Social justice is the equal access to wealth, opportunities and privileges within society. The concept of social justice began in the early 19th century which happened to be during the industrial & Civil revolutions in Europe. The concept of social justice arose with the aim to create a society that contended that every member of society should be guaranteed the same rights, opportunities, and access to goods and resources, this idea was known as the egalitarian theory. This would help fix the issues with capitalistic exploitation of human labour, as during this time period there were huge differences inequality between the individuals who were wealthy and the individuals who were poor. These ideas have existed for very long time. Social justice is linked to diversity, based on the understanding that human societies are characterized by differences of various kinds at various levels, and such diversity is an asset as it offers enrichment of lives through the breadth of perspective it can bring (Thompson, 2017:46). This report will outline two factors that contribute towards social justice, by focusing on two crucial factors. The first being Human rights which will explore and examine the rule of law and fair trial standards and the second being Gender, Power and Politics.
When a person is charged with a crime, or involved in any other legal dispute, they have the right to a fair trial. This means a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time, by an independent and impartial court. The European court of human rights has highlighted many cases of unfair trial, resulting with many imprisonments of innocent people. To prevent these social injustices people have used the ECHR to get a retrial and which makes sure that governments develop proper rules to avoid miscarriages of justice (Council of Europe – European Convention on Human Rights). The first factor that contributes towards social justice is fair trial rights, this act is one of the fundamental reassurances of human rights, tasked with the proper administration of justice. It shares attributes of other rights, which include the right to life and the prohibition against torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The Fair trials right entails that all persons must have equal right of access to the courts and tribunals, including access to remedies and reparations, it is relevant not only to individuals subject but also to criminal and non-criminal proceedings but also victims. Moreover, social justice must be administered in a way that achieves fairness for all, regardless of the identity of the parties.
The law says that everyone charged with a criminal offense shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to the law, also everyone that is charged with a criminal offence has to be informed promptly, in a language which they understand and explained in full detail in regards to the cause of the accusation against them, the government must give them adequate time and facilities for the preparation of there defence, the law permits the individual to defend themselves in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or if the defendant does not have any means to pay for legal assistance, they should be provide with legal assistance for free (Human Rights Act – Article 6: Right to a Fair Trial). The effective protection of all human rights very much depends on the practical availability of access to competent, independent and impartial court of law which can and will administer justice fairly. Added to this are professions of prosecutors and lawyers each of them in his or her own field of knowledge, instrumental in making the right to a fair trial a reality and are the legal pillar of a democratic society respectful of the rule of law.
The judiciary’s capability of making sure that fair trial proceedings is not only important to the rights and interest of human beings but is likewise essential to other legal person including economic entities, small or large corporations often depend on courts of law to regulate their disputes of varies kinds. This can play a major role because if the courts don’t administer justice fairly it can lead to domestic and foreign enterprises, becoming reluctant to invest in the country because they fear of injustice and inequality. It’s argued that in countries where aggrieved persons or other legal parties are able to access courts in order to claim their rights, social tension can more easily be managed and the temptation to take the law into one’s own hands is eliminated. By contributing in this manner, they are able to defuse social tensions, enabling the courts of law to contribute to enriching security at a national and international scale.
The right to equality before the court is a fundamental principle underlying the right to a fair trial, it can be found in the article 14 of the international covenant on civil and political rights, stated ‘All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals’ the right to equality before the courts is comprised by the general principle of equality being protected. The principle of equality in court means firstly, regardless of gender, race, origin or financial status, for example, every person appearing before a court has the right not to be discriminated against either in the course of the proceedings or in the way law is exercised to the person. Furthermore, whether individuals are suspected of a minor or serious crime, they have the right to be equally secured. Secondly the principle of equality means that all persons must have equal access to the courts (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 14, 1). The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty is a principle that is the right of an individual throughout the period of the criminal investigations and trial proceedings, up until the end of the final appeal/hearing. This right guarantees the presumption of innocence and safeguards everyone until proven guilty according to the law.
Its important to have these factors contribute towards social justice and overall society because it creates a safe and secure environment for society to function and flow, if these rights were violated which they are on occasions it can send innocent people to jail for reason that are not justified. And creates a society that could disregard the law which can ultimately bring chaos. These rights are crucial as they reflect the minimum standards necessary for people to live with dignity, enable people freedom to choose how they live, allows them to express themselves and importantly gives them the freedom to support who they want, among many other things, the united nations stated that human rights ensure that a human can be able to fully develop and use human qualities such as intelligence, talent and conscience and satisfy his or her needs.
Moving on to the second factor that contributed to social justice are women’s rights, beginning with the right of women to vote. The majority of women in the late 1800 lacked a formal education, feminists argued that education was the key to helping them unlock the doors into the masculine world of politics, the movement for suffrage began in the 1860s. Moreover by the 1918 there had been some remarkable changes, such as the married women’s property act in 1870 which gave women the right to own their own property and money, the local government act in 1894 was passed, which allowed married and single women to vote in election for county and borough councils, qualification of women act in 1907 is passed, enabling women to be elected through borough and county councils and as mayor. After more years of campaigning they finally get the representation of the people bill passed allowing women to vote (Bartley, 2013)
Britain is a representative democracy, a general election is held every 5 years with all citizens over the age of 18 having the chance to vote for a member of parliament, who will represent their constituency in the house of commons. Bartley suggest that its is the rule of the people by the people, and this is believed to be the best way to govern a country. however, it was not always like this, for many individuals living in the 19th century Britain the democracy was a long and hard-earned achievement, Britain only became a full democracy in 1928. This also included the rights of working-class men to vote with women being the last group of people who were granted pass to obtain the vote in 1918. However, there were restrictions that did not allow all women to vote, women had to be over the age of 30, they had to be householder or had a husband that were householders, who paid rent of more than £5 a year or were graduates of a British university, then they were granted the right to vote. After more petitions and marches 10 years later, women achieved the vote on equal terms with men who could vote if they were over 21. At long last in 1928 all women over the age of 21 regardless of their marital status or financial position were given the rights to vote.
During the period 1860-1918 women encountered a number of significant improvements to their lives, however clear areas of inequality remained, and it was these that urged the campaigning spirits of the suffragists and the suffragettes. By 1901 the vote had become their major focusing point. Some women argued and believed that an all-male parliament would only go so far to improve the lives of women and wanted the vote as they believed it will eventually lead to create better laws, education and jobs for women. The reason for campaigning for 58 years was women wanted to end women’s economic and social subordination and wanted to brighten their lives. Martyrs like Emily Wildling Davison sacrificed themselves for the cause, by jumping in front of the king’s horse and ultimately sufficing to her injuries. The gender inequality was another factor that encouraged women to campaign, working class men were being given the right to vote, this upset woman especially women that were middle-class as they were more educated and more applicable to have the right to vote compared to men of the working class.
Bartley suggest that suffragettes argued that its inappropriate to claim Britain to be a true democracy when the majority of the population was not given the right to vote because of the fact of being female, they suggested that no government least of all one that saw itself as democratic should want to preside over what was essentially an undemocratic government. Britain’s politics was criticised for being unjust and unbalanced. Pointing to the fact that a number of countries had already enfranchised women such as the isle of man, New Zealand, Finland, Norway and many states in Australia and America. A shadow had been cast down on Britain as it was supposedly the mother of democracy, expecting Britain to lead other nation in the enfranchising of women, the fact that other countries had done so challenged British democratic supremacy.
The author explains how women used history as a reason to fight to gaining the right to vote, as suffragists active in the 1860s believed the vote to be a restoration of an old right, not an exercise of a new one, this is because they argued that women in the past played significant roles in parliamentary politics, not forgetting many women during world war one worked in factory’s that created guns and machinery related to war, the men left to fight the war so women had to take up the jobs that were left by the men. The urge to gain the right to vote also emerged from the belief that women faced hardships because their views remained unrepresented. When women obtain their vote, suffragist and suffragettes argued that the government would be forced to take women’s issues more seriously (Bartley, 2013).
The right of women’s is an important factor that contributes to social justice, through the struggle’s women faced with the idea of making opportunities and life fairer and more equal like men. They wanted to vote because the legislature in the past did not make the laws that are equal to both men and women, and these laws will not be changed until women get to vote, important and lucrative positions are obstructed to them and other opportunities like public service are denied these are a small number of reasons why women wanted to vote. In today’s society many women have seats in parliament, the number have increased immensely, the sacrifice they made has enabled a more equal society that allows women to be free. They changed many things along the way which helped them in the long run and enabled feminist to rightfully gain the right to vote amongst other things. It’s important to remember and understand that these changes were not so long ago, and the demands of the suffragist and suffragettes don’t seem like much and actually are reasonable ideas and suggestions in contemporary society. But after many years Britain can proudly claim it’s democratic supremacy and lead by example of how countries of democracy run and function.
Social Justice is a contested term, meaning that different people interpret and use it, in different ways. Therefore, it’s helpful to consider what we mean by social injustice, this refers to social arrangements in a given society at a particular time in history which can be seen as unfair to particular sectors of society, usually being the least powerful groups. Gandhi is credited with the idea that a nations greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members. Social justice relates to recognizing people’s rights and respecting them, enabling people to carry out their civil responsibilities in a reasonable way, also its important to understand they human rights are applicable to everyone regardless if they belong to a country or not as they are citizens of the world. And where human rights laws are not promoted social injustices arises. Many other factors contribute to social justice like equalising power between the powerful and powerless through penal policy and codes of conduct, enabling people to have their basic needs met in a way that offers self-respect by allowing people to be able to attain jobs through merit. It’s a strong idea that society should aim for social justice in contemporary society as this is because it promotes a society that will build upon happiness, keep the population safe and secure and enable the distribution of resources equally. Equality is important and the chance at freedom enables everyone to be able to achieve and accomplish, which is vital to be successful people. Well managed society means high functioning intellectual people.
- Thompson, Neil. (2017) Social Problems and Social Justice. London: Palgrave
- Bartley, Paula. (2013) Votes for women, 1860 – 1928. 3rd Ed. London: Hodder Murray
- Council of Europe – https://www.coe.int/en/web/impact-convention-human-rights/right-to-a-fair-trial
- CTITF Basic human Rights Reference Guide -:https://www.ohchr.org/EN/newyork/Documents/FairTrial.pdf
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – https://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CCPR.aspx
- The human Right Act – https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/human-rights/human-rights-act