Brighton Voices: Are Rights Universal?

Our second Brighton Voices event took place on Tuesday 15th May, again at the Sallis Benney Theatre, this time focussing on the question: “are rights universal?”

In the current climate when the rights of some have started to be eroded, the impact of this potentially affects us all, regardless of circumstance, background or status.  Growing numbers of people are disadvantaged by complex rather than binary issues such as estranged adults, affected by issues of sexuality, ethnicity and so on. As our rights are interdependent and interrelated, it is vital now more than ever that we stand together.

Professor Katherine Johnson (Director of the University of Brighton’s Centre for Transforming Sexuality and Gender) was joined by our alumni panellists, Tony Kalume (Chair of Diversity Lewes), Becca Bland (CEO, Stand Alone) and Adam Pearson (actor, presenter and award winning disability rights campaigner) to share their perspectives on the topic of universal rights in today’s world, before opening up the discussion to the audience of students, staff, alumni and local community members.

A range of elements were discussed including the impact of culture and religion on rights and how different generations view rights in different ways.  There was a lot of emphasis on the importance of education when considering rights and ensuring information was available to all.  The audience asked the panel how they dealt with instances of ignorance and examples were shared by all the panellists about times when they simply couldn’t make a difference and had to walk away.  As visible spokespeople for their minorities, they felt they were in a privileged position in terms of trying to help individuals and groups change their mind, but admitted that at times, it wasn’t easy to reach everyone.  Adam Pearson summed up his views on this in simple terms: “Be the best you can be, don’t worry about trying to get people to be the best they can be.”

Following the success of our first two Brighton Voices events, we will be organising more in the coming months focussing on other important and timely topics.  If you have any suggestions for topics we should cover and/or if you would like to be a panel member for a future event, please contact

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