Am I A Relevant Protected Person?

The British Equality Act aims to advance equality of opportunity between people who share a “relevant protected characteristic” and those who do not. There is nothing very controversial about the Act’s list of relevant protected characteristics: race, sex, age, disability, that sort of thing. Perhaps it is just me, but the phrase itself is what makes me a trifle queasy. I am not sure why: they are undoubtedly characteristics, equality of opportunity must entail protection from discriminatory treatment, and surely we do not want anything not to be relevant. Am I possibly flashing on the way that medieval Jews were “protected” by the royal power, so that they were in effect royal serfs? Also, the term “protected” implies that everyone else is unprotected, and that does not sound a very nice thing to be.

The phrase may not have any importance other than making more visible what is anyway inherent in any legislation about protected categories: namely that it provokes the questions: who are the unprotected who get the short end of the stick, how do I get a protected status too, and what happens when everyone has one?

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