On the 7th of May at 10pm, there were multiple things running through my head, firstly disappointment and sincere sadness that something me and many people I had come to know and admire had worked so intensely hard for, was going to be slowly pulled to pieces, seat by seat over the next few hours. Secondly, at around 3am, exhausted, with results coming in, and the possibility of a majority Conservative government becoming reality, the fear truly set in. There were multiple things I recognized I would be now living in fear of, further and deeper austerity affecting the worst off in our society, our membership of the EU, the future of our Public Services and the reality that in the next 5 years, the Human rights which this country should pride itself on, may be dissolved, becoming only a part of history.
This week, the Daily Mail's headline depicted 4 rapists and murders set against 4 of their victims asking 'their rights or yours?' The piece that followed suggested that the Human Rights set out to protect people, were in reality empowering foreign criminals to exploit our system. Sadly this manipulative piece is no anomaly in right wing British journalism, it is a regular occurrence that the Murdoch industry newspapers will depict our Human Rights as inherently evil, empowering the criminals and immigrants whilst punishing the innocent British citizens.
To me, the Daily Mail and its sister papers, whilst perusing an anti-immigration and borderline racist discourse, are missing one vital point, these rights are HUMAN rights, intended to create a standard at which all human beings should be treated, immigrant or British born. Thus under the Human Rights act all people in this country are treated equally, on the basis that they are human above anything else the right wind papers may label them. The way it should be.
Normally the only news we hear of the Human Rights act in the mainstream media suits this discourse, horror stories about prisoners being given the vote, Abu Qatada, an immigrant who plotted a major terrorist attack overturning attempts to deport him on the grounds of his human rights, and illegal immigrants avoiding deportation because they own a cat. Despite this discourse which seems to be sweeping the country, and fuelling UKIP's anti EU fire, we are uninformed about the good which the Human Rights act is doing to protect the individuality and diversity of our country, protecting people from discrimination and persecution across both the UK and the European Union.
Just last week, the high court ruled that Asher's in Northern Ireland had broken discrimination laws, by refusing to commission a cake which displayed both Bert and Ernie endorsing Gay marriage laws in Ireland, something at odds with the Catholic owners personal beliefs. Whilst this is a somewhat controversial case, it is clear that gay discrimination rights are not in danger due to this ruling. In reality it would be unthinkable that rights protecting LGBT individuals, or race related rights would ever be under treat, even if a ruling in its favour was to cause heated debate.
We are a country which seems to be somewhat proud of our liberal and equality laws protecting previously oppressed individuals. Yet, if this is the case, why are we so at ease slating the rights that unite us all as human beings? Why are we so open to criticise laws that protect us all from unjust imprisonment, persecution, discrimination and empower us to have the right to a family life, love whoever we please and challenge our governments?
Often amongst the discourse of empowering rapists and illegal immigrants we often forget how lucky we are to be entitled to such human rights, to have such a high standard of treatment which every human being in our country is entitled to. Across Europe our human rights have ensured that equal work equates to equal pay, ensuring women and men are paid the same in the same positions, that no gay, lesbian or transgender person can be persecuted for their sexual identity, that no person can be imprisoned if they have not broken the law, that every individual is entitled to a family life, and that every man is born free. These are laws our country should be celebrating, that we have enshrined in our laws that we are all free and equal citizens, devoid of context and our backgrounds.