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“Human rights” can feel like an abstract concept, something talked about by politicians and policymakers but disconnected from our everyday lives. But human rights are, and should be, central to all 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, which incorporates into UK law the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR also forms the foundation of Scottish legislation through the devolution settlement set out in the Scotland Act 1998. These rights are vital to living with dignity, with respect, and with freedom, and it should protect us all.
However, our human rights legislation, as it currently stands, does not always protect the most marginalised people, particularly those facing multiple and intersecting marginalisation. More is needed to protect LGBTI+ people, and to ensure that human rights are for all.
The Scottish Government, based on recommendations from their national taskforce on human rights leadership, have pledged to introduce a new Human Rights Bill for Scotland, and with it the incorporation of four international human rights treaties. This matters for the simple reason that incorporating international human rights into domestic Scots 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: that discrimination is not welcome here, and that there are consequences for not upholding everyone’s rights.
These treaties are: The ICESCR, UNCRPD, CEDAW and CERD. While these are welcome developments, it is notable that LGBTI+ people have no explicit protections within these treaties. We are currently working alongside the Civil Society Working Group to explore putting an “Equalities Clause” in the new bill, that would offer better protection of LGBTI+ people in Scotland. To achieve this aim, we have set up a working group that will focus on LGBTI+ protections, and we will use this collaborative work to feed into those leading on the new Human Rights Bill. This group has representation from across the LGBTI+ sector, the human rights sector, and human rights academics.
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Equality Network is a national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights charity.
The Equality Network is a registered Scottish charity: SC037852, and a company limited by guarantee: SC220213.
We are grateful for funding from the Scottish Government