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DIVERSITY AND REPRESENTATION OF MINORITY GROUPS IN THE UK

The UK society is no doubt one of the largely diverse global societies. For a long time now, UK has been home to a people of diverse social backgrounds from different continents globally a situation that made it necessary for the amendment of the Equality Act 2010 to further protect minority groups and lay an even play ground for every member of the society. Prior study evidence informed that the previous equality policy despite been there as a model for the pursuit of social equality, seemingly had no teeth to bite the social problem of inequality especially when it comes to minority groups in the society. Acker (2006) highlights that European countries including France and Germany have in the recent years come out strongly in opposition to theories and policies of multiculturalism and diversity. Opponents of multiculturalism and diversity policies argue that in the decades of years, through which the concept of multiculturalism has been in application, social integration has not yet been achieved and to worsen the matter the contemporary environment does not display any signs of sooner social integration among people from different walks of life (Acker, 2006; Mik-Meyer, 2015). The opponent school of thought to multiculturalism policies further argues that rather than integrate the society, concepts and theories of multiculturalism serve to separate and segregate. Research by Hyman, Meinhard and Shields (2011) inform that the UK has upheld the proponent theory of multiculturalism arguing that multiculturalism policies help in promoting diversity and integration in the society. Kirton and Green. (2010) define diversity as the ease of expressing one’s cultural and natural self freely and been allowed to interact as one’s cultural and natural self with other people from different cultural and natural backgrounds. In the dynamic and contemporary world, ideas of diversity and multiculturalism are embraced in most if not all the jurisdictions (). This writing piece presents an in-depth politically scientific look into the politics of diversity in the UK. The writer seeks to review whether the media should be obliged to facilitate diversity by introducing quotas to represent minority groups in media shows, features and programs.

Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 was a much publicized bill in the UK corridors of policy and after publishing in April 2009, it received the royal assent on April 2010 becoming the newest legislation protecting human rights in the country. The equality act has two main aims, the first one been the streamlining of discrimination law in the country while the second aim been the strengthening of discrimination law in a way that it supports all possible progress towards equality (Wallace, 2010). One of the key concepts of the UK Equality Act 2010 is the protected characteristics whereby the Act provides protection against a myriad of discriminative practices by bringing together over 100 distinct discrimination measures under one place. The protected characteristics encompasses all grounds on which discrimination is not allowed for instance grounds of age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and pregnancy among others. The bringing together of all this protected grounds of discrimination, allows the Equality Act 2010 to provide uniform approaches to the fight against discrimination where appropriate. As Wallace (2010) reports, the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 to all of the above protected grounds of discrimination apply equally substantively except for cases where there exists conceptual differences due to differences in the protected grounds or discriminative experience in different protected grounds.

The prohibited conduct is another key concept of the Equality Act whereby certain conducts are prohibited by the Act in order to protect vulnerable individuals from discrimination. The Equality Act 2010 still retains the familiar conceptual elements of harassment, victimization, direct and indirect discrimination (Government Equalities Office, 2013). Under direct discrimination, the Equality Act identifies it as unlawful the unfavorable treatment of individual(s) as compared to how other individual(s) would be treated due to a protected ground of discrimination. Apart from slight elaborative definition on the protected grounds of age, sex, race, disability and marriage/civil partnership, the definition of direct discrimination is analogous for all other protected grounds of discrimination. As research from the Government Equalities Office (2013) informs, the definition of direct discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 is open and wide enough to cover for discriminative practices that are perceived or associated. Discrimination by association can be an instant where an employee is discriminated upon because of a protected characteristic for instance because of race and religion, on the other hand, discrimination by perception is whereby an employee is wrongfully treated because of exhibiting a particular protected characteristic for instance been gay when actually that might not be the case. Protection under discrimination by association focuses most importantly on why particular act of discrimination occurred and is not limited to particular relationships.

Under indirect discrimination, the legislation makes it unlawful to apply discriminatory provision, criterion and practice (PCP) that would put people with protected characteristics at a disadvantage or put people other people at a disadvantage when pitched against those with protected disabilities (Equality & Diversity Forum, 2011). The research from the forum notes that the definition of indirect discrimination in the Equality Act 2010 is more or less similar to that of previously existing legislations and is uniform for all of the protected characteristics under the laws with the exception of pregnancy/maternity which apparently has not protection against indirect discrimination. Apart from direct and indirect discrimination, research from the British Journal of Psychiatry reports that the Equality Act 2010 has generally maintained the harassment provision as previously stipulated in preceding legislations (Lockwood et al., 2012; Roberts, 2010; Solanke, 2011; Thomas, 2010). Under the prohibited conduct of the law, it is unlawful to engage in unwanted conduct related to any of the protected characteristics of discrimination that may otherwise have the purpose of violating dignity and threatening, humiliating or degrading an individual and causing an offensive environment. Lockwood, Henderson and Thornicroft (2012) report that unlike previous legislations which only provided limited protection against third party harassment, the Equality Act has since extended the protection to cover for all the protected characteristics with only exception of marriage and pregnancy. This implies that employees in the workplace are protected by the law provided they experience harassment during the course of their duty. Finally, Piggot (2010) in his study of the effectiveness of the new law features that victimization is well covered for in the new law. Under the law, it is unlawful to subject an individual to peril due to the fact that they have brought proceedings of discrimination under the protected characteristics of the Equality Act. This includes providing evidence under the Equality Act or any other activity for the purpose of informing the Equality Act. The Act in itself ensures less victimization may occur by removing the legal requirement for complainants of victimization to mention or publicly identify the perpetrator of victimization.

Effectiveness/Limitations of the Legislation

With the understanding of the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 and the current issues and status of diversity politics in the UK society, it is possible now to study the UK discrimination law and its effectiveness or limitations relative to the thesis of the essay – whether media should be obliged to increase the representation of minority groups in order to enhance accommodation of diversity. This section will utilize particular landmark cases that can clearly show the shortcomings of the Equality Act 2010. First and foremost, the Equality Act 2010 by taking the description of discrimination as provided in preceding legislations perpetuates the single-axis model of consideration of discrimination cases. According to Section 13 (I) of the Act, direct discrimination is defined as unfair treatment on the basis of a ‘protected characteristic’ (Wallace, 2010). Slightly before the passage of the Bill into law, there was a lot of hope that the United Kingdom would set a new precedence as far as discrimination law is concerned by including intersectional discrimination as part of the new law. According to Government Equalities Office (2009), it was identified that there was a gap in the discrimination law as far as intersectional discrimination was concerned and that for many individuals who experienced multiple discrimination, it was hard to get legal recourse.

In a detailed discussion paper, the Government Equalities Office (2009) suggested reforms of bringing intersectional discrimination into the soon-to-be law bill. The results were Section 14 of the Equality Act prohibiting discrimination based on a combination of two protected characteristics of discrimination. This was however not adopted by the then coalition government which downplayed the adoption with claims that it was costly. In that light therefore, it is notable that while at policy making levels there is recognition that intersectional discrimination is there, the current law does not address this at all. According to research evidence, it is noted that in order to attain equality, it is essential to invoke the category and institute equality such that the definition of equality or the acceptable route towards equality will be through or under a protected category and towards an instituted definition of the issue of equality (Butler, 1992). Further consistent research agrees that in the war against equality, it is necessary to fight for the rights of particularly accepted categories in collection even if at the expense of other minority groupings’ rights under the particular categories (Minow, 1988). The major categories in the fight against inequality/discrimination are gender and racial categories. From the above research evidence it is notable that the two are the only acceptable categories on which one can sue for unequal/discriminative treatment. That notwithstanding, recent years have seen the development of a different line of thinking that claims that inequality or discrimination is not limited to the mentioned two categories alone, rather; the two categories can be further intersected into sub-categories of personality which are vulnerable to discrimination in multiple other ways. This has since been known as the intersectional theory of discrimination and the fact that it attempts to drive the discrimination topic beyond the normally accepted categories of discrimination have seen this theory facing a lot of contention in legal circles. Looking at some cases is the best way to understand the entire scenario of vulnerability as far as intersectional discrimination is concerned.

In a landmark case held by an employment tribunal between Nwoke v. Government Legal Service, the tribunal found out that there was unlawful racial discrimination owing to the fact that, the claimant ranked lowest while all others in the same category ranked higher than her irrespective of the gender and degree class. Consequently the tribunal found that women were less able to be hired as compared to their male counterparts exactly the reason why Nwoke was not hired too. The tribunal found that Nwoke the claimant had suffered discrimination on grounds of race and sex. In another landmark case also heard and decided by a tribunal Mackie v. G & N Car Sales Ltd t/a Britannia Motor Co., the claimant had been laid off after shortly working for the company. After a colleague had unwittingly disclosed that they disapprove women working in the company, the claimant sued and her suit of race and sex discrimination was upheld by the Employment Tribunal. Smith’s (2016) detailed review informs that despite lower courts showing understanding of intersectional discriminative practices, higher courts in the country are still reserved about the issue. The case of Bahl v. Law Society best indicates the complicated nature of the situation. In a landmark ruling, the Court of Appeal held that if evidence does not satisfy the tribunal that there is discrimination on grounds of sex or race independently, then it is not open for a tribunal to find either claim satisfied when taken together.

This landmark ruling best signifies the great deal of limitation of the Equality Act as far as protecting the minority from intersectional discrimination is concerned. As cited above with the help of research, the invocation of the category as the Equality Act follows minimizes the chances of people suffering multiple discriminations in a particular category to get legal recourse. On the hand, the institution of equality and following the single axis model towards equality sees to it that only protected characteristics are provided with legal recourse yet lower courts and tribunals in the UK have for a good time now accepted the fact that discrimination does not only occur under the major protected characteristics rather, within this characteristics, there are other different forms of discrimination plausible to occur and which the law should consider for protection. This point shows that the Equality Act 2010 is insufficient in protecting the fundamental rights of people without bias.

Conclusion/Author’s Position

Having reviewed the current status of diversity in the UK and the UK equality Act 2010 and understood its dimensions, I posit that the media should have some social obligation to increase the representation of minority groups in shows and programs. The primary reason for adopting the above position comes from understanding based on research the fact that the Equality Act 2010 despite everything is insufficient in the tackling of the discrimination issue(s). This is because despite the fact that the draft act had a deeper way of tackling social discrimination by providing a proper definition of discrimination and all its intersectional forms, the legislators ensured to remove such sections and pass an Equality Bill that was not much improved and not what the highly diverse public expected. Therefore, from a social perspective, the media been the representative of society, should increase the representation of minority groups in shows and programs. Even without an effective legislation, the continued feature of minority groups will be instrumental in shedding light on the numerous forms of discrimination that different individuals from different minority intersections face in the society. This information will in turn help in protecting as many minority groups from discrimination in the society rather than just focusing on gender and race as the only plausible areas of discrimination (Acker, 2006; Mik-Meyer, 2015; Kirton & Greene, 2010).

 

References

Acker, J. 2006. Inequality Regimes, Gender, Class and Race in Organizations. Journal Article,

Butler, J. 1992. “Contingent Formations: Feminism and the Question of “Postmodernism” in Butler, J. and Scott, J. W., Feminists Theorise the Political, Routledge, p. 15.

Equality and Diversity Forum, 2011. Evaluation of the Equality Act 2010: Evidence Dossier. Equality and Diversity Forum. Accessed from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/85512/E F-evidence-dossier.pdf

Government Equalities Office, 2013. Equality Act 2010 Guidance. Viewed from https://www.gov.uk/guidance/equality-act-2010-guidance

Government Equalities Office, 2009. Equality Bill: Assessing the impact of a multiple discrimination provision, Para. 3.5.

Hyman, I., Meinhard, A. & Shields, J. 2011. The Role of Multiculturalism Policy in Addressing Social Inclusion in China. Center for Voluntary Sector Studies. Viewed from http://www.ryerson.ca/content/dam/cvss/reports/2011%20v3%20The%20Role.pdf

Kirton, G., and Green, A., 2010. Dynamics of Managing Diversity: A Critical Approach, Butterworth-Heinemann.

Lacey, N. 1998. Unspeakable subjects: feminist essays in legal and social theory, Hart Publishing, Introduction.

Lockwood, G., Henderson, C & Thornicroft, G. 2012. The Equality Act 2010. The British Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 200. No. 3. Pp. 182-83. Retrieved from http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/200/3/182

Mackie v G & N Car Sales Ltd t/a Britannia Motor Co. Case 1806128/03, discussed in Bamforth, N., Malik, M. and O’Cinneide, C. (eds.), Discrimination law: theory and context: text and materials, Sweet & Maxwell, 2008, p. 526.

Mik-Meyer, N. 2015. Gender and Disability: Feminizing Male Employees with Visible Impairments in Danish Work Organizations. Gender and Work Organization, vol. 22(6), pp. 579-95. Accessed from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gwao.12107/abstract

Minow, M. 1988. “Feminist reason; getting it and losing it”, Journal of Legal Education, Vol. 38, p. 47.

Nwoke v Government Legal Service and Civil Service Commissioners [1996] IT/43021/94.

Piggott, C. 2010. A step change for equality? New Law Journal, 160(7419), pp. 749-751.

Roberts, D. 2010. The Equality Act 2010: fundamental rights defences to possession proceedings, Adviser, 140, July/August, pp. 22-27.

Smith, B. 2016. Intersectional Discrimination and Substantive Equality: A Comparative and Theoretical Perspective. The Equal Rights Review, vol. 16.

Solanke, I. 2011. “Infusing the Silos in the Equality Act 2010 with Synergy”, Industrial Law Journal, Vol. 40, p. 330.

Thomas, D (2010) Equality Act: a fairer way ahead for disability, Employers’s Law, May, pp.14- 15.

Wallace, S. 2010. Equality Act: Introduction to the Equality Act 2010. DLA Pipers. Accessed from http://www.propertyweek.com/Journals/44/Files/2010/8/11/DLA%20Piper%20guide%20 to%20the%20Equality%20Act.pdf

 

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