York student shortlisted for human rights award

York student and campaigner Maria Munir outside 10 Downing Street. Image. Maria Munir

York student and campaigner Maria Munir outside 10 Downing Street. Image. Maria Munir

York postgraduate student Maria Munir has been nominated for an award by the human rights organisation Liberty for their work highlighting the inequality which exists in UK law relating to non-binary persons. Maria, who is nominated for the Christine Jackson Young Person Award, campaigned to raise awareness that the 2010 Equality Act does not extend its provisions to non-binary citizens and that an estimated 252,000 people are not recognised by this act.

Maria is a well-known campaigner on non-binary issues. Whilst an undergraduate student at York, Maria campaigned successfully to get the application process changed for the Civil Service Fast Stream and the introduction of gender-neutral toilets within civil service buildings. Furthermore, Maria has also campaigning to have better health service provision for non-binary people as well as the introduction of ‘X’ for gender on UK passports.

Maria attracted world-wide attention after famously coming out as non-binary to US president Barack Obama during his state visit to Britain. They challenged the President to do more for LGBTQ+ people in the US state of North Carolina following the state’s decision to force transgender citizens to use the bathrooms according to their birth gender. Mr Obama later wrote to Maria praising their courage and stating that Maria was “Changing people’s hearts and minds through the power of example”.

President Obama sent Maria a letter praising their work on non-binary rights. Image. Maria Munir.

President Obama sent Maria a letter praising their work on non-binary rights. Image. Maria Munir.

On their nomination, Maria said: “I was taken by surprise to hear of my nomination, but I gratefully accept. Gender equality is so important; it intrinsically impacts our ability to access opportunities in life. Gender non-conforming people are automatically denied a lot of those opportunities, and I intend to keep fighting for their right to representation in all sectors of life.”

Maria told Nouse that “In a climate of uncertainty under this government, it’s up to us as students to use our skills and expertise to stand up for the rights of those who have traditionally been overlooked.”

The Director of Liberty Martha Spurrier, commenting on Maria’s shortlisting for the award said: “Putting justice and fairness ahead of their own safety, Maria is the epitome of a human rights campaigner. In the process they have secured the attention of the world, their bravery changing many lives in an instant. Spurrier also added: “Maria has already achieved so much – and there is no doubt they will make a profound and lasting contribution to rights protection in the UK and beyond.”

The Awards will take place on 26 October at London’s Royal Court Theatre.

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