22 Stellenbosch L. Rev. 566 (2011)
The Potential and Limits of an Equal Rights Paradigm in Addressing Poverty

handle is hein.journals/stelblr22 and id is 576 raw text is: THE POTENTIAL AND LIMITS OF AN EQUAL
Sandra Fredman
Rhodes Professor of Law, Oxford University
Honorary Professor of Law, University of Cape Town*
1 Introduction
Poverty is increasingly recognised as a human rights issue. As Paul Hunt,
previous Special Rapporteur for Health, tellingly put it, [h]uman rights
are not just about prisoners of conscience, they are also about prisoners of
poverty.' But how do we address poverty through human rights? The focus
of most of the papers in this issue is on socio-economic rights. The aim of
this paper is to consider what role the right to equality can and should play in
relation to poverty. The right to equality is important for reasons which are
both pragmatic and principled. While socio-economic rights are still fighting
for full recognition within the human rights arena, the right to equality has
an old and well established position. Indeed, in jurisdictions without express
socio-economic rights within their constitutional bills of rights, the right to
equality, together with rights to life and security, are potentially the primary
vehicles for establishing a human rights approach to poverty. Thus Brodsky
and Day have forcefully argued that women's right to equality brings with it a
justiciable right to income security.2 This makes it important on a pragmatic
level to explore the role of the right to equality in addressing poverty.
This in turn requires a deeper understanding of the relationship between
poverty and the traditional constituency of equality rights, namely inequality
on the grounds of race, gender or other status. With the growing recognition
of the concentration of poverty within status groups has come an increasing
overlap between the areas of concerns of anti-poverty policy and equality
law. Researchers and policy-makers continue to wrestle with the extent to
which inequality should be part of the definition and measurement of poverty.
Equally contested is the question of whether equality should be the desired
outcome of anti-poverty measures, and if so, what this would entail. At the
same time, deepening understandings of substantive equality have illuminated
the continuities between status inequalities (or inequalities on the grounds
I am grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments and to Laura Hilly and Chris
McConnachie for their research assistance in the final draft of this paper.
P Hunt Statement to the Panel on Maternal Mortality and the Human Rights of Women (2008) UN
Human Rights Council I <http://www.essex.ac.uk/human rightscentre/ research/rth/pressreleases.
aspx> (accessed 11-11-2011).
2 G Brodsky & S Day Beyond the Social and Economic Rights Debate: Substantive Equality Speaks to
Poverty (2002) 14 Canadian J of Women & L 185 189.


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