17 years ago, the Human Rights Act became law in the UK and we think that's worth celebrating!

To mark the occasion, over 17 days we are 'unwrapping' the Human Rights Act - with information & stories, we'll be sharing how the Act works and how it makes a difference. Many of the stories include examples taken from BIHR's work with people, community groups and public services.

Article 14: Right not to be discriminated against

The Human Rights Act protects our right not to be discriminated against in relation to any of the other human rights in the Act. This right fulfills the 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 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: right not to be discriminated against in relation to any of the other human rights listed here

Transgender patient is able to use the appropriate toilet after previously being denied

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)

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 using 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 and their right to liberty. 

(Example from BIHR's work)