While Article 14 of the ECHR prevents discrimination against individuals and groups on various grounds, the grounds do not specifically include discrimination on the grounds of age. It is possible for the courts to find discrimination on grounds other than those specifically cited; we have performed preliminary searches but have found nothing to suggest that groups of young people have the characteristics of a group that can be discriminated against.
Do you remember hearing about the Mosquito ring tone a few years ago? The high-pitched cell phone tone that teens use to receive text messages in class that almost everyone under 20 can hear… but almost no one over 30 can? (For the record, at 22, I can still hear it, at least using the MP3 sample version I found online.) I’m not a huge fan of the ring tone, but I’m not passionately against it either. To me, it just sounds like kids being kids. Trying to find a way to get done what they think they need to do, even when it’s against the rules.
What I never knew, though, were the origins of the ring tone. Apparently, before teens thought to use it on their phones, it was being used around stores in the U.K., continental Europe, and the U.S. to repel teenagers. Yes, repel them. The system is called Mosquito Teenage Control Products. Because they are nothing but troublemakers, apparently. (It has been interesting to see some articles talk about, “Oh, maybe this will help fight gangs!” which I like… but… not enough to gain my support of the device right now.)
It makes me frustrated enough that they would do this, but when I think about the fact that such devices also repel university students–even graduate students like me… it makes me quite angry. While clearly, an annoying noise can be tolerated if one really wants to shop somewhere, it’s the fact that someone doesn’t want me around and is bold enough to say it that upsets me the most. I was always irked when I see buffet lines that require parents to accompany those 10 and under–when I was 10 I thought that was incredibly insulting, as if I, a 5th grader, really thought it was ok to stick my hands in the mac n cheese before putting it on my plate. Ok, ok, but some kids do have trouble not touching food. It’s a public health concern, I guess. Sure, whatever. But for someone to be trying to keep you from their establishment completely? With any other demographic group, there would be an outcry. It wouldn’t be legal.
Actually, some have questioned the device. They’ve wondered if either by causing hearing loss or discriminating against teens its use could be a human rights violation. Well, studies show that it doesn’t damage hearing, and at least for now, it seems to be legal. One particular firm has outlined why the device should be able to be used, and it’s interesting that besides a few more legitimate arguments they actually state what I posted above. That apparently, it’s not even possible to discriminate based on age. That even something even more blatant wouldn’t be real discrimination. Because you can’t discriminate against teens. You can do whatever you want. And it’s not discrimination. Apparently.
I do recognize that youth is a quality that is temporary, which is different from ethnicity or disability or (without serious surgery) sex. But does that mean you can do whatever you want to young people? What if there was simply a sign that said “No one under 18” or “No one under 21” or even “No one under 30” outside certain stores. If one can’t disciminate against the young, are these signs just as legal as Mosquito?