In this essay I will try to find out the real definition for social justice. But before we consider social justice, it is important for us to understand why it matters. Even though, social justice is still a powerful idea, its origins and meanings are still very unclear to us. The case studies that I will use to help me throughout this essay are, International and European Law on Refugees, The Intellectual Property Rights and Access to Related Medicines, Employment Status and Zero Hour Contracts and Access to Justice and Legal Aid. These case studies will help me underline whether or not legislations are actually promoting social justice. I will break down both the good and bad factors on how the law embraces the idea of social justice and how justice helps balance equality between the rich and poor. I will discuss what the law does and whether it stimulates and enhances social justice and equity between two types of people, which are the rich and poor.
The effect that social justice has on people with different backgrounds and how it impacts their lives, will be looked into detail in order for us to be able to explain the notion of social justice properly. Certain issues will also be raised, for example one being, the imbalance between rich and poor and the extent the legislations can protect individuals’ rights within society.
The vision for Social Justice and Sustainability is having “increased equality of men and women and the growing recognition that human beings are both guests and custodians of the planet earth. Unfortunately, little has been done to apply this enhanced environmental consciousness on the ground. Social justice will only flourish if environmental preservation and sustainable development constitute an integral part of growth strategies now and in the future.”
On the 9th of June 2016, Lady Hale made a speech in the York university, Festival of ideas 2016, Human Rights and Social Justice, stating that, “We can debate endlessly what we mean by social justice. Many would say that it includes at least a measure of redressing the balance between rich and poor.” The definition by Radtke Bliss and Chinvinijkul (2014, p9) tells us that social justice is based on the principles of equality and solidarity which values human rights and dignity of all individuals and groups to be entitled to fair and impartial treatment as well as elimination of discrimination on the grounds of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, social status, occupation, culture or disability.
However, others may say that it includes equal treatment, non-discrimination in the provision of employment, accommodation, goods and services, including public services, on grounds of status, particularly race, sex and disability. Each member of the society deserves to have all the same rights and opportunities and fairness since the key components and aspects of social justice are to do with society fairness. This means that it doesn’t matter if a person is rich or poor, since everybody would and should have all the same rights and opportunities. But this is partially true because, in todays world both rich and poor people are defined differently. This implies that our society is not just as nobody is getting treated equally.
The word fair is indeed the core and essential factor of social justice, but when it comes to social justice, we still argue on what the real definition for fair is. They both are really distinct from one-another, but they symbolise two different but yet consistent moral values that we can maintain simultaneously. “Fairness is evenly divided into groups whereas justice is not divided by what the individual is worthy of or earns but by the groups right to equal sharing of what individuals are involved in a society process.” The term Justice is defined as giving a person what they deserve. Justice and fairness are closely related terms that are often used interchangeably. However, there are more distinct understandings of the two terms. While justice is usually used with reference to a standard of rightness, fairness on the other hand is used with regard to an ability to judge without reference to one’s feelings or interests; fairness is also used to refer the ability to make judgements that aren’t overly general but are concrete and specific. In any case, a notion of being treated as one deserves is crucial to both justice and fairness.
Article 1 (a)(2) of the refugee convention defines a refugee as having a: “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of…[their] nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling avail…[themselves] of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country off…[their] former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return it.”
This is an example of how the law is socially just and how it helps reduce the balance between the rich and poor. The law helps give asylum seekers and refugees the chance to live a superior life and also help them live in their country of origin, if their life is in danger. Refugees are entitled to a number of rights such as the right to not be discriminated because of race, religion or country of origin (Article 3); access to courts (Article 16) and public education (Article 22), and protection against return or expulsion within the territorial and extraterritorial jurisdiction of a Convention State (Article 33). The convention guarantees that refugees unlawfully present may enjoy religious freedom (Article 4), will receive identity papers (Article 27), may transfer assets (Article 30) and are protected against penalties for reason of illegal entry (Article 31). This shows us how the law promotes social justice by considering the best interests of refugees before thinking about anything else. The law includes human rights and it even encourages social justice and sustainability as it guarantees that people who are at risk are able to relocate to a secure and safe country.
Even though the 1951 Refugee Convention sets out an obligation for us to treat refugees without discrimination, the Asylum Procedures Directive allows EU nations to divide asylum seekers into different categories, which means that some people are more unfairly treated than others.
There have been many limitations on offering legal assistance since 2012 and changes in social, legal and welfare services in the United Kingdom have risen considerably. These restrictions were introduced with the aim of trying to cut the legal aid budget by £450m a year. Cuts were mainly introduced in the areas of family law, immigration, welfare benefits, employment and clinical negligence, despite having a widespread disagreement from many people in the legal profession and organisation.
Legal aid is where the government helps you financially when you are not able to afford any type of legal representation. It is very important to have a properly funded legal aid system, because it ensures that, whether you are rich or poor, all are equal before the law and have the right to a fair trial, where the facts of a case determine the result. However, many people who need legal aid cannot access it since of all the massive budget cuts which have been executed. Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, states that “our justice system has become unaffordable to most”. A lack of funding for representation will result in many clients being left unaware of their right to appeal. A lack of funding for, and increased complexity around the procedures involved in seeking leave to appeal, makes the appeals process difficult even more difficult for those who can identify that they may have grounds to appeal. The 2010 Equality Act legally protects people from segregation in the workplace. Part 3 of the Equality Act relates to the provision of services and performance of public functions. Another relevant part is the public -sector equality duty which is in Section 149 of the Act. This requires public bodies and those carrying out public functions must eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations when you are making decisions.
In R (SG) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (2015), the case was about whether or not the advantage cap was justifiable. The parties stated that the Benefit Cap (Housing Benefit) Regulations 2012 were unlawful owing to disproportionately affecting single parents and domestic violence victims, who tend to be women. And that the parliament had not complied with its obligations to consider the best interests of the child, under the UNCRC, art 3(1). Lady Hale stated that “what we must consider is whether the benefit cap as it applies to lone parents can be justified independently of its discriminatory effects.” And also concluded that the cap will deprive children of their basic needs which cannot be in their best interests and therefore the indirect sex discrimination inherent in the cap’s implementation is not a proportionate way of achieving its aims.
The gig economy has a small amount of employment but is still an increasingly popular feature of work in the 21st century. Both the Deliveroo and Uber case has challenged the definition of what a worker is. The Taylor Review concludes that the employment status should be retained as it remains relevant in the modern labour market, but that should be given to codifying the tests to create more clarity and certainty. It also shows that the gig economy does need to improve and provide benefits for the workers. The review also believes that “genuine flexibility, whereby individuals and employers are able to agree terms and conditions that suit them both, above a statutory basic minimum, is both the key strength of the UK labour market and also a core component of fair and decent work. As a society we should be bolder in designing flexible jobs that allow people to remain and progress in the labour market as their personal circumstances change. This is good for health as well as the economy. Public agencies need to work more closely together at a local level to understand how to keep people in work and to support them to progress.”
South Africa is one of Africa’s richest countries, but it also has the highest rates of HIV and Aids and Malaria. Which is why a lot of people are dying since the cost of expensive medicines are not affordable for some people. This is due to strong intellectual property protection. Having the right type of intellectual property protection helps you to stop people stealing or copying: (1) the names of your products or brands, (2) your inventions, (3) the design or look of your products and (4) things you write, make or produce. Intellectual property is something unique that you physically create. An idea alone is not intellectual property.
A patent is an intellectual property that gives “a person the right to take you to court if anyone who makes, uses, sells or imports the creation that they have made without their permission.” This proves that the system doesn’t produce a fair result as poor people are not be able to buy the medicines they need as the prices are always heavily increased and are made to be really expensive. Meaning that the medicine will not be affordable for third world country patents, since patents don’t permit the production of medicines by other companies. However, it protects individual’s property rights, so individuals are able to copyright anybody else’s work and can’t acknowledge somebody’s work as their own. Intellectual property rights attempt to lower the difference between the rich and poor. Because rich families can only afford the and the poor cannot, this produces inequity between both wealthy and underprivileged people.
However, in 1995 South Africa suggested that they should have an Act called The Medicines and Related Substance Act Amendment section 15 (c). It allowed health ministers to allow and continue the compulsory licensing and parallel importation of medicines. But in 1998 the South African Government was sued by over 40 pharmaceutical companies sued because they violated the SA’s international obligations which are under Article 27 of TRIPS. It lacked the support of western firms and activists had put a lot of pressure on this case. Which is why it was decided that this case should be dropped. This case showed us the unfairness between rich and poor people. The poor people were unable to afford the medicines they needed as they didn’t have enough money, whilst the pharmaceutical companies are making a huge profit from this dilemma. Since people from South Africans were unable to access medicines, it shows us that the law is not just, and does not encourage a society that is socially just. Citizens around the world have a significant contribution and are a massive influence in promoting social justice, and in our case, it was the activists who dropped the case from the pharmaceutical companies in the first place.
Patents are territorial i.e. they only apply in the territory in which they are granted. This, then brings up the question ‘If patents make drugs unaffordable in developing countries, then why do they grant patents over drugs?’ The answer is that most don’t grant patents over drugs, but most developing countries have signed international agreements that require them to provide certain levels of intellectual property protection. TRIPS is one of the most important ones, but there are also many other free trade agreements (FTAs) with provisions on intellectual property rights.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. The goal is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible.
The Doha Declaration states that “we agree that the TRIPS Agreement does not and should not prevent members from taking measures to protect public health.”[footnoteRef:16] This implies that the Doha Declaration always thinks about the public interests and gives options to other countries when prices of existing patented drugs are too high for poor people. However, it can also imply that the law protects property more than it should be protecting other peoples lives, which then undermines social justice. However, as far as considering a distinct context such as human rights are concerned, the law still protects individuals as much as possible as it can to some extent where these regulations will allow citizens to escape their nation if prosecuted.
The legislation also has a significant role to play in encouraging social justice, but it is restricted. Many individuals would argue that the law contributes to the realization of a community that is more socially and sustainably based on human rights and law and international and European law, but this is not entirely accurate. Even though social justice promotes human rights it doesn’t always promote it for the poor people, an example can be property law which doesn’t change the definition between rich and poor people but rather builds it. The concept of social justice relates to fairness and equality in the broadest sense, but it also speaks to a global framework for human rights, recognition and dignity, although patent laws are used, for example, human dignity and human rights are not considered. It is also regarded more essential to credit people for their job than to save a life, so it is not entirely so. Just, while social justice is bound to be ethically correct and moral, it can be regarded as ethically incorrect.
In conclusion, if we refer back to Lady Hales speech, we find out that social justice has different meaning when it comes to rich and poor people because of the world we live in and the difficulties we face every day. Though, we must understand that social justice does ensure that all people have equal opportunities. Also, the 1951 convention helps provide us with a good framework in which we can use to help us with decision making when it comes to people from around the world.