Kate Bennett is the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s National Director for Wales.
Fairness, Respect, Equality, Dignity, Autonomy. These five words represent human rights principles and at their most basic, how we treat each other.
Sixty-two years ago today on December 10th 1948, a group of prominent men and women from all over the world came together to draft one of the most famous rights charters – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Human rights are nothing new – the first rights charter is thought to be the 1215 Magna Carta, with the first bill of rights passed in Britain in 1689.
The Convention drew from these historic documents and English common law, but updated them for the twentieth century to reflect many of the values and standards in the Declaration.
In Wales, the laws of Hywel Dda in 945 A.D. (the latter part of his name meaning ‘Dda’ or ‘Good’) referred to the fact that his laws were exactly that; just and good, championing compassion rather than punishment, plenty of common sense and a sense of respect towards women.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission in Wales believes everyone can be a human rights champion.
Your actions, and how you and I treat one another, particularly the most marginalised people in our society, can spark human rights into life.
Just recently you may have heard about our formal inquiry into the harassment of disabled people, which is covered by at least the first six articles of the Declaration. (There are 25 articles altogether).
Another example where human rights has been successful, is the case of a couple who’d been married for 65 years, but separated when the local authority refused to move them into the same care home – a decision they described as ‘heartbreaking’.
They were reunited because they were protected under Article 8 – which explains everyone has a right to a private and family life, which also applies to your home and correspondence.
The Commission has produced a tool called Dignity Drive explaining all about human rights. It is very popular and uses residents living in a Welsh street as examples of how human rights work in every situation. It is free and you can see it at equalityhumanrights.com/wales/dignitydrive.
The message is getting through about human rights, and regardless of all the positive or negative stories you may have heard, read or seen recently, they are very real and belong to each and every one of us. They are not a reward for good or bad behaviour.
Human rights are all of ours to own.