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Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Figure 1. Anti-abortion protest outside the US Department of Justice. Source: Unsplash.

The motto, “liberty, equality, fraternity”, appearing first in the French Revolution of 1787, has formed the current basis for human rights. It brought together legal guarantees of civil liberties and the idea that reason should guide human actions. Liberal democracies are built on the foundation of human rights. They are critical in the effectiveness of the state’s functions. Human rights are basic rights that every individual is entitled to. Such rights are ascribed to each one of us ‘naturally’ thus, they are neither earned nor can they be denied on a basis of gender, race, religion or ethnicity.  

Figure 2. Work of art concerning the #MeToo movement against sexual abuse and harassment. Source: Unsplash.

Advocacy for human rights has gained momentum today with the purpose to “increase safeguards for the dignity of the person.” The importance of human rights lies in the fact that they are essential in the achievement of peace, development, democracy, and the rule of law[1]. Equality is ensured for all residents and citizens alike, across governments, through the imposition of legal provisions.

Figure 3.Painting depicting protest against racial discrimination. Source: Unsplash.

Discrimination is an aspect of human rights infringement. It occurs when an individual is unable to enjoy his or her human or legal rights because they are treated unequally in relation to others. It can take several forms; direct, indirect, and intersectional (combined forms of discrimination targeted to a particular group). Article fourteen in the Human Rights Act (HRA) of 1998, prohibits discrimination on the grounds of “sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status”. The phrase ‘other status’ encompasses sexual preferences, marital status, imprisonment, and disability. The Equality Act (2010) is equally significant, protecting British citizens from discrimination, victimisation as well as harassment.

Figure 4. In the banner it is supported that without justice there can be no peace achieved. Source: Unsplash.

The significance of human rights in upholding justice against discrimination is depicted in the following cases. In Mander v Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (2019), the couple of Indian Sikh heritage were denied the adoption of a child. Reena and Sandeep Mander, born and raised in England, after many unsuccessful attempts to have their own child, looked to adopt from their local adoption agency. The agents, on finding out of their Indian heritage, were denied access on the basis that the agency had only white children, thus claiming that it did not match their cultural heritage. The Family Court held that there was direct discrimination as the couple was denied equal access to adopting a child. Denial to adopt is a further violation of Article 12 (right to marry and found a family) of the HRA, used as a means of denying a couple to start their own family. 

Figure 5.”We who believe in freedom cannot rest” was stated by Ella Baker, a human and civil rights leader, during the US Civil Rights movement in 1964. Source: Unsplash.

The conjoined cases of TP, AR & Patricia Reynolds v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (2020), is another evidence of discrimination. The first case of TP and AR, a mother and a daughter concerned the termination of legacy benefit on TP’s daughter suffering from sickle cell anaemia. In the second case, Patricia Reynolds, a woman with rheumatoid arthritis and spondylitis, had her legacy benefits unlawfully terminated as well. Both had to claim Universal Credit (UC) when the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions stopped their benefits. The Court of Appeal found that certain aspects of the UC concerning the treatment of disabled people were discriminatory. The judgment is vital in the protection of the rights of disabled individuals without being discriminated. 

Figure 6. Fountain of Justice in Bern, Switzerland symbolising the supremacy of Justice over Earthly authorities. Source: Unsplash.

On an international level, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 has established in Article One that, “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. Nevertheless, the struggle to achieve equality still remains prominent. Therefore, each nation should ensure their citizens are entitled to human rights. Support for human rights provides accountability for violations of humanitarian issues. Addressing such infringements reaffirms the maintenance of the rule of law; simply that everyone is subject to the law. 

Undeniably, the passing of a legislation is a cornerstone in the elimination of discrimination. Unfortunately, in many states, statutes only function as de jure[2] and not de facto[3]. Namely, although there is a legislation in place, it is not adopted. To achieve equality, it is essential for each government to enforce the statute and scrutinise the different public authorities. Furthermore, the changing of attitudes through educational campaigns is essential as well because it is through education that one learns to appreciate the different cultures, realises the importance of both genders in the workforce and understands that barriers such as colour, religion, race or language do not and should not ever matter.

Figure 7. The inspiration to this picture comes from Michelangelo’s painting, the Creation of Adam, depicting the hands of God and man in close proximiting. Nevertheless, this one portrays the gap between race and the still existence of racial discrimination. Source: Unsplash.

It is natural, as the social identity theory suggests, that a person does not have one identity but rather, several ones that correspond to different group memberships — to favour one group over the other depending on their interests. However, it is vital to move beyond limitations and realise that a world without colour would be monotonous and without interest. It is rather our differences that bring us together, not our similarities. 

[1] The rule of law is a fundamental doctrine by which every person is subject to the law and must obey it.

[2] In accordance with the law.

[3] Being in effect in law but not recognised.

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