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Respect for Private Life, Family and the Right to Marry

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 14 Apr 2014 | comments*Discuss
Right Human Rights Respect Private

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) sets out a list of fundamental rights and freedoms which are believed to be common to all people. The ECHR lists these rights in numbered 'Articles'. Article 8 of the ECHR concerns an individual’s right to respect for their private and family life. Article 12 defines an individual’s right to marry.

The majority of the provisions contained in the ECHR became law in the UK in October 2000 when the Human Rights Act came into force.

The Right to Respect for Private and Family Life

Everybody has the right to respect for their private and family life, for their home and for their correspondence. This means that public authorities should take care that their actions do not interfere with these aspects of an individual’s life.

The right to respect for private life is not absolute – the ECHR describes a number of circumstances where the right may be overridden. For example, a public authority may interfere with an individual’s private or family life if they do so in accordance with the law at a time of public emergency, to prevent crime, for public safety or national security reasons, or to protect the rights of somebody else.

Whenever a public authority exercises their powers in a way which may infringe an individual’s right to respect for their private life it must seek to strike a balance between the importance of the individual’s rights and the benefit of their actions.

The Right to Marry

The ECHR states that all men and women, who have reached the age at which they can legally marry, have the right to get married and to start a family.

This right is limited in that individuals only have the right to get married to the extent that this is allowed by the relevant laws in their own country. Since the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force in December 2005 same sex couples have, effectively, had the right to get married – or enter into a civil partnership - according to UK law. They now, therefore, have the same rights under this Article of the ECHR as heterosexual couples.

Application of the Right to Respect for Private and Family Life

The right of an individual to live their life in the way they choose is wide-ranging. However, individuals must not exercise this right in such a way that it interferes with other people’s rights.

It should be reiterated that there are numerous circumstances in which a public authority may be entitled to interfere with this right. If it can be shown that it was necessary to interfere with an individual’s right to respect for private life for one of the reasons listed in Article 8, a public authority is unlikely to be found to have breached this right.

Areas of life which may be covered by the right to respect for private and family life include:

  • Sexual identity or gender issues
  • The right to dress in a particular way
  • An individual’s right to have access to official documents which contain information about them
  • The right of a family to live together
  • The right to enjoy one’s home without being affected by noise or pollution
  • The right not to have post, telephone calls or emails interfered with
  • The use of CCTV
  • A patient who wishes to refuse medical treatment.

Application of the Right to Marry

The right to get married and start a family may have relevance to a number of issues. These include the rights of individuals to adopt children or to have fertility or artificial reproduction treatment. There is unlikely to be an obligation on the state to provide facilities for adoption or free fertility treatment. However, in order to satisfy the duty imposed by this part of the ECHR public authorities must take care to ensure that individuals are not prevented from accessing such services.

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" THE RIGHT OF FAMILY TO LIVE TOGETHER " I am Iranian citizen married to a British women.We have a daughter who is also British citizen. Currently I am in a situation that I have to select between my family and my job. I am working in middle east as manager and I really like my job. But my wife she is not interested to live in middle east and she went back to UK with with my daughter and are living there. Currently I am visiting them under family visitor visa and Iwas thinking to resign from my job as my wife is depressed and can not take care of our child alone.I wanted to apply for a spouse visa to stay with them but the problem is my wife is unemployed and we do not meet the financial requirement. I am in a situation that I really cant leave my family as they need me to be with them. At the same time I don't want to break the immigration rules. I really need your advice on how I can live with my wife and daughter. Thanks
Mido - 14-Apr-14 @ 10:30 PM
I have a probelem with light polution into my bedroom from a local business who have fitted security lights. I spoke to the business and they painted the light yellow and adjusted it slightly without resolving our concerns. I have been in touch with the local council who sent out the environmental health officer to check my concerns. He informed me there is nothing he can do as I can close my curtains to stop the problem. My wife and myself always like to sleep with the curtains open and have done for over 20 years. Surely I should not have to change my sleeping habits or lifestyle to accomodate a business leaving on security lights all night. We have had to change around our bedroom to try and minimise the problem, but it is still a problem, it is like we are being tortured every nightin our own bedroom as it affects the quality of our sleep.
steve - 20-Mar-13 @ 8:51 PM
i used to live in uk as asylum seeker and married in the church and got daughter,soon after my asylum case refused and the government of UK deported me on my home land and my country put me in prison and release me, after that i manage to go abroad and have job i am happy by my job but still now i cant see my family but we can contact every time through telephone and e.mail now both my wife and daughter they are British citizen and passport, how we can i reunion my family
yhon - 1-Oct-12 @ 7:43 PM
I have been involved with the family courts for four and a half years now and whilst I may have residency of my two children it has been a very traumatic and harrowing experience getting this far. My ex partner constantly creates some issue so as to keep this matter in court and enjoy watching the stress this causes me. Her recent actions included beating quite severely my two children whilst having contact and trying to frame me for the injuries. Despite police investigation they say there is insufficient evidence to prosecute despite both of my children being very concise on several occasions as to what took place. As a result of this latest action I refused point blank to facilitate any contact as I am so disgusted by the actions of someone that is supposedly their 'mum'. Now to the main reason of my writing this. I made clear to all parties involved that I intended to move from my locality at some point in the future as I am now in a new relationship and have plans to marry shortly. Due to my fiancé being the sole carer to her elderly father the only viable option is for myself and my children to relocate, this having other positives such as better employment, better environment and so forth yet the courts have today put in place a restrictive steps order preventing this move taking place arguing that I have done this merely to frustrate contact. If this were the case why did I inform them of my intentions nearly a year ago? I feel that the courts are in violation of my rights to marry and live a normal family life and would particularly welcome any advice you may be able to offer as I am absolutely disgusted at my treatment at the hands of the courts whilst they allow my children's mother to consistently flout the law and cause serious issues for my children and myself. Please help. Regards Gary
Gary C - 13-Sep-12 @ 11:49 PM
I am being harassed by youths in my area i am a pensioner with angina and high blood pressure I have tried to ask them to stop kicking ball into garden and was swore at they were at my husband car I had to movecar from front door to rear of house for I have security light at back of building police were called but never came these person know when my husband is out and seem to just hover about to cause trouble what can I do as I am at my wits end other than selling up what else can I do
jeannie - 11-Jun-11 @ 2:46 PM
My fiance is being held in detention for deportation in harmondsworth but he has a new born baby in the UK with me and we are engaged and want to get married, is there anyway we can marry even though he is inside? Can he have the right to get married
LucyLou - 5-Apr-11 @ 10:05 PM
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