Equality & Human Rights
Guarantee women’s legal rights and justice by ensuring proper access to legal aid, judicial review and our equality laws
If you think that these issues we have highlighted on this website are unfair, you may want to question them.
However, asking questions is becoming more difficult. There are 5 main ways in which you can challenge something if you think it’s unfair; all of them are either under review, undergoing changes, or being dismantled. All of these changes pose huge worries for women:
The recent introduction of £1,200 fess for individuals bringing employment tribunals has meant that women have stopped questioning unequal pay, sex discrimination, and pregnancy dismissal. Since the fee was introduced, there have been: 84% fewer equal pay claims, 81% fewer sex discrimination claims, and 26% pregnancy dismissal claims.
Cuts to Legal Aid
£350 million of cuts to legal aid means that women on low incomes cannot get justice if they experience violence. To decrease applications for Legal Aid, it is now necessary to provide evidence that violence took place. This is often very difficult to do and is deterring women from coming forward. In fact, one in three women who experience violence and need Legal Aid, cannot access justice because they can’t provide the evidence they need.
The knock on effect of women not being able to prosecute is that they don’t even come forward, and are therefore trapped in violent relationships. This perpetuates cycles of violence which is horrifyingly dangerous for women and their children.
Public Sector Equality Duty
This ensures that public sector organisations cannot act in a discriminatory way, both on an individual way, and in the way they provide services to the population. This is important for women who rely more on services and need a fair deal from the public sector.
It replaced the race, disability and gender equality duties (the race equality duty was created after the McPherson report found institutionalised racism in the Met Police after the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence).
It is up for review even though it has only been in place for two years.
Human Rights Act
This legislation can be used to hold public bodies to account on human rights issues; for example how they work to combat violence against women and girls (amongst other things, of course). Without it, the Government could claim to have no responsibility to do anything.
The Human Rights Act was used, for example, in the case of the ‘Black Cab Rapist’ after women who had been raped went to the Metropolitan Police but were not believed. When he went on to rape another 100 women and was finally caught, campaigners could push for changes to policing so that women’s experiences would not be ignored in the future.
Successive Governments keep saying they want to dismantle the Human Rights Act entirely, claiming that it is unnecessary.
Judicial Review changes
“Judicial Review is there to make Ministers annoyed enough to do the right thing” – Tory Peer
This is the only mechanism by which ordinary people can challenge Government decisions.
For example, when the Government wanted to treat children in prison as adults, campaigners used Judicial Review to successfully challenge, so that children are treated as, and protected as children.
Recent changes impose considerable costs to individuals and to the charities that support them, that will stop them from using Judicial Review.
What Women’s Charities do to address these issues
Women’s charities provide research, evidence and case studies to show how these changes affect women.
When women’s lives are being so affected, it is so important that we are able to contest and challenge in order to maintain our existing rights.
What can Parliament do?
- Retain the Public Sector Equality Duty
- Retain the Human Rights Act
- Set up a national framework to ensure that women’s organisations are consulted in Government decision making
- Ensure that measures are put in place to respond to violence against women and girls without discrimination, including asylum seeking and migrant women
- Review the changes to Legal Aid and Judicial Review