Britain’s “desperation” for post-Brexit trade must not allow ministers to turn a blind eye to global human rights violations, Shami Chakrabarti has warned.
Labour’s Shadow Attorney General said Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson should be pressuring China and India to outlaw marital rape - but she feared the Government may “muffle our values” in order to strike trade deals.
She told HuffPost UK: “There are some very big countries with big economies that are not where they should be on women’s rights.
“China and India have not made it a criminal offence to rape your wife, and it is 2017 and that’s not good enough.
“Given that Boris Johnson is not averse to upsetting foreign powers, he might as well upset them for a good reason for a change.
“I’m worried that, like Theresa May’s unseemly haste to rush off to the White House, when it comes to human rights and women’s rights that we muffle our values and our voice because of our desperation to do trade deals.
“I do believe in critical friendship and I do think we have to be louder in our criticism of their policies.”
The Liberty director turned Labour peer also voiced concern Brexit threatened to disempower people as she singled out access to justice as “the last stand”.
Slamming the so-called Henry VIII powers sought in the Brexit Bill, she said: “I don’t believe that the Tories in Government since 2010 have respected the rule of law.
“This is a government that cannot cope with dissent. It is a government that doesn’t want checks and balances. It is a government that wants absolute power. It is a government that will take power back from Europe but not share it with the devolved governments or with Parliament.
“It is a power grab and it is really dangerous. Access to justice is the real rub - it is the last stand. If we don’t have access to justice anymore, then you are going to have tyranny.”
She also feared the independence of the judiciary was under threat because ministers have failed to defend it.
She added: “You cannot have civilisation, let alone democracy and let alone the progressive kind of democracy that I want to see, without the rule of law.
“That, to my mind, means independent referees who are not swayed or intimidated by politics and the media.
“The ‘enemies of the people’ campaign, and I’m going to call it a campaign, that was run in various newspapers to different degrees and was, if not tacitly encouraged, then certainly not condemned by the Conservative Government. That was an absolute disgrace.
“Frankly, I think many Conservative Prime Ministers would have been spinning in their graves.”
Chakrabarti has written a book called ‘Of Women: In The 21st Century’ in which she describes the global gender bias as a kind of “apartheid”.
“I don’t use that word lightly,” she said. “I use that word because I do believe that there is a segregation that is institutional.
“It’s worse, in a way, than apartheid, because it isn’t going on in one country in one period of time: it is global in its reach, it is millennial in its duration.”
She vowed to champion “feminomics” in Parliament and hinted a universal basic income could see women’s unpaid childcare and housework valued properly.
“This is a radical moment in politics and it either goes one way or another,” she said. “I am convinced the women’s cause must not be left behind.”
There is a backlash against feminism, personified in US President Donald Trump, the barrister added.
“His election was a tragedy for feminism,” she said. “I’m concerned about him holding Mrs May hand and her not shaking it off.
“He is supposed to be the leader of the free world and the USA is a great old democracy where women had the vote before women in Britain had the vote.
“And he stole the keys to the White House from the woman who was the favourite and he is arguably an internet troll himself.
“Just the iconography of his election and what he seems to represent is really troubling.”
She added: “The important thing is that we don’t normalise this and get used to Donald Trump being in the White House. If he does come to Britain any time soon, I hope we come together and give him the thunderous welcome that he truly deserves.”
Chakrbarti faced a barrage of criticism after accepting a Labour peerage in the wake of chairing a controversial inquiry into anti-semitism in the party.
It concluded Labour was “not overrun by anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, or other forms of racism,” despite an “occasionally toxic atmosphere”, and many viewed her review as a whitewash.
It has been, she admitted, a difficult year in which she has received a lot of online abuse.
The abuse was being experienced by countless women and was a sign of the times, she said.
She said: “Being called nasty things isn’t nice but it’s nothing compared to what some of my colleagues [she picks out the Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott] and what women elsewhere in the world have to face.
“This is a very divisive moment in politics and on this planet. I didn’t build the wall but the wall came down and I know which side I am on.”