21 March 2018

70 years ago the world came together to set down the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the rights we should all enjoy simply because we are human. This year we'll be celebrating universal human rights, and bringing them home in the Human Rights Act which also marks its 20th anniversary. Join us in the celebrations and sign our digital birthday card for universal human rights here. Read on to learn more about what these rights mean in our everyday lives...

The right to non-discrimination was set down in Article 2 of the UDHR, and is now protected in UK law through Article 14 of the Human Rights Act. This Article protects our right not to be discriminated against in relation to any of the other human rights in the Act. This right fulfills the key principle that everybody has the same human rights, and that we should all have equal access to them.

This means that the right not to be discriminated against must be used along with another right in the Human Rights Act. We call it a 'piggy-back' right. For example, if government policy means you cannot access your benefits because you are a family carer then you can challenge it based on your right to possessions (your benefits) and your right not to be discriminated against because you're a family carer. The Human Rights Act, unlike other discrimination laws like the Equality Act 2010, is open-ended. It says you cannot be discriminated against for a list of reasons like sex, age, race, language, religion and also 'other status', for example, family carer status. 

In real life: non-English speakers detained under the Mental Health Act without interpreter

A mental health hospital had a practice of detaining asylum seekers using the Mental Health Act without access to an interpreter even if they spoke little or no English. Members of a user-led mental health befriending scheme used human rights language to successfully challenge this practice after attending a BIHR session. 

They were able to argue that it breached the asylum seekers' right not to be discriminated against on the basis of language with regard to their right to liberty. 

(Example from BIHR's work)

In real life: transgender patient is able to use the appropriate toilet

A transgender patient in mental health hospital was told by staff that he would have to use the female toilet. The hospital had communal bathrooms, so this caused him great distress. He was holding off using the bathroom and as a result was wetting himself.

His advocate spoke to the medical director of the hospital using his right to be free from discrimination (protected by Article 14 in the Human Rights Act) in conjunction with his right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3 in the Human Rights Act). He was then allowed to use the male toilet.

(Example from BIHR’s protect Care and Support: A Human Rights Approach to Advocacy)

Take action, join in!

Show your support and sign our digital 70th birthday card for universal human rights here - it's a quick and simple way to have your voice heard and join others across the UK.

Remember we're running a digital campaign between 14 - 23 March; follow the discussion on social media using #MarchforHumanRights and #celebrating70. We'd love for you to join the conversation.

Check out our 70 years of universal human rights hub for more ways to join in.