meghan in particular has received.

There was widespread outrage after Piers Morgan claimed he didn’t believe a word Meghan had said in the interview, and after the Society of Editors, which claims to protect the freedom of the media, denied there was racism in the press.

Both Morgan and the Society’s executive director subsequently stepped down, while Meghan has lodged a formal complaint about Morgan’s Good Morning Britain outburst, it’s understood.

More: Equality Act, meghan markle, prince harry, Royal family

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