In a letter to Lynne Featherstone MP, the Equality Minister, Harry challenges her to protect young people in law from being mistreated because of their age.
Dear Mrs Featherstone MP,
I am writing to you on behalf of the young people I represent in Sheffield as a Member of the UK Youth Parliament.
The equalities Act 2011 set out by the previous government, I believe acts to unify in law, the existing requirements of previous equalities legislation. It is morally the right thing to do, to protect those with unavoidable disability or differences in gender or sexual orientation as the new piece of legislation does. In my opinion, and the opinion of those I represent, it should also be a moral pre-requisite of any civilised society to protect their young people from indiscriminate attack.
Young people defined as human beings have protection under the law from discrimination if they fit in a certain needs category. However what they are not protected from is discrimination due to them being young people as a group in society. Myself and the UK Youth Parliament believe there is a case for recognising the rights of those below the age of 18. This is because there are recorded incidences of discriminatory remarks being made to people solely because of their young age.
In Sheffield, in January, I successfully worked with the City Council, to ban the mosquito device from all council and partnership buildings. The recommendation stated that these noise emitting devices made no distinction between law-abiding and law-breaking young people. They also indiscriminately prohibited all of them from congregating, when there was no requirement under law for them not to do so.
During my campaign, I received letters from the Deputy Prime Minister and from the Home Office Minister Nick Herbert. Mr Herbert’s position narrowed the argument for the use of mosquito devices down to a discussion on the risks they had on health. Which at that time was undetermined. I believe the debate around their use should be on a wider premise and part of an analysis of young people’s rights, which would include health as an aspect. It should always be the case that people have the right to protect their property on the one hand, but so too that young people should not live in a constant position of isolation from the community, due to the assumption of them carrying out wrongful actions on the other.
Positive discrimination imposed upon young people through their inability to buy age-restricted items is of course absolutely justified and the monitoring of young people’s behaviour should always be through the watchful eyes of their parents. This always helps to guide and steer whilst they’re growing up, preventing them from being swayed by the things they may be exposed to. But as of yet, there doesn’t seem to be robust security in law for young people faced with harmful discrimination that acts to penalise, not protect.
Does the department have any intentions to update or review existing rights and discrimination laws with respect to young people? Does the department think it is viable to have 11 million people not protected in legislation? And more specifically what forecast does the department make about banning the mosquito device in light of the council of Europe’s recommendation for a ban to be carried out?
I very much look forward to your response,
Member of UK Youth Parliament – Sheffield
Local Representative – Bite Back Campaign
The letter and her reply will also available on the transparency section of harrymyp.co.uk