Equality And Law Research Paper

The concept of Equality and Law has always been a matter of inflated legal debate. The historical and intellectual development with regards to the rule of law, morality and social justice has often divided the human population along strict prejudicial lines. These social pillars, in their entirety, are the reasons why the world cannot be the utopia we all so desperately want it to be. These social pillars are gender, race, physical disability (or ability), religion and age. In as much as the human race is extremely diverse, with respect to these social pillars, it is hard to effectively create an equal way of treating members of the human populace.

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This, however, does not mean the concept of equality cannot be enforced, especially, as far as the rule of law is concerned. Before the development of the human rights equality movements with respect to the pre-described social pillars, the concept of socio-economic human interaction was based on equity, which, by definition is a representation of perceived fairness after factoring out the aspects of the dynamics involved in the situation or setting that puts a certain person or group of individuals at a perceived advantage over the rest, with respect to, of course, the social pillars described above. This, of course, translated to prejudicial treatment of persons deemed too socially inferior, in particular; women, the young and people of color (“Difference Between Equity And Equality”).

Historical events, however, caused a social repeal of this status quo. The concept of equality was therefore introduced, which in essence is the assumption and presumption that each and every person is at the same level and should be treated as such, at least, as far as the socio-economic aspects of life are concerned. This has also had its fair share of debate, especially in the legal world, as will be seen in this paper. Some minds argue that people cannot be deemed to be on the same level because such is an impossibility. If such was not the case, then a real life social event, a sporting event, for example, would incorporate all the social pillars talked about above in one setting, a football match, for example. The fact that women, men, children and the disabled participate in sporting events separately is a perfect example of how equality is not achievable. Championing the same, to these realities, is a waste of time and resources and would create divisive, prejudicial nature and culture in the legal and professional world. There will always be a battle of the sexes, no matter how equality is chased (“Difference Between Equity And Equality”).According to these realists, there are certain aspects surrounding the male culture that cannot be attained by women however much they are chased, and the reverse is true. This, however, brings into the debate the question of gender identity which will be further addressed in this paper. While women have always been the subject of gender discrimination throughout history, the recent surge in feminists and equality rights activists, as well as cultural changes in the law have given women a much needed and sought after voice and protection, within the confines of the law.

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While these sentiments may be highly controversial, it is prudent that they should not be ignored. The Equality Act of 2010 clearly gives guidelines about the relationships between the different social pillars within the United Kingdom. In as much as this act has been highly effective in the championing of civil rights with respect to these pillars, it is highly prudent that we examine its origins, nature and subsequent limitations and how to address them. Only then can the concept of unattainable ideology surrounding these pillars be addressed and subsequent resolution of the same be attained, especially with respect to gender.

The historical and legal roots of the liberation of the perceived cultural pillars within the United Kingdom stems back to the Race Relations Act of 1965.

The Race Relations Act of 1965

This act was an act of Parliament that deemed it illegal to discriminate any person, both male or female, on grounds of color, ethnic, national or race in public places. This was the first act of parliament that sought to address the socio-economic challenges faced by the perceived inferior persons of the society (“The Race Relations Act 1965” 405-410).

While this Act focused primarily on race, especially the non-Caucasian populace of the United Kingdom of the time, it played an important role in creating awareness of the legal possibilities of the inferior members of the United Kingdom society at the time.

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The Act was introduced in the United Kingdom due to certain documented events:

  • The Notting Hill Riots in 1958. The riots were believed to be triggered by an apparent assault of a white Swedish woman, Majbritt Morrison by her Jamaican husband. This was perceived to be a racial insult towards the white community. The influx of economic immigrants after the second world war had created a very deep sense of cultural prejudice within the Caucasian population towards the colored population arriving in their hundreds at the time. The assault took place in a relatively public place and caused an outrage among the whites. The resultant riots were the first significant racially motivated riots that caught the legal world’s eye.
  • The Bristol Bus Boycott of 1963. The Bristol Omnibus Company in 1963 refused to employ black people during this time. This caught the entire kingdom’s attention and subsequent debates in Parliament resulted in the adoption of the act.

The Act, in its entirety, made it a civil offense to deny, refuse or delay service to a person on the basis of color, origin, ethnicity or nationality in public places. It was made as an attempt to dilute the contempt towards people of color.

However much the efforts at the time can be appreciated, it was, at the time, limited to public places. This meant that private boarding houses and shops were excluded from this act (“The Race Relations Act 1965” 405-410).

It was subsequently repealed in 1976 by the Race Relations Act of 1976 that sought to mainly include private residences and areas within the framework and subsequent definition of racial discrimination. This lead to the inception and incorporation of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE). The body’s main function was to look into and subsequently address issues pertaining to the law and people of color (“The Race Relations Act 1976” 405-410).

Although this was purely on a racial front, it cannot be denied that this Act forms the blueprint of the gender-based laws that came shortly after this law. This law, to some extent, gave people of color a level playing field in the socio-economic environment that is the United Kingdom. However, they still remain a minority group within the Kingdom. In as much as the laws surrounding racial equality have strived to promote equality, at least, as far as the confines of the rule of law are concerned, they cannot attain equality because of the cultural gradients involved between the two factions of the racial divide. There still, to this day, is a hint of prejudice towards people of color. An equal amount of the same is reciprocated towards the predominant Caucasian counterparts.  Needless to say, this is the same for gender equality discussions.

This prejudice is clearly evident in the operations of the CRE. The commission was marred with ironical allegations and controversy of racial prejudice. It served the opposite of its intended purpose and was subsequently declared legally powerless by the House of Lords(“The Race Relations Act 1976” 405-410).

The Disability Discrimination Act of 1995

The year Nineteen Ninety-five was marred with loads of controversies within the United Kingdom’s legal and civil rights society. It was popularly enacted after the culmination of a series of public campaign, the last of which saw over one hundred thousand people demonstrate in support of persons with disability. The main perceived perpetrators of this vice were people in government and business.

The argument was that people with disability were not given adequate working and service delivery mechanisms that would fit their disabilities (“Disability Discrimination Act 1995”).

The act made it unlawful to practice any discrimination against people with regards to their disabilities in relation to the business environment (provisions of goods and services), education, employment and any other area of the public service sector. It is important to note that this law was a predominantly civil rights law, and not necessarily a criminal law. This gave moral empathy and recognition to the disabled community (“Disability Discrimination Act 1995”).

It gives strict provisions for employers to effectively come up with reasonable medical criteria for evaluating the potential and current employee fraternity and to expect the reasonable performance of the employees based on their physical capabilities. It also gives direction to employers to effect reasonable and adequate changes to the overall physical working environment to meet the disability needs of the disabled workforce (“Disability Discrimination Act 1995”).

The duties of employers and service providers were introduced in three main phases:

  • The 2nd December declaration. This declaration, with respect to disability, clearly ruled it unlawful for service providers, business executives and employers to treat disabled people less favorably for any reason in relation to their disability. A perfect example is in a business environment setting where a customer, by virtue of their disability may be addressed in a declaratory manner that would suggest their unworthiness or perceived dependency. They were addressed in a manner that would suggest they are not in a position to provide financial compensation for the good or service they are purchasing. This mostly applies to people of short stature. They may be denied access to bars, or other adult-oriented entertainment premises, goods or services based on their height.
  • The 1 October 2002 declaration. Business executives and service providers were forced to make adjustments in their business premises that were deemed as reasonable with respect to the disabled. These adjustments included the hiring of extra staff to the disabled and the methodology of service provision. This was in part on the basis of the business-customer social interaction that was involved in service delivery. It was done as an attempt to overcome and proverbially ‘bury’ the prejudice and contempt towards people with disability. The able-bodied individuals deemed them as slow, and unworthy of sharing the same service delivery options as them.
  • The 1 October 2004 declaration. Service providers, employers, and business executives were also, by the rule of law, forced to make adjustments to their premises that would be deemed as fit to overcome the physical barriers to the access and comfort while working in these business premises. This was a huge step in ensuring that the disabled are comfortable while working and also enabled the creation of special employment positions for the disabled within any and all possible business and employment environment. This was a plus in the world of equality in opportunity, in contrast in the equity of judgment relating to service delivery.

The amendments to this Act, leading to the Equality Act of 2010 are as follows:

  • The Disability Rights Commission Act of 1999. The preformed National Disability Council was not making enough progress with respect to the lawful handling of matters disability. This prompted parliament to disband it and through legislation, from the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) through this amendment. This provided a better approach and handling of cases related to disability within the United Kingdom.
  • The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act of 2001. The earlier provisions of the 1995 Act put more emphasis on the workplace and business environment. In subsequent years, there was a surge in disability-oriented discrimination against people with disability in institutions of learning. There was no law that could give adequate punishment on the perpetrators of this injustice, no matter how young they were. As such, this Act added a new provision in the DDA of 1995 (Part 4 in particular) that would protect discrimination against disability in schools and other institutions of learning.
  • The Private Hire Vehicles Act of 2002. This provision prevented operators of such vehicles from the deliberate refusal to accept guide dogs that assist the disabled into the said vehicles. It also deemed unlawful for the operators to lack, for any reason whatsoever, appropriate adjustments to their vehicles that would accommodate the guide dogs.
  • The DDA 1995 regulations of 2003 amended the DDA in compliance and in close proximity with the European Union employment directive.
  • The Equality Act 2006. This act transferred the role of the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

It is important to note that this law was not enacted as an attempt to create an equity environment between the disabled and abled fraternity. It was enacted to recognize and appreciate the differences between the two social gradients and effectively put in place measures that would translate to an environment where not one of the members of this divide is deemed to be above or superior to the other. This, according to my personal opinion, should be the main line of thought when addressing the problem and debate of gender equality (“Disability Discrimination Act 1995”).

This approach is what has created the distinct harmony between the disabled and abled faction of the social pillars with their gender based counterparts. The approach should be, to some extent, the same, with, of course, a different shade of reasoning. While the debate regarding, the disabled focused more on the uncontrollable physical deficits that would render people with disability apparently ‘worthy’ of any kind of discrimination, the gender debate should, in its entirety, focus more on the strengths of both sexes and how to effectively translate these strengths into positive socio-economic strides. This, however, is highly subjective. These perceived strengths could be deemed as stereotypical and secretary to some members of the gender divide (“Disability Discrimination Act 1995”).

The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975

The first major gender oriented law enactment came with the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975. This act was enacted amidst protests from both genders in response to the apparent backward surge in the discriminations of persons on the basis of sex. It was an act of parliament that deemed it unlawful to take part in any form of discrimination against a person, or groups of people on the basis of gender in, among other areas; disposal of premises, education, training, provisions of goods and services alongside employment (“Sex Discrimination Act 1975”).

It is important to note that this Act, at the time of its inception and enactment focused primarily on the associated gender discrimination of those who identified as either males or females. It did not take into consideration the socially insignificant and behind the curtain transgender, asexual or any other gender identities other than male or female.

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This Act was an important stride in creating maintaining equity within both genders within the United Kingdom. Like most of the other laws enacted during this period, it applied throughout the United Kingdom with the exception of Northern Ireland (“Sex Discrimination Act 1975”).

The Act itself has undergone countless transformations over the years:

  • The Gender Recognition Act and of 2004 and Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 (amendment) regulations of 2008 amended parts of this Act to apply to transsexual people. This was an important step in ensuring that all forms of human perception of gender are adequately considered and incorporated within the confines of the law.
  • Equality Act of 2006
  • This Act was subsequently repealed and replaced by the Equality Act of 2010.

The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 led to the establishment of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) who’s primary mandate was to forge towards eliminating discrimination and enhance equality of opportunities between the two main genders (specifically male and female, transsexuals were not included in the provisions of the EOC) and keep under constant review the workings of the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 and the Equality of pay act (1970) (“Sex Discrimination Act 1975”).

It is important to note that this Act focused on creating a utopia and equal environment between the members of the two gender factions. The primary line of focus was to end the soaring discrimination against women. The motivation of the same was the recent success in the enactment of racial laws that protected and people of color (“Sex Discrimination Act 1975”)

Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations of 2003

This was a completely secondary legislation (regulation) in the United Kingdom that prohibited employers from discriminating against employees on grounds of sexual orientation/preference, age or religion. However, the most dominant aspect of this regulation is on the basis of sexual orientation (“Employment Equality Regulations – Personnel Today”).

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The regulation was amalgamated as an aspect of the rule of law under the conditions in terms of the European Communities Act of 1972. They were primarily intended to be implemented within the United Kingdom through the European Union championed ‘Equal Treatment Directive’ as mentioned in the Amsterdam Treaty.

The regulations, as mentioned and implemented within Britain and Northern Ireland cover the areas of indirect, direct, victimization and harassment of persons on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation or actual orientation. They are applicable to employment, training, organizations, vocational and trade unions. The provision of this regulation was the establishment of an employment tribunal that sought hear cases regarding this line of discrimination (“Employment Equality Regulations – Personnel Today”).It is important to note that this regulation covered actual sexual orientation and perceived sexual orientation.

The Equality Act of 2010

This is the primary Act of the United Kingdom parliament that seeks to effectively harmonize the major European Union Equal Treatment Directives whose parameters it effectively copies and implements (“Equality Act 2010”).

This Act forms the basis of the anti-discrimination law in Britain. The law does not apply in Northern Ireland. It is the culmination of the Equal pay act of 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975, the Race Relations Act of 1965 & 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 and the Employment Equality Regulations of 2003. Its main purpose is to protect the discrimination of persons within the employment environment on the basis of gender, religion/belief, sexual orientation or age (“Equality Act 2010”).

The Act creates a workplace environment with equal treatment with respect to access to employment as well as private and public services with main regards to socially divisive characteristics of gender, age, gender reassignment, disability, civil partnership and marriage, belief/religion, race and sexual orientation. The Act has special provisions for pregnant women (“Equality Act 2010”).However, the Act does not guarantee transsexuals to any particular gender specific services where the apparent restrictions are an appropriate means of achieving an objective that can be deemed as legitimate.

The Act was an inclusion of the Labor Party’s election manifesto in 2005. The Act intends to primarily simplify law by harmonizing already existing anti-discrimination legislations. The Act has its extension to 2030. This extension exempts the sex discrimination law which allows political parties to select all women or all men candidate’s shortlists.

The Act, with exclusions of its apparent exemptions, gave provisions for the inclusion of all types of individuals within any form of employment setting or workplace. Although termed as revolutionary, certain aspects of this law have been deemed as culturally demeaning to the said cultures (“Equality Act 2010”).

With that said the aspects of the Act that are deemed to be incoherent with the said cultures include, but are not limited to:

  • Priests, nuns, monks and ministers of religion
  • Actors, models and other entertainment personalities.
  • Special training programs that target certain cultural minorities
  • Employment opportunities that are inclusive of cultural sensitivities
  • In case of an apparent and potential safety concerned to certain groups and factions of the society
  • Support staff who work in high commissions and embassies by virtue of their diplomatic duties and immunity
  • Where security on a national level could be put at risk

These are the only circumstances in which equal opportunities for all members of the socially divisive pillars might be denied access to employment which go against the Equality Act of 2010 (“Equality Act 2010”).

These limitations to the full implementations of the law in any employment environment make this law highly subjective.

The Equality Act of 2010 and Sexual Discrimination

Not only does the Equality Act of 2010 provide guidelines on the what constitutes discrimination, it also gives a way forward in the context of sexual discrimination. The Act gives a clear protection against persons with a perceived socially unacceptable sexual orientation. This is a clear form of sexual discrimination, as backward as it may seem. Through the provisions of the Sexual Orientation regulations of 2003, Persons with such unique sexual preferences are given equal opportunities, within the confines of the law to effectively obtain all rights and benefits of the workplace regardless of their sexual orientation. The same applies to persons of color, disability, and all the other social pillars.

This act, however, does not effectively address the issue of gender in its entirety. While it is liberating to the transsexual community, it does not effectively address concepts of the male and female gender.

Ladele Vs London Borough of Islington (2009)

This was a 2009 case involving aspects of the Equality Law that would be applied the next year. It carefully follows and is a perfect example of the work that needs to be done on the Act in order to fully bring out the concept of equality that is insisted in the skeleton of the Act (“Ladele V London Borough Of Islington [2009] EWCA Civ 1357 (15 December 2009)”).

The case featured one Ms. Lillian Ladele, a former registrar of marriages, births deaths for the London Borough of Islington. The case drew its roots after the introduction of the Civil Partnership Act of 2004. After the introduction of the Act, she was required to officiate concurrently as a marriage officer, gay marriages notwithstanding (“Ladele V London Borough Of Islington [2009] EWCA Civ 1357 (15 December 2009)”).

Miss Lillian objected to this fact claiming it to go against her religious beliefs. The Borough took this to heart and went as far as threatening to dismiss her.

This is a clear contradiction of two distinct rights and social pillars as described in the Equality Act. On one side, Ms. Lillian is fighting for her right to practice her religious beliefs within her workplace. She claimed to be discriminated on the basis of her beliefs (“Ladele V London Borough Of Islington [2009] EWCA Civ 1357 (15 December 2009)”).

Contrary to this, however, the core issue here was her homophobic feelings and reactions directed towards the homosexual community. Her previous assignments before the enactment of the Civil Partnership Act (2004) were purely secular and she had no problem with them. Raising the religion flag on matters same-sex relations and the subsequent marriage proved prejudicial and hateful towards the same. In the judgment, the Court of Appeal found the employer not discriminating when issuing the threats of dismissal (“Ladele V London Borough Of Islington [2009] EWCA Civ 1357 (15 December 2009)”).

This is a clear case study in which the Law was not bent just for protecting the weak perceived minority (in this case, the female gender).

Stec and Others Vs United Kingdom (2006)

In this case study, the claimants argued and opposed the differences between men and women in the payment allocations for earning allowances and retirement benefits were a form of sexual discrimination. They felt that in order for the spirit of equality to be upheld, they needed to have a somewhat equal payment criteria and allocation volume (“Stec And Others V United Kingdom: ECHR 12 Apr 2006- Swarb.Co.Uk”).

In the judgment, however, the differences were not upheld as a form of sexual discrimination against women in the workplace. The differences were reported to rise from the different pensionable ages for women and men incorporated in 1940. This was effectively done, at that time, to cure the perceived social imbalances between men and women during that time (“Stec And Others V United Kingdom: ECHR 12 Apr 2006- Swarb.Co.Uk”).

.           This is a clear case where although equality is desired by feminists everywhere, it cannot be effectively achieved because of historical and stereotypical truths between the sexes. The fact that this case even made it before the court of appeal is an indication of how much the concept of ‘equality’ can be used to bend the law in favor of a particular sex.

It is common knowledge that feminists might use the provisions of this law to propagate their agenda, in cases where it may not seem culturally or socially appropriate.

For example, in cases of commercial sex work, or the aspect of exchanging sexual services for money, however legal it is in Great Britain, does not necessarily take into account or consideration the male participants of the practice. The sexual health precautions made by the health sector regarding prostitution is oriented towards the heterosexual female. There have been no advancements in the same, with respect to the male homosexual participant of the practice. This is entire because of the discrimination against members of the society that take part in such practices, however legal it may be, is still rampant within the United Kingdom community. This is a clear contradiction of the faith with which the Act was incorporated.

This makes the Act ineffective in its mandate to create equality among members of the society. The ineffectiveness is prejudicial to certain perceived socially inferior persons of the society at the expense of others.

Analysis of the Equality Act should not only include the perceived socially inferior, but the perceived socially superior as well. There is intense promotion and championing of women’s rights within the confines of the Equality Act of 2010 that often turns prejudicial. The male members of the society, especially the employers and business executives are left vulnerable to attack from the same. There have been many documented cases where the provisions of this Act were used as a political motive to undermine the elite. Cases where wrongful and falsified accusations regarding such persons within the confines of the Act are on the rise. This makes it harder to, in part, offer fairness when dealing with such cases. Employers and business executives age often on the receiving end of discrimination that is protected by the Act. This is mostly because of the superiority syndrome and prejudice feminist groups and other factions possess towards them

This goes a long way in making justice for such people, in cases where they are genuinely innocent an impossibility. It is common knowledge that the Equality Act of 2010 was formed to protect everyone from employment based discrimination but this has increasingly been turned into a tool for the executives and the elite, especially on matters gender.

The Act has been used to continuously discriminate against such persons based on the historical relationships between such persons and the other members of the social pillars. This, in its entirety, is a clear violation of the spirit which the Equality Act of 2010 should represent.

In this regard, more should be done in order to enforce the true sense of Equality that the Act should represent. My argument is, in as much as the Act should protect women, people of color and the disabled, it should also have provisions which protect the perceived superiors in the Society. There should be amendments and subsequent inclusion of such individuals within the Act that should exempt and protect them from apparent discrimination and extortion.

This is the debate that should be brought forward as an attempt to protect such members of the society from such discrimination. Only then will the true spirit and nature that was supposed to be the core principle of the Act be realized.

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