The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams is a brilliant book. Following the life of Dennis, a young boy who likes football and daytime TV, who after a series of events discovers that he likes wearing dresses! Bravely, his friend convinces him to wear one to school, but when seen he gets expelled from his school, and taken off the football team who are about to play in the cup final. Dennis did nothing wrong apart from express himself, and his identity and was punished harshly. This should never happen to you or anyone else.
There are two reasons why this should never have happened. Firstly, Dennis was only doing what made him comfortable. Secondly, in Wales, a children’s beliefs, identity, and opinions are all protected. Every single child is entitled to be who they are! This was stated by the United Nations in their Convention on the Rights of the Child which applies to anyone under 18. The Welsh Government has made a commitment to the UNCRC, so if Dennis was living in Wales then there are articles of this Convention he should be aware of.
What Rights would I have?
The first part of the Convention you should be aware of is article 8, this says that every child has a right to an identity. This means that no matter who you are, what religion you hold or, like Dennis, what clothes you wear, should be respected, and protected! And nothing about you, like your name nationality or relationships can be changed without you wanting them changed. The Welsh Government should protect these things, and if Dennis was living in Wales, there should have been no problem.
Secondly, article 12 says that every child has the right to an express themselves. All Dennis is doing in the book is expressing himself and being the person, he truly feels he is! The school was wrong to expel him for this, and this would not have happened in wales because the welsh government have committed to protect these rights!
Finally, article 28 of the UNCRC says that children and young people have the right to an education no matter who they are. This means that regardless of race, gender, or disability you are entitled to the same education as everyone else. If you think you are not getting the same as your fellow student then speak to somebody about it, as it should not be different at all.
What about laws?
Finally, it is important to know about the Equality Act 2010. This Act names 9 protected characteristics, if anybody does anything to you because you have one of these characteristics, then they have discriminated against you. These traits are: age, disability, pregnancy, race, religion, sex, sexual identity and gender. Now Dennis may not have fallen into these categories as he was expelled on what he wore rather than who he was. But it is important to know that in Wales, you are entitled and protected to be yourself and nobody should tell you any different. If they do, know that they are wrong and that there is help there. Action taken upon these characteristics can take any form, so if you think something is wrong, then speak to your parents, teacher or contact the children’s legal centre wales for initial information!
Luckily for Dennis, his football team surprises him by wearing dresses when they play in the final, and the headteacher is so annoyed he has to let Dennis play and back into the school, so all ends well, and if you are experience an issues like Dennis’ I hope, and know that it should end well for you as well.
If you are facing issues because of who you are be sure to know your rights and know that you are protected and valid. There are plenty of rights and laws to protect you in wales. More information can be found on childrenslegalcentre.wales
Written by Laurence Cooper, third year law student, college rep and president of medical law debating society.