Appendix 2: Human rights - legislative background summary and timeline
The Human Rights Act 1998
This came into force in the UK in October 2000 and it brings into effect expectations of the European Court of Human Rights with which all public bodies have to comply.
The Act sets out the fundamental rights and freedoms to which individuals in the UK have access, including a right to life, freedom from torture or degrading treatment, the right to liberty and security, freedom from slavery and forced labour as well as the right to a fair trial and that there should be no punishment without law. It also covers respect for private and family life, home and correspondence as well as freedom of thought, belief, religion and expression. It makes clear the right to marry and start a family as well as to be protected from discrimination and to the peaceful enjoyment of your property. It also provides for the right to education and to participate in free elections.
Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities 2007
The UK Government agreed to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities in 2007, formally ratifying it in 2009. The Convention is an agreement between different countries whereby those that sign up must ensure that the rights of disabled people are respected and upheld. It means that countries will not treat people differently or unfairly because of their disability and that disabled people are to have the same rights as everyone else. It is not about giving individuals new legal rights but it can be used with the laws already in each country to change things for disabled people.
The European Court for Human Rights140 explains this as having the right to having a life, saying what you think, having the best possible health, having the opportunity to be educated and to live in the community. It is also makes clear that government and other public organisations have a duty to work together to make this a reality by, for example, producing information in ways that disabled people can understand.
Equality Act 2010
This came into force in October 2010 and replaces previous anti-discrimination law with a consolidated Act to make the law simpler and to remove inconsistencies.
It covers nine protected characteristics which cannot be used to treat people unfairly, those being age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
The Act sets out the different ways in which it is unlawful to treat someone, including direct or indirect discrimination, harassment, and victimisation and failing to make a reasonable adjustment for a disabled person. The Act prohibits unfair treatment in the workplace, when providing goods, facilities or services, when exercising public functions, in the disposal and management of premises, in education and by associations (like private clubs).
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