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Why we have the right to an identity

From the moment we are born, we each have the human right to an identity. It's Article 8 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but it lasts for life. As an enabler for our other rights to function, it's the bedrock of a healthy and diverse society.

At its most basic level our identity is our first name, surname, date of birth, gender and nationality – everything that's recorded on our birth certificate, our passport and in the census. With a legally recorded identity we become citizens of society, able to enjoy essential social services such as health care, education and judicial protection. Without an identity we are invisible to the state and cannot flourish. In fact, without proper ID documents, the terminology that applies is that we are not people before the law.

But our identity is more than a set of documents. As we grow out of babyhood and develop our personalities it multiplies on many social and psychological levels. It's how we assert our individuality and connects very strongly with our right to freedom of expression. It's of supreme importance to young people on the cusp of adulthood and beginning to choose their own path in life.

When the right to an identity is not upheld, bigotry and abuse can flourish. Those who look or sound different may find themselves targets of violent attacks, maybe on the basis of race, sexuality, gender, religion, appearance – or even their taste in music or clothes.

But upholding the right to identity encourages tolerance, mutual appreciation and the chance of happiness. And why not take a stand for this? After all, it's our differences, in all their eccentric glory, that make us human.

Books are a great way to start conversations. So for the second year we teamed up with the Guardian for ‘Amnesty Teen Takeover Week’ to explore what our right to an identity means and how crucial identity is to teen or young adult fiction.

Read blogs by well-renowned authors Malorie Blackman, Alan Gibbons, Bali Rai and Deborah Ellis who all explore the power of identity in their work.

This blog was first published August 2014 on the Guardian children’s books section.

Read the other blogs in this series


About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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