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Equalities and Human Rights

The Scottish Youth Parliament is fundamentally a rights-based organisation. The Equality and Human Rights policies listed below are taken from our 'From Scotland's Young People' Manifesto and will help shape our work from 2021-2026. They cover The United Nations Convention on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities, listening to people from seldom heard groups, making it simpler for people to change their legal gender, and more.

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The United Nations Convention on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities

In 2020 we surveyed Scotland’s young people to see what recommendations to include in our ‘From Scotland’s Young People’ manifesto. The first recommendation on equalities and human rights was “The United Nations Convention on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) should be fully brought into Scots law to protect the rights of disabled children and young people, ensure access to independent living, support those with invisible disabilities and reduce stigma.” Overall 80.4% agreed, 5.7% disagreed, and 13.9% didn’t know.

Disabled people are far too often an after thought in the minds of the public and decision makers. We are still dangerously perceived as burdens and disposable. This is only exacerbated when you’re a disabled young person as well.

– Disabled young person

Listening to young people from seldom heard groups

We also asked Scotland’s young people if “Children and young people from seldom heard groups (such as immigrants and refugees, gypsy traveller communities, single parents, disabled people, Armed Forces, care experienced and justice experienced) must be listened to by policy makers on issues that affect them.” 80.4% agreed, 5.7% disagreed, 13.9% didn’t know.

[Decision makers] might have an idea of what life is like for a service child in general, but the difference between the experience of a service child years ago and now is really different… if they could just take the time to consult the younger generation on how things have changed I think they’d be really surprised.

– Armed forces young person

Make engaging with Seldom Heard Groups a Priority

Every year since 2016, MSYPs and MCPs have met with the Scottish Cabinet to discuss the issues that matter most to children and young people in Scotland. At the Cabinet Takeover meeting in March 2021, Erin Campbell MSYP delivered a speech to Government ministers on the importance of listening to the voices of seldom heard young people. You can read the speech in full by clicking here, or there’s a snapshot below.

I felt it was only appropriate to begin with the words of a young person from a seldom heard group that I will be referencing. ‘‘I think decision makers focus on things that will make a change to them, but act like they care about things that will change for us’’ Those are the words of a young parent who participated in one of SYP’s manifesto focus groups. We certainly do not believe that these words reflect the Government’s intentions. In fact, SYP hugely appreciates the work of the Scottish Government to consult with children and young people in decision making, not least by working to incorporate the UNCRC into law.

However, it’s clear that seldom heard groups believe a culture change is needed to ensure that we can meaningfully engage with them. This past year has not been easy for anyone but it’s very obvious that Covid-19 has not affected us all in the same way. Disabled young people, young people of colour, young carers, young parents and other seldom heard groups have all bore the brunt of this pandemic, yet there are few targeted approaches to engage with them as Scotland begins to recover from the virus.

Creating a simple process of self-declaration

We asked Scotland young people in our predominately online survey if “An individual should be permitted to change their legal gender from the age of 16, through a simple process of self- declaration.” Overall, 62.1% agreed, 21.0% disagreed, and 16.9% didn’t know.

16 year olds are even trusted with the responsibility of getting married. But how can this be? You have the right to marry at 16, but under the current GRA you don’t have the right to marry as your true self. We believe that it is vital that 16 and 17 year olds are also empowered to express their views about their own gender identity…

– An MSYP speaking at the 2020 Cabinet Meeting with Children and Young People

Recognising non-binary gender identities

We asked Scotland young people if “The Scottish Government should allow non-binary gender identities to be recognised by law.” Overall, 82.1% agreed, 7.4% disagreed, and 10.5% didn’t know.

The experience of non-binary young people is so often left out of the conversation around trans rights and so people often don’t recognise the unique struggles we face every day. The Scottish Government recognising non binary identities would validate something that I’ve known about myself all my life, and it would mean so much to see my identity respected in law.

– Non-binary young person

Improving hate crime law

Finally on Equality and Human rights, we asked Scotland young people if “Hate crime law should be improved to ensure all groups at risk are equally and consistently protected.” Overall 62.8% agreed, 19.0% disagreed, and 18.2% didn’t know.

Those who come from a faith background […] would be more likely to experience hate crime. Personally, I feel that, around the Muslim faith in particular, there is a massive misunderstanding due to negative press about it, rather than the amazing contribution that the Muslim religion brings to Scottish society.

– A member of Interfaith Scotland

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