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10th December is International Human Rights Day – what does that mean for LGBTI people?

“Human rights” can feel like an abstract concept, talked about by politicians and policymakers, disconnected from our everyday lives. But human rights are, and should be, central to our lives. The right to life, to freedom of thought, to education, to health, to a fair trial, to not be discriminated against; these rights and more are enshrined within the UK’s Human Rights Act 1998. They form the foundation of Scottish legislation through the devolution settlement. This legislation is vital to living with dignity, with respect, and with freedom, and it should protect us.

But does it?

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that it does not. It is clear that some people are more equal than others. Our human rights legislation, as it currently stands, does not always protect the most marginalised people. Add to this our withdrawal from the EU, and with it the disapplication of EU equality law guarantees, and we begin to see how fragile our human rights are. Add to this that the UK government is in the process of reviewing the Human Rights Act, with the potential outcome of changing or weakening this, and we are teetering on a knife edge.

The watering down of our human rights should matter to us all, not least if we consider ourselves to be a ‘modern democracy’, but because real harm is happening to real people. When we begin to roll back rights, everyone suffers, and everyone is at risk. But there is hope, and this Human Rights Day, we have an opportunity to make a real difference.

The Scottish Government, based on recommendations from their National Taskforce, have pledged to introduce a new Human Rights Bill for Scotland, and with it the incorporation of four international human rights treaties. For more, see here.

This matters for the simple reason that incorporating international human rights into domestic law makes those rights enforceable, ultimately in the courts. These four treaties are more comprehensive in scope than what we currently have, and they send a clear message: discrimination is not welcome here, and there are consequences for not upholding everyone’s rights.

The incorporation of these treaties could shift the balance of power; it could be a step towards making our human rights real, towards embedding a ‘culture’ of human rights, and to putting those most marginalised at the centre of policies and actions of governments.

Currently there are no specific mentions of LGBTI people within treaties, so we are working with the National Taskforce, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Consortium Scotland to ensure that LGBTI people are protected. When we look to the future amid COVID-19, Brexit, and a review of the Human rights Act, this is crucial.

On this Human Rights Day, we look to a future when all of our community is free from human rights violations.

 

 

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