Scope of disability rights laws put to the test
Firdaus Kanga takes on the Community Housing Group.
Landmark legal battle, with major repercussions for many disabled people.
London – 15 June 2007
Firdaus Kanga, the acclaimed gay, disabled writer and actor, who wrote and starred in the semi-autobiographical film Sixth Happiness, is bringing a legal action to halt his eviction from disabled-adapted housing in Islington, north London.
Film critic, Alexander Walker of the Evening Standard, said of Sixth Happiness: “Firdaus Kanga’s performance has battery pack power…a remarkable true story.”
Peter Tatchell and LGBTI human rights group OutRage! is backing Mr Firdaus’s battle to keep his accommodation.
“This case is about the housing rights and security of disabled people, and about the universality of the laws protecting disabled people against discrimination,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of OutRage!
“Firdaus is fighting a legal battle that he must win for the sake of all disabled people. His victory will set a precedent that will help other victims of disability discrimination. It will ensure that landlords cannot ride rough-shod over the rights of disabled tenants,” said Mr Tatchell.
In what is set be a landmark legal ruling, with implications for many other disabled people, the Clerkenwell County Court will be required to decide whether Mr Firdaus’s landlord, the Community Housing Group, is bound by anti-discrimination laws.
The case hinges on whether the Community Housing Group is deemed in law to be a public body or a private body.
Mr Firdaus’s lawyers will be arguing that with a multi-million pound turnover and £785 million worth of housing stock, Community Housing Group are a public body with a duty to protect his rights under the Human Rights Act. As a public body they would also be liable under disability discrimination laws.
Mr Kanga has been fighting for the past 12 months to keep his home which is specially adapted to his needs as a wheelchair user and is part of a scheme which was built 20 years ago for disabled Islington residents. His landlords now plan to convert it to be used by young people who have been in social services care.
Mr Kanga commented:
“What use are human rights and disability discrimination laws if they cannot protect a disabled man who has lived in his flat peacefully for 10 years? This case is not just about my rights to my home, it highlights the chronic shortage of housing for disabled people in London and our right to respect for home life under the Human Rights Convention.”
Mr Kanga’s solicitor, Sue Willman, of human rights law firm, Pierce Glynn, added:
“Housing Associations like Community Housing Group have stepped into the shoes of local councils and now provide the majority of social housing. They receive millions in public money and should have the same responsibilities as any other public body. That means they should not violate the human rights of their tenants. The Disability Rights Commission agrees that social landlords are public bodies and so must comply with the new Disability Equality duty.”
Firdaus’s biography and film details: