Minority rights Social Equality LawHelena Pereira de MeloAntanas Urbonas 2012
Definition of minority • ‘Minorities are disadvantaged ethnic, national, religious, linguistic or cultural groups who are smaller in number than the rest of the population and who may wish to maintain and develop their identity.’ from http://www.minorityrights.org
What are minority rights? • The term “Minority rights" embodies two separate concepts: first, normal individual rights as applied to members of racial, ethnic, class, religious, linguistic or sexual minorities, and second, collective rights accorded to minority groups. The term may also apply simply to individual rights of anyone who is not part of a majority decision.
Types of minority groups (1) • Groups who are classified according to obvious physical characteristics, e.g. skin color (for example, US Racial Minority Groups are Blacks, American Indian, Asian Americans, Hawaiians)
Types of minority groups (2) • Ethnic (nationalities) minorities:Groups who are differentiated on the basis of culture such as language, food.(for example swiss people would be ethnic minority in German, but not racial, afroamericans would be both, racial and ethnic)
Types of minority groups (2) • Gender minority: Males are a social majority
Types of minority groups (3) • Religion minority: Groups who have a religion other than the dominant faith.
Types of minority groups (4) • Age minority: older people are social minority comparing to middle-age people;
Types of minority groups (5) • Disabled people minorities
Types of minority groups (6) • Sexual orientation minorities
Defense of minority rights in in International Law (1) • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966): PART II Article 2 part 1‘Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.’
Defense of minority rights in in International Law (2) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948): Article 1. ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.’
Defense of minority rights in in International Law (3) Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950): ARTICLE 14 ‘Prohibition of discrimination The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.’
Defense of minority rights in in International Law (4) • Protocol No. 12 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (2000): ARTICLE 1 General prohibition of discrimination‘1. The enjoyment of any right set forth by law shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status. 2. No one shall be discriminated against by any public authority on any ground such as those mentioned in paragraph 1.’
Defense of minority rights in in International Law (5) • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination(signed 1965, valid from 1969): Article 7 ‘States Parties undertake to adopt immediate and effective measures, particularly in the fields of teaching, education, culture and information, with a view to combating prejudices which lead to racial discrimination and to promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship among nations and racial or ethnical groups, as well as to propagating the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and this Convention.’
Defense of minority rights in in International Law (6) • CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN (1979)(1) Article 5: ’States Parties shall take all appropriate measures:(a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women’;
CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN (1979)(2) • ‘(b) To ensure that family education includes a proper understanding of maternity as a social function and the recognition of the common responsibility of men and women in the upbringing and development of their children, it being understood that the interest of the children is the primordial consideration in all cases.’
cases • Ethnic minorities in other countries: • Macedonians in Greece; • Pole people in Lithuania; • Romani (gipsies) in all countries; • Russians in Estonia and Latvia.
The case of Estonia (1) • Approximately one-third of Estonian residents are not ethnic Estonians, and an overwhelming majority of that proportion of the population are Russian-speakers. Probably the most telling fact about Estonia's ethnic minorities is that only 38 percent of them hold Estonian citizenship, despite of having been residents for decades. The remaining are either stateless persons or citizens of the Russian Federation. Since 1998, the government has made efforts to encourage these residents to apply for Estonian citizenship. The major obstacle to obtaining the blue Estonian passport for many is passing the Estonian language proficiency examination.
The case of Estonia (2) • One of the difficulties arising from the fact that the majority of Russian-speakers are still not fluent in the official language is that there is very little communicative space that the titular nation and the minority share. The integration policies, including those related to mass media and other information distribution channels, are based on the assumption that, since the Estonian language dominates the public sphere, anyone who wishes to be informed and participate in the public sphere should first learn Estonian. Thus, the government's efforts have been directed mainly at facilitating Estonian language education.
The case of Estonia (3) • Russian-speakers do not always have equal access to institutions of higher education, since one of the requirements for enrollment exams is writing an essay in Estonian. This requirement is particularly difficult for students from the north-eastern part of the country, who cannot be expected to have achieved a level of fluency in Estonian comparable to that of ethnic Estonian high-school graduates.
Questions: • Historical view: Can we call a group of people ‘Minority’, when this group is bigger than others, but still is discriminated? (For example Aborigines in XVIII century in Australia, slaves in in States, South Africa indigenous people in XIX century)
Indigenous people Indigenous peoples are descendants of the peoples who inhabited the land or territory prior to colonization or the establishment of State borders; they possess distinct social, economic and political systems, languages, cultures and beliefs, and are determined to maintain and develop this distinct identity; they exhibit strong attachment to their ancestral lands and the natural resources contained therein; and/or they belong to the non-dominant groups of a society and identify themselves as indigenous peoples.
Indigenous people vs. minorities (1) Indigenous peoples can claim minority rights under international law, and there are United Nations mandates and mechanisms dedicated specially to protecting their rights. In its work, the United Nations has applied the 4 principle of self-identification with regard to indigenous peoples and minorities. In practical terms, a number of connections and commonalities exist between indigenous peoples and national, ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities. Both groups are usually in a non-dominant position in the society in which they live and their cultures, languages or religious beliefs may be different from the majority or the dominant groups.
Indigenous people vs. minorities (2) Both indigenous peoples and minorities commonly wish to retain and promote their identity. Situations can be found on the ground where an indigenous group could ind itself in a minority-like situation and, equally, some minorities have strong and long-standing attachments to their lands and territories as do indigenous peoples. Minorities, however, do not necessarily have the long ancestral, traditional and spiritual attachment and connections to their lands and territories that are usually associated with self-identiication as indigenous peoples.
Indigenous people vs. minorities (3) In terms of rights, minorities have traditionally highlighted their rights to have their existence as a group protected, their identity recognized and their effective participation in public life and respect for their cultural, religious and linguistic pluralism safeguarded. Indigenous peoples, while also highlighting such rights, have also traditionally advocated recognition of their rights over land and resources, self-determination and being part of decision-making in matters that affect them.
Indigenous people vs. minorities (4) For example, there are The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples requires States to consult and cooperate with indigenous peoples to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before undertaking development activities that might have an impact on them, whereas the United Nations Minorities Declaration contains a more general right to participate in decision-making and requires that the legitimate interests of persons belonging to minorities should be taken into account in national planning and programming.