On a cold December morning in Dagenham, over one-hundred Year 8 students attended a human rights workshop as part of the ‘Knowing Our Rights’ research project.
As the workshop started, the students valiantly began reciting several of their rights including the right to privacy, family and their right to life. Their initial enthusiasm for the topic evident in the conviction of their answers and their desire to be heard.
Upon being split into two separate groups, the first advocating the protection of the Human Rights Act and the second advancing a notion for its repeal and replacement with a British Bill of Rights, the debate became exceptionally heated.
On the one hand, students were woefully aware of how the repeal of the Human Rights Act may lead to a significant loss of our substantive rights. Whilst, alternatively, the advocates for a British Bill of Rights suggested that human rights could, in fact, be added to the current ones in an attempt to modernise human rights.
Aside from the actual debate, what is interesting is that upon walking around and talking with the students, not one (that I spoke with) seemed to genuinely believe that the repeal of the Human Rights Act was a good idea. In a rather Orwellian fashion, the students’ biggest fear seemed to stem from the power that would be handed over to the state, leaving us with little to no recourse. Every student seemed to raise a particular right that they would not be willing to give up and for them, that is enough to justify keeping the Human Rights Act unscathed.