Article 7

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

This is by far my favorite of the Articles in the Declaration. It, and our failure to live up to it,  speak so passionately to my inner Marxist. There are many reasons that we failed to make this Article a reality everywhere, or really anywhere, but none so obvious as the economic. If you are rich, the law works for you, if you are poor, not so much. If you are poor, the law is often your worst enemy.

Too many people fall through the cracks because they cannot afford decent representation that is not overworked. Too many people allow police to violate their basic rights, consenting to searches because they don’t know they don’t have to, because they grew up in poor neighborhoods with poor schools, and quite often, could not finish school. Meanwhile the wealthy can defraud tens of thousands and get away with it, because they have a team of lawyers.

This is not the only way economics violate Article 7. Laws are specifically drafted to criminalize being poor, a situation that already leaves you victimized. “Quality of living” laws make it illegal to be without a home and live on the streets despite not having a place to go. Mandatory sentencing laws often disproportionately affect the poor, and do the same to racial minorities (who surprise, surprise, are often poor.)

Of course being poor is not the only hindrance to being able to enjoy this Article. Being a woman is a good way to be treated unequally in the eyes of the law. Being a racial minority almost always hurts in this regard. To varying degrees around the world, and in every country, being a religious minority hurts (I wonder how trustworthy a jury, or judge, would consider my testimony given my atheism?)

Whenever I think of 7, or even the law in general, I keep thinking of the phrase (and help me if you can remember who said this) “some people are more equal than others.” Where the law is concerned this has always been the case, and may always be, but I’m not going to stop shouting about it as long as I think people might listen and work to change that.


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