When I was born in 1991, the Human Rights Convention was already 38 years old. It would be a lie to say I ever gave it much thought when growing up, but it’s already given me a lifetime of protections.
Officially brought to life on September 3, 1953 and formally becoming part of UK legislation in 1998, The Human Rights Convention safeguards some of the most basic things we take for granted.
It’s about simple things like the right to life, which not only stops people from taking our lives, but ensures the state takes adequate steps to protect us from crime and terrorism, and that deaths which happen when someone is being looked after by the state are properly investigated.
It’s About The Kind Of Society Rights Create
Image Credit: Jonas Verstuyft / Unsplash
It’s about knowing I have the freedom to marry (or not marry) whoever I want too, about being able to write whatever I want to in an article on the internet, and knowing I shouldn’t be discriminated against because of my age, gender or sexual orientation.
Throughout my life so far I know I’ve been privileged to not have to call upon these protections, something the Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn calls as a “unique safety net”. But it’s not just about the benefit of tools you can call on when you need them – it’s the society they help create by their presence.
The Human Rights Convention is a unique safety net protecting more than 830 million people. [It’s] changed people’s live in many different ways across the whole continent.
Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn
As a society, rights help shape the time of world we want to live in. We all know that it’s wrong to deprive someone of their dignity, liberty or family life, and that we all deserve a fair trial. These are all protections initially enshrined in the Human Rights Convention – but they’re also values we instinctively and collectively know are part of our society, whichever side of the political spectrum you fall on.
There’s Still More To Do – And We Must Protect Our Rights
Workers’ rights aren’t explicitly part of the Human Rights Convention. Image Credit: RawPixel/Unsplash
However, that’s not to say that our rights are perfect, or that there isn’t more to do. Access to Justice, for example, is a huge problem, with many labelling cuts to UK legal aid as a “crisis”, with hundreds of thousands of people potentially unable to exercise their right to justice. And, after all, what’s the point of rights if you can’t use them?
And then there are the things which the Human Rights Convention doesn’t yet cover. Brexit, or more significantly the lack of certainty about what the final deal will mean, leaves big questions over things like workers’ rights, data protection, and access to health care (all currently covered by the EU Charter instead).
Our rights aren’t – and never will be – a done deal. They’re a continuous conversation about what matters most to us as a society, and how we make sure those protections are locked into the foundations of our democracy. Especially now, in a time of huge change and uncertainty, it’s more important than ever for us to come together as a country and protect our British values and rights.