'Women's Bill of Rights' could be put into Scots law after elections

Four UN human rights’ treaties could be incorporated into Scottish law after the Holyrood elections – including a “women’s bill of rights”.

Demonstrators march down Whitehall during the March for Women on International Women's Day last year.
Demonstrators march down Whitehall during the March for Women on International Women's Day last year.

The Scottish Government has said it will adopt all 30 recommendations of a National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership after a two-year review, including putting the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women into Scots law, after the May vote.

Rights from the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, could also be implemented.

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Equalities secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: "These recommendations from the taskforce are bold and ambitious.

"A multi-treaty human rights Bill of this nature, that will also contain a range of others rights on the environment, older people and access to justice, is unprecedented and will make Scotland a world leader in human rights.”

Professor Alan Miller, the co-chairman of the taskforce, alongside the equalities secretary, said: "Scotland has become increasingly confident and internationalist throughout the past 20 years of devolution and this set of recommendations clearly shows the next step on its human rights journey.

"Our recommendations are challenging, ambitious and will need continued bold leadership to implement. It would be by far the biggest step taken in Scotland's human rights journey.

"This proposed new framework would, for the first time, put in a single place the range of internationally recognised human rights – civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental – which belong to everyone."

The move was welcomed by feminist organisation Engender, whose executive director Emma Ritch said: “The women’s sector in Scotland has long advocated for the UN Women’s Bill of Rights (CEDAW) to be given direct effect in Scots law.

"The rights set out in CEDAW, including education, employment, health, public and political life, are under significant threat as a result of Brexit and over a decade of austerity. We are pleased to welcome the inclusion of CEDAW in the planned legislation, which will have real and lasting impacts on the realisation of women’s rights in Scotland.

“Incorporation will mean that women can claim our rights in our local court. Critically, public bodies, including the Scottish Government, will need to make women’s substantive equality a reality.”

Judith Robertson, chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission and member of the taskforce, said the commitment to implement the recommendations represented "a major milestone for human rights in Scotland”.

"This marks the beginning of a vital new era for all of our rights,” she said.

"The commission and others have been advocating and laying the groundwork for this move for over a decade. We are delighted to see such a significant step towards achieving stronger implementation and legal protection for people’s rights in Scotland.”

And Alastair Pringle, executive director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which was also part of the taskforce, said: “Today marks a very welcome step forward for Scotland in making this a reality and we are hopeful that the new government will swiftly adopt these recommendations and take forward this new Act in the Scottish Parliament to make these human rights a reality for people in Scotland.”

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