However I have one major problem with human rights and that with the people who automatically think that someone should have the human right to do anything. A recent example of this was related to a discussion I had with someone about the conditions of an ASBO that were placed on someone. The basis of the ASBO was that this person was not to wear a short skirt between set hours which happened to be the times when parents would drop off and pick up their children from school.
The ASBO had been obtained because this person had been wearing such clothing at these times and been bending over at times exposing their underwear to people passing by notably parents with and without young children. So after numerous complaints to the police an ASBO was issued that prohibited the wearing of these clothes at a set time. Which if you think about it is a very logical approach by the judge issuing the ASBO.
However the person I was having the discussion with couldn’t see it like that, they were trying to argue that the ban on clothing was a direct violation of this persons human rights and that they should be allowed to wear whatever they liked whenever they liked. As it was their right enshrined in law.
It’s that point of view that annoys me, they are seeing the actions in a very narrow way that its victimisation of this one person. With a complete disregard for the human rights of the wider world, it is as if they don’t care about the human rights of the other people involved in the situation. As surely the parents and the children have rights not to have someone bend down in front of them and show their underwear to them.
While we do have the right to do and say what we want, this can’t be something that we do with total ignorance to those around us. I have the freedom of speech and could go and stand outside on my street and say “The world is going to end, we should all eat more broccoli to stop it happening!” now if I did that during the day time it would be fine and considerate of those around me however if I went out at 3am on a Sunday morning and did it I may well be exercising my democratic right for free speech I am violating lots of other people’s right to a private life and duly and rightly so would probably get free bed and breakfast at the local police station.
This is the element of human rights that a lot of people don’t get, that yes X has human rights but as do all of the people that X affects with their actions. The victims in human right issues like in just about all other areas of the law get forgot.
Now I am not defending the likes of the couple that ran the B&B who refused the gay couple accommodation, as in my opinion that has nothing to do with human rights it’s a simple and straightforward case of discrimination.
Which brings me on to the final part of this; Human Rights are a good thing however there is always going to be the issue of whose rights are more important. Is it X’s right to freedom of expression or is it the victims’ rights not to be offended by the actions of X. Which if they are not illegal is going to cause problems for the authorities and those offended by the actions. This is where I think the UK as a whole could benefit from a Bill of Rights. We wouldn’t need to revoke the Human Rights Act it could exist alongside the Bill of Rights it would just help society and the courts deal with situations where we have competing rights and would allow those who have been offended by other people’s actions know what the law says.
The vast majority of western democracies have a bill of rights and those that exist within Europe have Human Rights law too. So why shouldn’t the UK introduce something like that it makes things clear and concise and gives people a definite yes or no on an issue; as the law likes certainty and the current system we have is anything but certain.