How can the Human Rights Bill for Scotland work for young women?

How can the Human Rights Bill for Scotland work for young women? 

By: Rhianna Mallia Research and Policy Lead
Published on:
  • Advocacy
  • Consultation response
  • Rights

In this post, our Research and Policy Lead, Rhianna discusses the new Human Rights Bill for Scotland, our response to the consultation, and why young women must be meaningfully engaged in the development of the Bill.

At the Young Women’s Movement, we firmly believe that the introduction of new human rights protections is a necessary step toward a fairer and more equitable society, which will ultimately benefit all young women and girls in Scotland. However, the current proposals for a new Human Rights Bill for Scotland do not go far enough to provide meaningful protection in law for women’s rights, disabled people’s rights, and the rights of black and minoritised people. 

Context of the Bill

In March 2021, the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, to put the children’s rights convention directly into Scots law. The Bill was challenged by the UK Government at the Supreme Court and is now being adapted based on this ruling. Since then, The Scottish Government has committed to introducing a new Human Rights Bill for Scotland.  

 This Bill will incorporate 4 more major United Nations human rights treaties. These treaties are: 

The Bill will also include the right to a healthy environment, as well as rights for older people and LGBTI people. The Government has committed to passing the Bill by May 2026. You can read some helpful information on the Bill on the Scottish Human Rights Consortium has lots of helpful information on the Bill here.  

How did we respond to the consultation?  

This summer, the Scottish Government offered the people of Scotland the chance to give feedback on the proposals to the Bill. The Young Women’s Movement responded to the consultation, after engaging with young women to hear their thoughts. You can read our full response here, which includes our ideas about introducing a new Women’s Rights Scheme in Scotland and what introducing CEDAW into Scot’s Law could mean for women. 

Bringing more of our international human rights directly into Scots law must be more than a tick-box or empty-promises exercise – it must bring change. Young women do not want more empty promises. 

We hope that the culture change that will accompany the implementation of this bill will address the multifaceted violations and breaches of young women and girls’ human rights in Scotland that have increased exponentially because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis. Young women are struggling to have their basic human rights realised due to poor access to healthcare, employment, a decent standard of living, and a life free of violence and abuse. When these rights are violated, the routes to access justice are often hindered by misogyny and discrimination. 

What do young women think? 

We engaged with our Advisory Collective, who told us that they want a better understanding of their own human rights, and how to access justice when they are breached. Young women recognise that accessing justice through traditional routes can be retraumatising.  

 They need more information about how this legislation will ensure that young women can access the justice they deserve, will there be appropriate and safe routes for young women and will information about justice routes be accessible to all young women? 

How can the Bill work for young women in Scotland? 

There is a crucial need to bolster access to essential support systems, including advocacy, information, advice, and legal aid, ensuring that young women have the necessary resources and assistance to navigate the judicial routes effectively. 

We need non-judicial (not relating to or taking place in a law court) supports too like having access to advocates on behalf of women and girls that would be non-judgemental.  

To do this most effectively, a fully participatory, intersectional and collaborative process must be carried out. Young women in Scotland should be engaged, and compensated for their time, to meaningfully shape this bill, particularly in support of creating guidance and frameworks to ensure they can access their rights and remedies. 

We’d like to say a huge thank you to Engender for all their work in supporting the women’s sector in Scotland to respond to this consultation.  

For further reading from Engender about what a new Human Right’s Bill means for women in Scotland: 

Rhianna current Research and Policy Lead, smiling at the camera.

Rhianna Mallia

Rhianna is our current Research and Policy Lead, with a background in social research,  she develops participatory research approaches and collaborates with young women and diverse stakeholders to influence policy and challenge systemic inequalities.

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