Bioinequalities is a term we use to describe how social inequalities, such as sexism, racism and poverty may result in biological harm. It is also used to capture the way people may experience inequality because of their biology.
Recent research in the fields of epigenetics and neuroscience suggests that when people are exposed to serious inequality and discrimination this has a negative impact on their bodies and brains and these changes may even be passed on to future generations.
An example of bioinequalities is when people are disadvantaged by having a gene or neurological trait that leads to assumptions that the person is more likely to be aggressive or anti –social. Treating people in different and stigmatising ways because of biological — particularly genetic or neurological — characteristics overlaps with long-standing areas of discrimination, including on the basis of sex, race or disability. However, we argue that these categories may change as biological knowledge expands and changes. For example, more people may be defined as “disabled” as biological underpinnings of behaviour, are claimed. Through the example of challenging behaviour, our current work explores the way behavioural differences have been reclassified as disabilities in recent scientific and legal literature and linked to genetic and neurological causes.
Our area of focus is law and we examine the role that law has in responding to bioinequalities. Do our current laws adequately recognise and protect people from bioinequalities? Is law reform required, and if so, what laws do we need?