Sheffield human rights champion wants more protection for red-haired children

Equality and Human Rights UK says abuse is too often dismissed as "banter" Credit: PA

A human rights charity in Yorkshire is calling for red-haired children who are targeted with abuse to be given more protection, following the sacking of a Sheffield teaching assistant who poked fun at a ginger child.

Equality and Human Rights UK, which are based in the city, says red-haired children are being "targeted mercilessly" because of their appearance and it's too often dismissed as "banter".

It comes after a former teaching assistant in the city lost an unfair dismissal claim following his sacking for behaviour including upsetting a red-haired child.

The man – referred to in official documents as Mr J Brelsford – is said to have included a discussion on 'Gingerphobia' in a lesson at St Wilfred's Primary School after one child in the class had been teased by his classmates for the colour of his hair.

Chrissy Meleady, chief executive of Equalities and Human Rights UK, said red haired children had faced abuse for decades in the UK and some have even been driven to suicide as a result of bullying.

She said: "I've had a young girl who in a secondary school was chased by a group of other girls and was thrown down a flight of stairs on the basis of having red hair.

Chrissy Meleady, Chief Exec of Equality and Human Rights UK, says abuse against red-haired children is too often dismissed as 'banter'

"We've had situations where children have wanted to die by suicide because of the mercilessness of the bullying that's so extensive.

"There are all sorts of situations where the children are facing this drip-drip effect of walking down streets and being abused."

Is ginger hair dying out?

Less than 2% of the world's population have red hair. Both parents must be carriers of the mutated MC1R gene to be able to produce redhead offspring, with a 25% chance of having a red-headed child if they don't have red hair themselves.

But for redheads to truly disappear, they would have to completely stop having sex — as would everyone else carrying the recessive gene.

Without offering clear scientific evidence, the Oxford Hair Foundation reported in 2005 that redheads could disappear as early as 2060.

Chrissy says it's seen as acceptable to target red-haired children in way it wouldn't be to target someone because of their race or religion.

She said: "It's been a situation where people haven't really taken it seriously in authority and in school and care settings.

"Some people take it as just banter but the reality is over an extended period of time it can erode children's confidence and self-esteem and their self-concept. And it can leave a marked effect on them.

"I don't think we'd accept it for other groups of children but because it's so ingrained within our psyche and society and our cultural norms here in the UK, these children are having a very hard time."