Discrimination, based on ignorance or prejudice, has been the cause of some of the world’s most horrendous human rights abuses.
While the UK and other comparable democracies have made great strides in reducing discrimination over the last fifty years, we still have a long way to go.
This means, for example, that protection against torture does not apply only to people of certain faiths; your right to liberty does not depend on your nationality; the right to protest does not depend on your political views
Protection from discrimination is one of the most fundamental human rights without which many other rights would be meaningless.
What is discrimination?
Discrimination can be both direct and indirect:
- Direct discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably than others on the basis of their race, ethnicity, nationality, disability, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status etc;
- Indirect discrimination can occur when a person applies policies and criteria that, while not discriminatory on their face, are discriminatory in practice. So, for example, a mandatory and unnecessary requirement that all employees work on a Saturday may discriminate against members of the Jewish faith whose faith requires them not to.
While the UK has a proud recent record of legislating to make discrimination unlawful, all too often policies and laws are exercised in a discriminatory manner:
- In particular many young people face discrimination on a daily basis. Children face discrimination in the criminal justice system, in the continued use of the Mosquito device, in the provision of goods and services, and are all too often demonised and alienated;
- ID cards would have done little for our race relations. One of Liberty’s key concerns about the scheme was that it would have led to a form of internal immigration control heightening existing inequalities;
- Section 44 stop and search without suspicion has been used disproportionately against black and ethnic minority groups;
- DNA is often taken on arrest and even when a person is not charged let alone convicted it can be retained for six years. As black and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately represented in arrest rates, our DNA retention regime has had a hugely discriminatory impact on these groups.
Recent Liberty religious freedom cases:
More recently Liberty has represented clients in discrimination cases, including in the case of a Sikh schoolgirl excluded from her school for wearing the kara (a plain single bangle widely accepted as a central tenet of the Sikh race and religion). Read more about this case.
Liberty also represented Nadia Eweida, who was forced to take unpaid leave when her employer, British Airways, would not allow her to wear a visible Christian cross because it was in breach of the uniform policy. After Liberty’s intervention BA amended its policy to appropriately respect freedom of religion. Find out more about this case in this press release or watch this short news video.