A Year In Rights: 2021
Equality / 22 Dec 2021

A Year In Rights: 2021

By Hannah Shewan Stevens, Freelance Journalist
Credit: Sora Shimazaki / Pexels

As 2021 draws to an end, EachOther reflects on the past year by looking back at the highlights of our coverage.

As a small team, we are unable to cover every single human rights question that arises in the UK, much as we wish we could. However, we work hard to cover the most significant human rights issues affecting people in the UK, including by shining a light on aspects of them that are rarely discussed. 

We have broken down our coverage from January through to December here to summarise the top stories of 2021.

Credit: Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash

January

Kicking off the year, we shared news of the Leonard Cheshire charity’s campaign ‘Possibility With Disability’, with an opinion piece written by Dr Stephen Duckworth OBE. We dived into why it’s crucial to understand the social model of disability, which places the responsibility for disability on the institutional barriers society creates and imposes.  

At the end of the previous year, two men had been convicted of manslaughter after 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead in a lorry trailer in Essex. In a post written by Mariko Hayashi, a researcher on migration and human rights, we were reminded that dangerous people smuggling will continue until there are safer and more legal routes to access the UK as an immigrant or refugee. 

Next up, we covered a former British Army legal officer’s criticism of the Overseas Operations Bill, which the government said would provide “greater legal protections to Armed forces personnel and veterans serving on military operations overseas” by “raising the threshold for the prosecution of alleged offences”.

Soldiers of B Company of 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment line up to board a Royal Air Force Hercules at RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire.

Credit: Defence Images / Flickr

Alongside our documentary film on the impact of school exclusions – Excluded – guest writer Erin Campbell, a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, proclaimed that being excluded is a direct violation of children’s right to education.  

Next, we published a feature exploring the impact of period poverty. Brought to wider public attention following a report from charity Freedom For Girls in March 2017, the issue affects many people’s day-to-day lives. 

Covering the impact racism from teachers has on children and young people, guest writer Alice Bettis March attested that prejudice and discrimination in the classroom need urgent attention. Another guest writer, Misha Nayak-Oliver, campaigns and advocacy lead for Just Fair, wrote about the human rights benefits of the Covid-19 vaccine

Wrapping up the month, Jem Collins represented the experience of self-employed mothers who had been left behind by government support during the pandemic. Lastly, Aziz Foundation Journalism intern Zeena Elhassan covered the unequal impact of climate change on marginalised communities

Credit: Supplied

February

Dr Sanjiv Lingayah, writer, researcher and consultant, covered the publication of a new report by Race On The Agenda. Then, we highlighted the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on reporting, treating and preventing female genital mutilation (FGM). 

Reflecting on the devastating impact of coronavirus, we interviewed human rights activist and barrister Jonathan Cooper OBE about the parallels between the current pandemic and the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Tragically, Jonathan passed away later in the year. In another interview, this time with the director of a short film tackling conversion therapy, we heard how Shaun O’Connor used his film to shine a spotlight on the devastating impact the practice has on LGBTQ+ people. In mid-February, we covered the impact marriage cancellations have had on couples’ mental wellbeing and news that leading human rights groups had decided to boycott a review of the government’s controversial Prevent strategy.

three photos show two couples on th eedge and a single woman in the middle

Credit: Supplied

February saw some good news when the UK Supreme Court ruled that Uber drivers are, in fact, workers and are not self-employed. Brought to the court by two former Uber drivers, the case dismissed Uber’s claims that drivers are self-employed, meaning that tens of thousands of drivers across the country should be entitled to holiday pay and the minimum wage. 

As schools began to return after covid closures, experts outlined concerns that the right to education was being wrongly prioritised over children’s right to play, which could risk a long-term mental health crisis. In other school news, we reported on new research from The Traveller Movement which found that 40% of young Gypsies and Travellers in London had experienced bullying. 

Late in February, news broke that Shamima Begum, who left east London to join IS when she was 15, would not be allowed to return home to challenge the Home Office’s decision to revoke her citizenship. The Supreme Court concurred with the Court of Appeal and blocked her from returning. 

Credit: Youtube / ITV News

March

March began with highlighting a campaign to introduce a new option of “Mx” on forms that require people to give a title. Tom Pashby, who is non-binary, said: “I’ve been publicly non-binary and campaigning on this kind of thing for a fair amount of time. But I’m still just at the mercy of corporations to decide whether or not they’re going to address me properly.” 

Following that, Alexandra Sinclair, a research fellow at the Public Law Project, wrote that the country needs to reform secondary legislation, particularly after the impact of the pandemic. After the Chancellor announced his budget on 3 March, anti-poverty charities estimated it would plunge an additional 500,000 people into poverty by the end of the year. Then, we profiled Ife Thompson, a campaigner who co-founded Black Learning Achievement and Mental Health (BLAM UK), about what motivates her advocacy work. 

Protesters campaign against the proposed coal mine

Credit: Courtesy of Maggie Mason / South Lakes Action on Climate Change

In local news, we covered the campaign against a proposed deep coal mine in Cumbria. With environmental campaigners concerned that the project would undermine the UK’s plans to cut carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050, the project is currently on hold. Alongisde this, we reported on freedom of information data revealing that the number of women being detained under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act rose by more than 25% in some areas of England during the first lockdown.  

In an exploratory feature, Khadija Kothia, another Aziz Foundation intern, questioned whether the UK is adequately protecting our right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief. Following a year of being sequestered in our homes, Kothia then reflected on how local communities can bring our rights to life. Rounding off the month, we reported on a High Court ruling that parents can consent to their children being prescribed puberty blockers.

April

We covered The Traveller Movement’s encouragement of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities to use their vote in upcoming elections to help protect their rights, with their #OperationTravellerVote campaign. On 16 March, the Scottish Government voted to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into law, becoming the first country in the UK to fully do so. 

In a landmark statement, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust declared that the roots of the trust’s wealth stem from “slavery, colonialism and white supremacy.” They revealed research that showed the Rowntree company had purchased goods produced by enslaved people.

Succeeding that, we published on the introduction of the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act, which granted certain people working for a range of government bodies powers to commit crimes, including murder, while carrying out their duties. Then, we covered the potential of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to criminalise the lives of Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities.

Credit: Izabela Mierzejewski / Unsplash

Unsurprising data highlighted the enduring inequalities in British newsrooms in March, so we explored the need for the UK media to reflect on its continued failure to authentically diversify teams. Meanwhile, we reported on how children have clung to their right to play during the pandemic

Later in the month, guest writer Calum Rosie argued that the UK’s prison system displays a lax approach to protecting the rights of its prisoners. In a guest post in ‘The Inspired Source’ series, volunteer writer Joanna Pienkowska wrote about human rights abuses suffered by asylum seekers housed in Napier army barracks. Adding to our series on the right to play, Dhruva Balram profiled Holly Stoppit, a facilitator, clowning and improvisation teacher and drama therapist, about the clowning workshops she offers.

Credit: Mitchel Lensink / Unsplash

May

In May, ministers unveiled proposals to make photographic identification a requirement to vote in future elections. We covered the potential fallout extensively. Starting with the general risk to electors’ right to vote freely and fairly, followed by an exploration of whether voters are utilising their right to vote and concluding with a dive into the potential impact on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in particular. 

Next up, we reviewed the impact of the pandemic on income equality and poverty levels, particularly considering increased use of food banks. Wrapping up the month, we covered a report by Amnesty International and the Human Rights Consortium Scotland which revealed that decisions by politicians during the first wave of the pandemic threatened vulnerable Scots’ most basic human right, to life.

Credit: Elliott Stallion / Unsplash

June

June was a busy month which we started with the news that Covid-19 variants would be renamed to avoid any discriminatory stigma associated with them. For our first ‘The Inspired Source’ piece of the month, writer Erin McKelle looked into the discrimination that leads to autistic women being underdiagnosed and undertreated. 

Subsequently, we delved into the need to scrap the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, due to the threat it poses to human rights. In another feature exploring discrimination, we looked at how prisoners’ right to religion is affected by their incarceration and how it can be better protected.

A crow

Credit: Toni Reed / Unsplash

 

Succeeding that, we covered the news that the government planned to form a “powerful new workers’ watchdog” to shield workers’ rights and looked at how it would function. We then published a feature highlighting how disabled people forged communities during the pandemic and why this was so crucial during a time when they were being sidelined. As lockdown restrictions began to ease a little, we considered the right to request flexible working and how the end of the pandemic would impact workers

For Pride Month, we shared an opinion piece considering how the presence of police at Pride events can negatively impact the LGBTQ+ community. Then, we followed this up with a feature that outlined the importance of including disabled people at Pride events and ensuring that they are not discriminated against

With discussions of introducing vaccine passports heating up, we covered their rights-based implications. Afterward, we highlighted disturbing news that do not resuscitate orders (DNRS) were placed on disabled patients during the pandemic. To finish the month, we published a detailed explainer on the Serenity Integrated Mentoring scheme, a controversial addition to mental health services that critics argue was more likely to endanger patients’ rights than protect them.  

Credit: Pixabay

July

To introduce July, we reported on analysis showing that millions of children are attending British schools where air pollution is above the World Health Organisation’s limit.

Next, the United Nations Human Rights Council published a report on the impact of racism against people of African descent and called for global action to “make amends”. Following that, we wrote about the impact reparations can have and asked if and how they should be enacted

We also covered the news that a significant increase in anti-semitic hate crime had been exposed and reports that pupils in England were to be regularly weighed at school. With our next ‘The Inspired Source’ piece, Rachel Charlton-Dailey propounded that the disabled community was neglected and ignored by the government throughout the pandemic. Afterward, we ran a feature exploring how the government has failed to properly address the disability employment gap, which widened during the pandemic.

Credit: Flickr

Later, an inquiry concluded that the policing of the Clapham Common vigil in honour of Sarah Everard breached fundamental human rights. Then, we reported on a significant increase in stalking during the pandemic and the impact on the, typically, female victims’ right to privacy and freedom from discrimination. 

In mid-July, popular West End musical Six drew criticism for transferring to an inaccessible venue, with disabled patrons being left out of the fun. After this, we reported on the potential rights impacts of both the Nationality and Borders Bill and the Judicial Review and Courts Bill, which a coalition of campaigning organisations condemned

After The Pegasus Project hit headlines for all the wrong reasons, an investigation revealed that activists, journalists and politicians were among those believed to have been targeted by spyware developed by a private firm. In another opinion piece, following horrific racial abuse of football players after the Euros Final, freelance writer Michele Theil declared that Black football players deserve more respect on the pitch

In another addition to our ‘Visions of Human Rights’ series, we asked whether we should all have the right to housing. Closing out the month, we reported on discriminatory practices in early inductions of births and the rule change allowing gay men to donate blood more freely

Credit: Pranidchakan Boonrom / Pexels

August

After a report revealed rampant abuse of girls in schools, we asked whose responsibility it is to prevent continued abuse and protect girls’ rights in educational environments. Following actress Ruth Madeley’s experience of being harassed by a taxi driver, we questioned what makes disability hate crime so difficult to report and convict.  

News of a planned overhaul of the Official Secrets Act sent journalists into a frenzy following revelations that the updates could threaten press freedoms. Then, we discussed failures in children’s and young people’s mental healthcare and the resultant impact on their right to health.  

In August, we launched our first themed week of the year with our ‘Spaces of Human Rights’ video, which explores how social justice is helped or hindered by social media. Alongside it, we published a timeline of social media’s roles vis-a-vis human rights and an opinion piece arguing that social media activism can sometimes ring hollow.

A collage of stills from the latest EachOther video with 'Spaces of Human Rights' overlaid with white text on top.

Credit: EachOther

Diving further into racism in football, we published a feature considering why some football teams have begun boycotting social media to protect their players. In more disability news, York City Council came under fire for pedestrianising the city centre and blocking disabled access.

In another year with high sexual assault statistics, we asked whether the legal definition of rape needs to be updated to better protect victims. While Britney Spears made headlines in America for beginning her escape from a conservatorship, we explained what the UK equivalent is – a deputyship – and how it impacts people’s rights. 

In another ‘Visions’ feature, EachOther assessed whether homeless people should have more of a right to belongings and how this would function. Michele Theil came back for another ‘The Inspired Source’ feature on how a return to the office is also a return to microaggressions for minority ethnic groups

Nearing the end of Summer, the government faced criticism for its response to the Afghanistan crisis. After reports that some employers are considering pay cuts for remote workers, we judged whether this would infringe upon workers’ rights. We also contemplated whether the pandemic has eroded people’s right to freedom of expression and wrapped up the month with a reflective piece by Evie Muir on the impact of Notting Hill Carnival’s cancellation

Credi: Unsplash

September

Beginning the month of content, guest writer Lydia Wilkins reasoned that shielders’ human rights were trampled during pandemic lockdowns and beyond. Sequentially, Wilkins reported on the government’s National Disability Strategy and highlighted its strengths and weaknesses.

At the end of September’s first week, a report revealed that religious groups in the UK have failed in their duty to prevent and report child sexual abuse. Then, we appraised the end of online parliamentary sessions and asked whether it will impact workers’ rights. 

With the introduction of a new Assisted Dying Bill, we examined the potential human rights impact of its introduction. With vaccination efforts ramping up, homeless populations are facing more difficulty accessing their jabs, so we covered the process. 

In mid-September, news broke that the Universal Credit uplift would be cut permanently and the United Nations Human Rights chief called for urgent action to assess the significant risk posed to human rights by the sale and use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

A homeless man sits on the end of London Bridge. He looks up while a passerby hands him some change.

Credit: Tom Parsons / Unsplash

In a series of features, we pondered how racism in the media interacts with racism in real life, the impact of the Online Safety Bill’s introduction, and the effect of high school uniform costs on children’s right to education.  

For another ‘The Inspired Source’ feature, Yasmin Al-Najar, freelance journalist, queried whether the rough sleeping service actually supports homeless people, or whether it endangers them. 

Lastly, the High Court ruled against a case which stated that permitting abortion up to birth for a foetus with certain disabilities is unlawfully discriminatory. The decision was welcomed by abortion care campaigners and criticised by activists who believe the practice discriminates against disabled people. Additionally, the Council of Europe published a report condemning the UK’s treatment of transgender people

Credit: Jon Tyson / Unsplash

October

Settling into October, we published an opinion piece on the rights impact of imaged-based sexual abuse, written by Abigail Asabea-Appiah, EachOther’s Arts Emergency Intern. Directly after, we reported on the threat rising living costs pose to people’s right to access to food and housing and news that the UK was added to a global watchlist for nations curbing civic freedoms.

In October’s first ‘The Inspired Source’ feature, writer Samantha Dulieu contended that current UK legislation does not effectively provide people with the right to choose an abortion. Afterward, we reported on the news that the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has filed a claim for indirect racial discrimination on behalf of a member whose account was terminated following an error with Uber’s facial recognition algorithm.  

In succession, the United Nations’ (UN) Human Rights Council voted to recognise access to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right and a parliamentary inquiry condemned the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 

A sign reads "we don't have a timeturner like Hermione"

Credit: Markus Spiske / Unsplash

In a detailed feature, we scrutinised whether hate crime legislation is an effective defence against discrimination and freelance writer Carys Hopkins contemplated how we can effectively incorporate mental health education and care in the school environment. 

With rising prices across society, we investigated the impact of increased costs of childcare on families and their right to a private life. Then, we reviewed the rights-based implications of introducing the Higher Education Bill into law. And, in another ‘The Inspired Source’ feature, Aiden Tsen asserted that sometimes employers discriminate against applicants without a degree

News also broke that a significant rise in anti-LGBTQ+ hate crime had been identified in the preceding year and the Scottish government drew some criticism for making its vaccine passport scheme enforceable by law. 

To pay homage to Black History Month, we published a piece highlighting some Black British civil rights leaders who made significant changes in the UK and we also highlighted news that the government is planning an overhaul of the Human Rights Act.  Lastly, guest writer Jodie Hare looked at the potential of the Spectrum 10K autism study to infringe on autistic people’s rights

Credit: Radu Mihai / Unsplash

November

One of the most notable events of November 2021 was the UN Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, which brought leaders together from all over the globe to combat climate change and inspired multiple protests and demonstrations. In the same week, Lucy Skoulding reported on the threat of ecocide and we weighed up what it would take to make a right to a safe, healthy environment a reality. Later on, we reviewed how effective COP26 was in making a difference in the fight against climate change.

Next, Ella Braidwood covered failures in Covid-19 protections in schools and Abigail Asabea-Appiah returned to write a feature on the rights impact of nearly a decade of austerity measures imposed by the government

Toward the end of the month, we shared a story highlighting a judicial review of a decision by the Department for Work and Pension’s (DWP). Those who brought the case against the DWP said that excluding legacy benefit claimants from the Universal Credit £20 uplift – implemented during the coronavirus pandemic – was a “human rights breach”.

Credit: EachOther

Also in November, we launched our Long COVID week. We broke down the human rights issues connected with the chronic condition in our video explainer. Then we supplemented this with a week’s worth of content digging into various aspects of Long COVID’s impact on human rights, including sick leave rights, the impact of pandemic-relevant technologies, how M.E. treatments have affected patients’ right to healthcare and whether Scotland has been left behind in combatting Long COVID.

News also broke that the government had added Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill that would empower them to strip people of their citizenship without notice. Additionally, NHS Trusts were criticised for introducing new surveillance technology to monitor mental health patients without obtaining their informed consent beforehand and drivers and couriers fought for improved workers’ rights

To wrap up the month, we shared a long read considering the impact gender-based violence has on women’s and girls’ rights for International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls. 

 

Credit: Raquel Garcia / Unsplash

December 

To begin the last month of the year, we covered the potential rights issues associated with the Asylum Seekers (Return to Safe Countries) Bill.

Freelance journalist Punteha van Terheyden evaluated how disbelief impacts disabled people’s rights. In Glasgow, foster carers launched a campaign to demand fairer pay and increased child allowances, following cuts and pay freezes. Then, we covered the new Flexible Working Bill and how it could protect workers’ rights.

At EachOther, we announced that we have secured a new grant from the Law Society Charity. The money will enable us to double the fee we pay for The Inspired Source features. 

Credit: EachOther

Alongside the launch of our very first comic strip – Journeys Through Mental Health – which is exploring young people’s mental health and their human rights, we published a series of guest posts and features highlighting different issues affecting young people’s mental health care. Some highlights included Kadra Abdinasir, associate director for children and young people’s mental health at the Centre for Mental Health, considering the need for more investment in young people’s mental health services and a feature exploring whether services are equipped to help self-harming young people.

The week also featured two guest posts written by young people about their thoughts on mental health care. Peer researcher for Liverpool’s Young Person’s Advisory Service (YPAS)  Dean Leake started us off by arguing that we need to rethink how we approach mental health. Then, Beauty Dhlamini argued that mental health services must improve access and provide a variety of services to meet people’s needs.  

Finally, to end the year, the government revealed its proposals for overhauling the Human Rights Act and transforming it into a Bill of Rights. Widely condemned across civil society , the government alleges that the proposals are necessary. However, there is significant concern that the overhaul could roll back hard-won progress on protections for fundamental human rights. 

About The Author

Hannah Shewan Stevens Freelance Journalist

Hannah Shewan Stevens is an NCTJ-accredited freelance journalist, editor, speaker and press officer based in Birmingham. She acted as EachOther's Interim Editor from Summer 2021 to January 2022. Her areas of interest are broad-ranging but the topics she is most passionate about are disability, social justice, sex and relationships and human rights. Hannah believes in using her own voice and elevating others to create meaningful change in the world. She is also a sex columnist for The Unwritten and has recently completed her first accreditation in delivering Relationships and Sex Education.

Hannah Shewan Stevens is an NCTJ-accredited freelance journalist, editor, speaker and press officer based in Birmingham. She acted as EachOther's Interim Editor from Summer 2021 to January 2022. Her areas of interest are broad-ranging but the topics she is most passionate about are disability, social justice, sex and relationships and human rights. Hannah believes in using her own voice and elevating others to create meaningful change in the world. She is also a sex columnist for The Unwritten and has recently completed her first accreditation in delivering Relationships and Sex Education.