2 - Human Rights


To help learners to understand the meaning and origin of human rights and their relevance to LGBT+ older people.

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights". This is the first statement, or Article 1, made in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR was drafted in 1948 when the horrors of the second world war were starkly fresh in the mind of world leaders. The Declaration draws on shared values that have existed in societies and civilisations throughout history. The framers felt they needed to clearly outline some basic principles on minimum standards (30 Articles) of how humans all over the world ought to be treated: these have become known as human rights. The next section (1.2) shows how major international human rights agreements flowed from the UDHR.

By virtue of just being born into this life all of us share core features that have to be equally respected and protected from direct threat. Our individual dignity is a foundational feature that must be respected and protected in all people, and particularly for the vulnerable. Our dignity implies our individual autonomy – our ability to express or represent ourselves, to have private lives and to live freely and fully in society. Upholding dignity also suggests protection of our individual security regarding safety, and independence, and freedom from neglect or abuse. Finally the concept of non-discrimination is embedded in these rights they apply equally to all people, no matter who you are.

Each of us has a claim to human rights throughout our lives – like a right to health or a right to an education. Nobody, either acting for the State or in private, should be allowed to remove or impede those rights. Most governments enshrine core human rights in the laws and policies of their countries – they thereby grant rights on all their citizens regardless of identity, gender, ethnicity, race, religion or various other reasons. Of course, many countries restrict or violate a people's human rights sometimes directly under tyranny or corruption. At other times human rights may be denied because of traditions or the various systems (health, justice, police, etc.) in place in a country.

In recent decades, there has been growing recognition by countries that when the UDHR says "[a]ll human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights" this includes marginalised or stigmatised populations like lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender: LGBT, the reference term used throughout this training. Today's older LGBT people have witnessed huge changes in European societies' attitudes to them, and understanding that is crucial to the work of caring for LGBT+ older people.