News Blog UK Equality Act is not fit for purpose: It's time for the law to recognise multiple discrimination 05 JUNE 2018BY Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, Author, Lawyer, Public Speaker, Journalist & Women Rights Champ Gender equality can no longer be viewed from a single lens nor should it be devoid of the complexities and multiple facets of characteristics that make it human. The revolution of civil liberties for women means that old failed ideas being regurgitated by the UK government are redundant and ineffective. Women continue to be marginalised even within protected characteristics under the 2010 Equality Act because the law, as it currently stands, is not fit for purpose. Women across different distinct groups experience multiple forms of inequality both within and outside protected characteristics under the 2010 Equality Act. According to the Fawcett Society and Young Women's Trust report on Invisible Women, ‘factors such as race, faith, ethnicity, age, disability, sexuality, location and employment status can combine with gender to create distinct and particularly troubling experiences of discrimination and inequality’. This means that women are placed in the unenviable and tenuous position of having limited or no recourse against multiple discriminations they experience. There are nine protected characteristics under the 2010 Equality Act which are age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity. However, there are multiple complexities in relation to discrimination experienced by women which means that Section 14 of the Equality Act should be reviewed and enacted so that individuals can bring discrimination claims on the basis of multiple protected characteristics. The law has a significant gap in its ability to protect women from the impacts of the discrimination of multiple protected characteristics in their lives. For example, a Pakistani Muslim wearing a headscarf covering her head and neck in accordance with her religious beliefs who goes to work but is suspended and then dismissed for doing so under the pretext of fire and safety measures, should be able to bring multiple discrimination claims of race, wrongful dismissal and sex. Another example is an older female television presenter getting less work because of her age compared to other female presenters, and getting paid less compared to her male counterparts. She should be able to bring a sex and age discrimination claim without needing to prove the probability of success if either discrimination was brought separately. Section 14 would make it easier for her to establish less favourable treatment by comparing herself to others who are getting more favourable treatment in the same or similar type of job. Importantly under Section 14, an individual experiencing discrimination of multiple protected characteristics would not need to establish that the discrimination in respect of each protected characteristic would be successful if pursued separately. The government must recognise that multiple discrimination of protected characteristics can be intersectional and/or additive and make these unlawful to offer full protection to women. Intersectional multiple discrimination is where a combination of protected characteristics result in discrimination. An example of which is an older woman being denied the opportunity of a job because of her age and doubts about her agility though the same job would have been offered to a man or younger woman. On the other hand additive multiple discrimination is where a combination of protected characteristics result in discrimination at the same time but are not related to each other. An example of which is a homosexual experiencing both sexist bullying and homophobia from her employer stemming from the same incident. The recommendations in the Fawcett and Young Women's Trust report aptly articulates solutions to the government which include evaluating and reviewing existing legislation and policy to ensure it takes a cohesive view of the interaction between gender and other protected characteristics. There is a need for a radical rethink of how multiple discrimination of protected characteristics experienced by women are treated under the law. About Author Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, PhD MBA LLM MA LLB IAQ, is a dual qualified New York Attorney and Solicitor of England & Wales. She is the Co-Chair of the American Bar Association Africa Committee, editor-in-chief of the Women in Leadership publication she founded; and one of the organisers of WinTRADE. An advocate and activist, Dr Shola is one of the organisers of Women's March London. More information on Dr Shola is available at www.drshola.com Read more about the Invisible women report here. Read how Fawcett is campaigning to make equality law fit for the 21st century here.