Achieving equality has been the goal of progressive movements throughout the ages. In the eighteenth-century American and French revolutions, the fight for equality was bound up with questions of liberty. In recent decades, movements striving for equality began to talk less about ‘freedom’ and more about ‘protection’. The 2010 Equality Act became the legal expression of this political shift, designed to protect people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. The Act, introduced to harmonise discrimination laws and extend protection to individuals, defines ways in which it’s unlawful to treat someone on the grounds of ‘protected characteristics’ such as age, disability, gender reassignment, sex, sexual orientation, race, religion and belief. But what happens when two protected characteristics accuse one another of discrimination? Do we need to be recognised in law to feel secure about ourselves? Is there a difference in the role of the law to protect against discrimination and protect certain beliefs? Has the fight for equality and liberation been replaced by the demand for affirmation?

The speakers on this engaging panel filmed at the Battle of Ideas Festival are: Allison Bailey – Barrister; co-founder, LGB Alliance Jessica Butcher MBE – Tech entrepreneur; Co-Founder, Tick.; Co-Founder, Blippar; Commissioner, Equality and Human Rights Commission Samantha Davies – Barrister; writer; commentator; President, Business and Human Rights Commission, Union Internationale des Avocats James Heartfield – Lecturer; author, The Equal Opportunities Revolution and The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society: a History Barry Wall – Managing Director, The Chair is Mo Lovatt – National Coordinator, Debating Matters; Programme Coordinator, Academy of Ideas