Discrimination and human rights

If you are facing discrimination, this may also violate your human rights. This page looks at how human rights law can help you if you are experiencing discrimination or harassment.

What are my human rights?

Human rights are a set of values that establish the basic rights of everyone. There are many laws that protect human rights. The main UK law is the Human Rights Act 1998, which makes the European Convention on Human Rights part of UK law.

How can human rights help me fight discrimination?

According to the Human Rights Act, we all have the right to enjoy our rights free from discrimination on any grounds, including grounds such as sex, race, disability, age, religion or belief, sexual orientation, or social origin. The rights protected by the Act include the right to:

  • be treated with respect and dignity and not be subjected to degrading treatment

  • respect for private and family life, home and correspondence (including expression of your sexual orientation)

  • freedom of religion or belief (including having no belief or religion)

  • freedom of expression

  • peaceful enjoyment of your possessions

If you are being discriminated against, you may be able to use the Human Rights Act to take action, or to strengthen your case.

Can I take a discrimination case to court under human rights law?

You can only take a case to court under the Human Rights Act itself if a public authority, such as the council, the police or the NHS, is alleged to have discriminated against you in relation to one or more of your rights. You will need specialist legal advice to help you decide whether or not your case is likely to succeed.

If you are pursuing a case against a private company or organisation, such as a landlord or mortgage lender (for example, if you are suing them for something else), you may be able to strengthen your case by arguing that your human rights are being infringed by their actions or policies.

It's also worth noting that your human rights have to be balanced against those of other people. The court will look at, and weigh up, these factors before making a decision.

If your case raises a point that hasn't been raised in law before, it might go to higher courts such as the Court of Session in Edinburgh or the UK Supreme Court in London. Cases like this can take a long time to be resolved and can be very expensive and stressful, although you may be able to get help with the costs.

Where can I get help and advice about my human rights?

You can find out more about your human rights at the Scottish Government website.

If you're considering taking action, you'll need to get legal advice from a solicitor who has experience in human rights law. You can find a solicitor at the Law Society of Scotland website or by contacting your local law centre. You may be able to arrange a free initial interview at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

If you receive benefits or are on a low income, you may be entitled to legal aid to help with the costs.

You can find out more about taking action over human rights issues at the website of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

The Scottish Commission for Human Rights

The Scottish Commission for Human Rights is a new body independent of the U.K. and Scottish Governments that has been set up to ensure that human rights are protected in Scotland. By promoting human rights, the Commission works to ensure that everyone is more aware of their rights and understands what they mean.


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Last updated: 15 January 2014

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