Know Your Rights

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is an international agreement between 193 member states of the United Nations. The UNCRC spells out the rights that should be afforded to all children and young people under 18 in all those nations. Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People (SCCYP, more details below) has described the UNCRC as being about the 4 Ps:

Provision – there should be things for children and young people to do, including educational and leisure facilities, and other services for children and young people
Protection – the state must make effective and proportionate arrangements to protect children and young people from harm
Participation – children and young people have the right to their own opinion and to have a say in decisions about their lives
Privacy – confidentiality is important to children and young people and people working with them should think carefully before sharing their personal information

Your rights under the UNCRC include:

  • Right to life and healthcare
  • Right to protection from violence, abuse or neglect
  • Right to have a say in decisions that affect your life
  • Right to education
  • Right to information
  • Right to privacy
  • Right to meet other young people and join youth groups etc
  • Obligation on the state to act in your best interest


Everyone under 18 has these rights, without discrimination

In 2004, a group of young people in Dumfries & Galloway took part in a project on the UNCRC because they felt that for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people, these rights were not a reality because of widespread homophobic and/or transphobic discrimination. The result of their work is the LGBT Youth Charter of Rights that emphasises certain UNCRC rights that are particularly important to LGBT young people ; these include: the right to education and how homophobic bullying in schools hinders LGBT young people’s safety and achievement, the right to privacy and how LGBT young people’s confidentiality can be crucial for their safety at home and away, the right to information and how the lack of relevant information (e.g. PSE in schools) may put LGBT young people’s health at risk. LGBT Youth Scotland has taken on the LGBT Youth Charter of Rights and developed it into a tool for organisations to make their practice more LGBT-inclusive; now this has become the LGBT Charter of Rights.

Scotland has a dedicated advocate for the rights of children and young people, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People Tam Bailey. You can find more information about the UNCRC and SCCYP’s work on their website:


Human rights are the rights that we all have, simply by being human beings. Age, disability, gender, gender identity or expression, race or ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation, social origin or class, or any other characteristic are not qualifying criteria – human rights are owned by all people simply by being human. However, in many countries around the world, human rights are violated or under threat. A gruesome example is that same-sex relationships are illegal and LGBT people criminalised in over 70 countries; at least 7 countries apply the death penalty for same-sex relationships.

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights" Article 1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

Some important human rights from the European Convention on Human Rights:

  • Right to life
  • Freedom from torture, degrading or inhumane treatment
  • Right to liberty
  • Right to a fair trial
  • Right to one’s private and family life
  • Right to religion
  • Right to free assembly and association
  • Freedom from discrimination
  • Right to education


There are, however, serious problems closer to home that can be challenged through a human rights lens; for example the treatment of asylum seekers, abuse and neglect of children and older people in care facilities, the lack of access to appropriate services for transgender young people, and, perhaps, the failure of schools and local authorities to effectively protect LGBT young people from the worst instances of bullying.

While it is the responsibility of governments first and foremost to uphold our human rights, it is crucial that all people, including young people, watch out for infringements of their human rights and the human rights of others and get active for those who cannot stand up for their own rights. Every year on 17 May, we mark the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) with a campaign and a series of events on LGBT human rights around the world. It is important that LGBT young people and their friends and families get involved in human rights activism to speak out for people elsewhere who cannot speak out themselves, and to keep LGBT people’s human rights on the agenda.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination is the less favourable treatment of a person on grounds of a personal characteristic that they have, or are thought to have.
What types of discrimination are there?

There is direct discrimination and indirect discrimination. Direct discrimination is when a person is treated less favourably than another. Example: A same-sex couple have booked a double room in a B&B. On arrival, they are told that they cannot have a double room because they are a same-sex couple. Indirect discrimination is where a general policy, rule or criterion applies to all people but has a greater impact on a certain group. There is also discrimination by association. Example: A boy is refused a place at a school because his parents are a lesbian couple.

What is harassment?

Harassment occurs where a person’s dignity is violated or an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment has been created for them. Bullying may be seen as a form of harassment. Examples: (1) A trans man is refused service in a shop and the shopkeeper shouts transphobic abuse at him. (2) A bisexual man is subjected to homophobic name-calling by his line manager; when he complains, his line manager threatens violence.

What is victimisation?

Victimisation is when a person who complained about discrimination, or who helps someone else who has taken action against discriminatory treatment is discriminated against because of it. Example: A woman gives evidence for her friend who has taken a case of homophobic discrimination against a gym. The next day she is refused from entering the gym and the manager tells her that they are not offering their services to troublemakers.

If you think you have been discriminated against on grounds of your sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other reason, and you want to do something about it, please feel free to get in touch with us, through our youth workers or our policy team, or contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s helpline – helpline staff had LGBT equality training from LGBT Youth Scotland and should be able to help and treat you sensitively:

0845 604 5510
0845 604 5520 (Textphone)
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm