Human Rights Day: HelpAge says age discrimination must stop

10/12/2014

By Sarah Gillam

Margaret from Uganda shared her experiences of age discrimination and rights abuses. Margaret from Uganda shared her experiences of age discrimination and rights abuses. (c) URAA We're marking Human Rights Day, 10 December, with a renewed call for governments to challenge the wide range of human rights violations experienced every day by many older women and men.

This year's slogan, Human Rights 365, encompasses the idea that every day is Human Rights Day.

"Discrimination against men and women on account of their older age is one of the last remaining forms of prejudice to be tackled on a global basis," said Toby Porter, HelpAge's Chief Executive.

"This has to change and a new UN convention on the rights of older people is the way to challenge age discrimination.

"International human rights conventions prohibit and make discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, migrant worker status and being a child, both morally and legally unacceptable. The same cannot be said for discrimination on the basis of older age. Age discrimination must stop."

Examples of discrimination

Margaret Kabango, 71, a campaigner from Uganda with Age Demands Action, our global grassroots campaign fighting for older people's rights, provided examples of discrimination.

"Older people are accused of being witches, we get pushed aside in queues and we often don't get the health treatment we need because we're told that the symptoms are just a sign of old age," she said.

Age Demands Action campaigners will be writing to governments asking them to make concrete proposals on how to better protect older people's rights, at the next session of the UN Open-ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWGA).

System doesn't protect older people's rights

The OEWGA was set up to explore how to better protect older people's rights. These government proposals will be presented to the UN General Assembly next September.

"Existing human rights standards and mechanisms have failed to protect people's rights in older age and a new UN convention on the rights of older people is necessary to rectify this," said Bridget Sleap, HelpAge's Senior Rights Policy Adviser.

"We are at a critical point in the process towards such a convention. Now is the time for governments to outline what the content of a new convention should be," she said.

Open letter to governments

Earlier this year, the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed Ms Rosita Kornfeld-Matte as the Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Older Persons.

Part of her mandate is to deepen our understanding of the human rights challenges facing older people and how these rights can be better protected.

Finally, to mark Human Rights Day, we have drafted an open letter, which can be adapted and shared with Ministries of Foreign Affairs.

The letter requests governments to propose what the main elements of a new convention should be and present these at the 6th Open-ended Working Group on Ageing in 2015.

The letter includes an annex with five main elements of a convention on older people's rights that we hope will be included in Member States proposals at the next OEWGA session.

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