Civil Rights and Political Liberties


How effectively does the state protect against different forms of discrimination?

State institutions effectively protect against and actively prevent discrimination. Cases of discrimination are extremely rare.
There are strong anti-discrimination laws on the Irish statute books. The Employment Equality Act, 1998 and the Equal Status Act, 2000 outlaw discrimination on grounds of gender, marital status, family status, age, intellectual or physical disability, race, sexual orientation, religious belief or membership in the Traveller Community in employment, vocational training, advertising, collective agreements, the provision of goods and services, and other opportunities to which the public generally has access. The Equality Authority is an independent body set up under the Employment Equality Act, 1998 to monitor discrimination. An independent equality tribunal was established under the same act to offer an accessible and impartial forum to remedy unlawful discrimination. These agencies have been active in recent years and successful in prosecuting cases on behalf of parties who felt they had been discriminated against.

In 2012, a referendum was passed to amend the constitution to explicitly recognize the rights of children and generally provide enhanced protection to children.

In May 2015, a referendum legalizing same-sex marriage was passed by a vote of 62% in favor, 38% against. The Thirty-Fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Act was signed into law on 29 August 2015.
New Zealand
Anti-discrimination legislation is outlined in a number of acts, including the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, the Privacy Act 1993, and the Human Rights Amendment Act 2011 (establishing the position of a full-time disability rights commissioner within the Human Rights Commission). Even more important, the Human Rights Commission actively promotes anti-discrimination measures focusing on populations such as Maori and women. Cases of discrimination are rare, but they do occur. Maori are disproportionally represented in the prison population, which may point to problems of discrimination, as has been highlighted by the United Nations Human Rights Committee. A lasting problem is the extent to which the Treaty of Waitangi as the basis of the relationship between Maori and the state is embedded in the general legal order. The complexities of this problem have been highlighted in the controversy over the ownership of the country’s foreshore and seabed, with many Maori groups claiming that Maori had a rightful claim to the title, based on the Treaty of Waitangi. More recently, the conflict over the Kermadec marine reserve sanctuary led to tensions between the minority National government and one of its key parliamentary allies, the Maori Party. The conflict led the Maori Party to threaten to end its supply agreement with National, which would have undermined parliamentary confidence in the minority government. The government reacted by postponing a final decision on the project.
Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 (Wellington: The Government of New Zealand 2011).
Human Rights Amendment Bill 2011 (Wellington: The Government of New Zealand 2011).
Human Rights and the Treaty of Waitangi: Draft for Discussion (Auckland: Human Rights Commission 2010).
New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (Wellington: The Government of New Zealand 1994).
Privacy Act 1993 (Wellington: The Government of New Zealand 2013).
Bramwell, Chris, 2016. Māori Party puts government on notice over Kermadec row. 15 September, 2016. Radio New Zealand. (accessed 12 October, 2016).
Equality of opportunity and equality before the law are firmly established in Norway. There is an ombudsperson for civil rights. The Sami minority living in the north of the country has some limited self-rule. Some contention exists over the use of natural resources in the Sami areas in the north, and legal issues over entitlements to land and water resources in these areas remain unresolved.

Men and women have essentially identical educational levels. Women’s labor-force participation rate is comparatively high. There is some evidence of gender discrimination in wages, as women earn on average just 84.7% of what men earn. However, once specifics such as the number of hours worked, occupation, education and experience are taken into consideration, it is difficult to observe significant differences between the earnings of men and women. This finding does not per se imply that there is no gender discrimination whatsoever in the labor market (e.g., men may be more readily hired in high-paying occupations). In 2017, several instances of gender-based discrimination were disclosed as a result of the #metoo campaign. On the other hand, affirmative action in favor of women has been used extensively in the labor market, particularly within the public sector. Even so, the labor market remains by international comparison strongly segregated by gender and occupation.

Day-care services are widespread and heavily subsidized. To a large extent, the supply of child-care services is today adequate to meet parents’ demand. In 2006, a law went into effect introducing affirmative action in the selection of board members for publicly listed companies. Under this regulation, at least 40% of board members must be women. This goal was achieved in two years with surprisingly little difficulty.

Some discrimination against non-Western immigrants seems to persist. In some areas of the economy, immigrants find it comparatively harder to find work, while earning lower wages and showing substantially higher unemployment rates than native Norwegians. Although discrimination against immigrants (including in the labor market) is illegal, it occurs in some areas of Norwegian society, though very few discrimination cases are prosecuted.
Sweden still ranks as one of the most egalitarian societies in the world. Discrimination based on any feature, be it gender, race, sexual preferences or ethnicity, is not tolerated.

That said, it is clear that there are still differences between salaries for men and women performing the same work as well as between immigrants and Swedes in the labor market. These are spheres of society where public regulation is only effective when complaints are filed with public authorities. There are two ombudsmen dealing exclusively with discrimination issues; one for gender issues and one for other forms of discrimination.

In terms of ethnicity, Sweden is an increasingly heterogeneous society. Integration policies are highly contested in the public debate. A Discrimination Ombudsman and a minister of integration and gender equality devote their political activities to anti-discrimination. However, during the period of review, ethnic segmentation in several suburbs of metropolitan areas in Sweden has increased. This societal fracturing remains an unsolved political challenge in contemporary Sweden. With the increased immigration in 2015 and 2016 there is an imminent risk that these challenges will be exacerbated.
State anti-discrimination protections are moderately successful. Few cases of discrimination are observed.
Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted in 1982, with the aim of preventing all types of overt discrimination based on gender, physical ability, ethnic origin, social status, political view or religion. Groups believing they suffer from the effects of discrimination continue to emerge. Basing their claims on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, some have taken their cases to the courts, often winning. The Canadian government has established policies such as employment equity and pay equity to protect and promote the rights of disadvantaged groups (often called equity groups) such as women, ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples and people with disabilities. These positive discrimination measures are controversial and their effectiveness is a subject of debate. A case in point is the gender-based pay gap. The lack of affordable childcare in Canada forces many women to drop out of the labor force or reduce their working hours during child-rearing years. This has a serious effect on women’s earnings levels. Full-time employed women in Canada earn on average 19% less than men; for women between 25 and 44 with at least one child, the pay gap is 29%, significantly higher than the OECD average (2010 data).

As so often, the experiences of Canada’s indigenous population pose the greatest concern. A 2014 report by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples concluded that Canada faces a continuing crisis when it comes to the situation of indigenous peoples: “The well-being gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada has not narrowed over the last several years, treaty and aboriginal claims remain persistently unresolved, indigenous women and girls remain vulnerable to abuse, and overall there appear to be high levels of distrust among indigenous peoples toward government at both the federal and provincial levels.” A subsequent 2015 report from the U.N. Human Rights Committee listed similar issues, including the “potential extinguishment of indigenous land rights and titles,” lengthy unresolved land disputes placing financial burdens on indigenous peoples, and the “disproportionately high rate of incarceration of indigenous people, including women, in federal and provincial prisons across Canada.”
UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya (2014), posted at

OECD (2012), Closing the Gap – Canada, posted at

United Nations Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on Canada’s sixth report in relation to Canada’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, August 2015.
An extensive body of laws and measures protecting the rights of various groups seeks to prevent discrimination. The constitution protects human rights, with Article 18 guaranteeing equality and non-discrimination for all. It explicitly prohibits discrimination based on factors such as gender, race or religion, while specific laws proactively protect the rights of minority groups in various ways. However, implementation gaps and omissions exist in practice.

Laws on gender equality and anti-discrimination, updated in line with EU directives, provide for proactive measures and sanctions aimed at enforcing equality of treatment in employment and occupations, combating racism and other forms of discrimination, and protecting persons with disabilities. Disabled persons are offered additional protection and special treatment.

The adoption, in late 2015, of a law on civil partnerships is considered a serious step in efforts against discrimination. In 2016, the exclusion of women and some age groups for 3,000 army posts was considered discriminatory.

The Ombudsman’s office, tasked with investigating discrimination, issued 17 reports/decisions on complaints in 2016 and 2017. A 2015 CoE report recommended actions to protect minorities’ rights and raise awareness on issues of human rights and anti-discrimination among the police and judiciary.
1. Reports -decisions of the Ombudsman as Authority against Racism and Discrimination 2016, 2017, (in Greek)
2. CoE committee on minorities, Cyprus 2015,
Denmark is traditionally an open and liberal society, and has been at the forefront in ensuring the rights of sexual minorities, for example. Basic rights are ensured in the constitution and supplemented with additional laws focused on specific areas, including ethnicity and the labor market. Citizens can file complaints concerning issues of discrimination to the Board of Equal Treatment or opt to bring discrimination cases before the courts.

Discrimination can take various forms and can be perceived differently depending on position, history and social context. A key issue is the extent of discrimination in the labor market.

Gender-based discrimination in the labor market relates primarily to wages, but also, more generally, to hiring and career options. Childcare is a particular point in this context. Rules dealing with child leave have been expanded to extend the right (and duty) of fathers to take paternity leave. Since 2006, all employers have been required to contribute to a paternity fund which finances paternity leave, which prevents such costs disproportionally falling on employers with a high number of female employees. A commission (Lønkommissionen) concluded in 2010 that about two-thirds of the observed average gender wage difference could be explained by individual differences and sectoral employment, but the analysis did not conclude there was “equal wage for equal work.”

Frequently cases of discrimination in the labor market are reported in the press, with examples of persons having difficulties in finding a job due to ethnic identifiers, such as the person’s name. Different treatments and options in the labor market can have several causes, and there is no thorough academic analysis that has attempted to separate these causes and evaluate the extent of discrimination in the labor market.

Indirect discrimination can take various forms. A notable area is in terms of rules and regulations, which, on the one hand, are general and apply to all citizens, but on the other hand, effectively target particular groups. One example is “start-aid” (roughly half of ordinary social assistance) offered to immigrants which have been residing in the country seven out of the last eight years. While formally treating all immigrants equally (as required by EU regulations) the scheme in particular targets immigrants from low-income countries with a low employment rate. The scheme was introduced by the liberal-conservative government in 2002, abolished by the Social Democratic-Center government in 2012 and reintroduced by the liberal government in 2015.

Immigration laws were tightened after the liberal-conservative government came to power in 2001. One particularly controversial law was the tightening of rules for family reunification. Bringing a spouse to Denmark required that both persons in the couple are at least 24 years old, in addition to a number of other requirements; the law also included an economic test. Immigration laws concerning family reunification and permanent residency were made less restrictive in May and June 2012 under the Social Democratic-led government, but has since been tightened by the Liberal-led government. At the moment, asylum policy is under pressure due to the large influx of asylum-seekers from the Middle East. Immigration rules and their implementation have been tightened several times recently. Even the Social Democrats, under the party’s new leadership, now favors a tight immigration policy.
Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2014 – Denmark, (accessed 21 October 2014).

United States Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 – Denmark, (accessed 21 October 2014).
Rights of ethnic and religious minorities are as a rule well protected in Finland, and the criminal code provides penalties for anyone who incites violence on racial, national, ethnic or religious grounds. The rights of the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland are widely respected, with Swedish recognized as an official national language. However, reforms to public administration at the local level, which are still pending at the time of writing, may violate important rights of the Swedish-speaking population. In addition, some segments of the population, primarily represented by the so-called Finns Party, have turned hostile toward Finland’s Swedish-speaking population. The Aland Islands, whose inhabitants speak Swedish, have historically maintained an extensive autonomy and a home-rule parliament as well as one permanent seat in the national legislature. Finland has often been seen as a forerunner concerning its efforts to maintain an effective minority-protection policy. Still, although cases of discrimination are rather few, ethnic minorities and asylum-seekers report occasional police discrimination; an immigrant background additionally increases the risk of encountering discrimination. Roma individuals, who make up a small proportion of the population, are marginalized, and the Finns Party, which split into two parts in 2017, one of which is a government party, encourages discrimination against ethnic minorities and asylum-seekers.
Germany’s Basic Law (Art. 3 sec.3) states that every person, irrespective of parentage, sex, race, language, ethnic origin, disability, faith, religious belief or political conviction is equally important and has the same rights. The General Equal Treatment Act of 2006 added age and sexual orientation to that enumeration of protected categories. The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (FADA) monitors compliance with legal anti-discrimination norms and principles, supports persons who have experienced discrimination, mediates settlements, informs the public about infringements, and commissions research on the subject of discrimination.

Nevertheless, discrimination remains a problem in various spheres of society. For example, there is widespread agreement that women should be better represented in the business sector’s upper management. In 2015, the government adopted legislation to increase the number of women on corporate supervisory boards. The law stipulates a 30% share of women on the boards of large companies. Moreover, equal pay for men and women remains an issue as a gender pay gap seems to persist.

The Federal Constitutional Court decided in June 2013 that treating same-sex and opposite-sex marriages differently from a taxation perspective was unconstitutional. Regulatory changes reflecting this ruling were adopted within weeks by the parliament. In January 2015, the court ruled that a bill banning headscarves for teachers at public schools must adhere to state laws (Ländergesetze). A general prohibition, incumbent on teachers in state schools, of expressing religious beliefs by outer appearance is not compatible with the freedom of faith and the freedom to profess a belief (Art. 4 secs. 1 and 2 of the Basic Law). However, in a dissenting opinion, two of the judges opposed the majority’s reasoning, signaling that non-discrimination on religious grounds is a contested issue in society and in constitutional law.

In June 2017 the federal parliament voted in favor of a complete judicial equalization of same-sex marriages. In November 2017, the Federal Constitutional Court requested that the government must recognize a third sex, thus avoiding discrimination of intersexual persons.
Fundamental human and civil rights are anchored in Luxembourg’s constitution. Anti-discrimination efforts are overseen both by public authorities and NGOs.

The 2015 Migrant Integration Policy Index awarded Luxembourg a low score of 57 points for its anti-discrimination policies (2014: 49). Two EU anti-discrimination directives (2000/43 and 2000/78) were adapted after years of debate in the form of an act passed on 28 November 2006, establishing a Center of Equal Treatment (Centre pour l’égalité de traitement, CET), which opened in October 2008. The act includes EU definitions of discrimination. Other bodies such as the Ombuds Committee for Children’s Rights (Ombuds-Comité fir d’Rechter vum Kand, law of 22 July 2002) have existed since January 2003; the Ombudsman Office was established by law on 22 August 2003 and began operations in May 2004.

Migration is a much debated issue. Considering that most migrants are European (90%) and of Christian faith, migration issues have caused fewer conflicts and ethnic concerns than in neighboring countries. After the adoption of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and an action plan in 2011, incidents of discrimination on the grounds of physical or mental disabilities have increased. This highlights the need to intensify inclusion policies.
“Luxembourg.” Migrant Integration Policy Index 2015, Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

“Mémorial A n° 207 de 2006.” Journal officiel du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, 6 Dec. 2006, Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

“Mémorial A n° 70 de 2008.” Journal officiel du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, 26 May 2008, Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

Rapport d’activités 2016. Centre pour l’égalité de traitement, 2016. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.
In Switzerland, constitutional law and a consociational political system ensure the autonomy, freedom from discrimination and rights to political participation of Swiss linguistic, ethnic and religious minorities. Article 8 of the country’s constitution states: “Nobody shall suffer discrimination, particularly on grounds of origin, race, sex, age, language, social position, lifestyle, philosophical or political convictions, or because of a corporal or mental disability. Men and women have equal rights.”

Nonetheless, a number of problems with regard to discrimination exist. The sheer size of the foreign population and its contribution to the wealth of the nation brings up the question of whether withholding political rights such as voting from this population might be regarded as an indefensible variety of discrimination. However, Switzerland’s conception of non-citizen voting rights is similar to that of other Western democracies, and undoubtedly protects the civil and human rights of foreigners without any discrimination. The Swiss People’s Party, currently the strongest party in the country, has repeatedly resorted to openly xenophobic discourse. Although gender-based discrimination is illegal, women continue to face considerable economic and social discrimination with regard to wage equality and equal career opportunities.

Social discrimination in higher education persists, as it does not attract political attention. Children with weak socioeconomic backgrounds have considerably lower chances of gaining access to higher education, and little progress has been made in the last decades.
The Netherlands is party to all the important international anti-discrimination agreements. A non-discrimination clause addressing religion, worldviews, political convictions, race, sex and “any other grounds for discrimination” is contained in Article 1 of the Dutch constitution. An individual can invoke Article 1 in relation to acts carried out by the government, private institutions or another individual. The constitutional framework has been specified by several acts that also refer to the EC Directives on equal treatment. In total, there is a high degree of protection, even though the definition of indirect discrimination provided by the European Commission has not been adopted by the Dutch legislature, and many regulations avoid the term “discrimination” in favor of “distinction” (with less negative connotations in a religiously and culturally diverse society like the Netherlands). A recent expert report criticized Dutch anti-discrimination sanctions as “ineffective,” and as neither “dissuasive” nor “proportionate.” In 2013, the U.N. Human Rights Commission got involved in contentious political debates about the discriminatory character of “Black Pete” that appears in traditional Santa Claus celebrations.

In other respects, Dutch legislation has gone beyond what is required by EU directives. In terms of policy, the Dutch government does not pursue affirmative action to tackle inequality and facilitate non-discrimination. Generally, the government relies on “soft law” measures as a preferred policy instrument to curb discrimination. There are more and more doubts about state policies’ effectiveness. Depending on significant (international) events (e.g., Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, terrorist attacks and public debates about Black Pete) discriminatory actions, internet-based threats and insults targeting Jews, Muslims and Afro-Dutch citizens increase. Especially worrisome is the broad-based negative climate of opinion and stereotyping of Muslims.
European Commission. European equality law review. European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination, 2015/1, Netherlands (equality, consulted 2 November 2015)

Zwarte Piet heeft zijn glans verloren (, consulted 5 November 2014)

Mens en Samenleving, Voor- en tegenstanders over Zwarte Piet (+ oplossingen) (, consulted 9 November 2016)

I. van der Valk, Veiligheid en discriminatie anno 2017 - waar staan we?, Achtergronden, 2 October 2017 (republic allochthonië.nl)

SCP, Nederlanders dubbel over discriminatie, Burgerperspectieven 2017|2 (, “Moslems in Nederland ervaren discriminatie meer dan elders in Europa,” 20 september 2017
Over the last 15 years, measures to combat discrimination have entered the political agenda, the statute books and, perhaps most tellingly, have become cultural norms. Starting with the Race Relations Act 2000, all public authorities have been obliged to promote race equality and tackle discrimination. In 2006, this was extended to cover gender and disability discrimination. The Equality Act 2010 has added further areas, such as age, gender identity, pregnancy and maternity and religion or belief. Political pressure is being exerted to add “caste” in order to fight discrimination still common in the Asian community. The legal framework is therefore very robust in countering discrimination and has had a significant impact on social attitudes, with the result that incidents of discrimination are rapidly and loudly condemned.

The state has made a serious attempt to end discrimination and abolish inequalities by reacting to a number of scandals in, for example, the police force with its alleged “institutionalized racism.” Relatively minor incidents on the football field become headline news and the mainstream view is very strongly anti-discriminatory, to the extent that even populist political parties appealing to indigenous groups have to be very careful to avoid any hint of overt racism or other forms of discrimination. The perception that the indigenous population is crowded-out from public services and social housing has contributed to concerns about the impact of immigration, on which right-wing political forces and the right-wing press are capitalizing. There is still a massive imbalance in the national DNA database (40% of the black male population is registered, but only 13% of Asian males and 9% of Caucasian males), and anti-terrorism laws sometimes entail racial profiling, but these phenomena are motivated primarily by security concerns, not explicit discrimination. Moreover, support for equality measures is evident in how public opinion reacts to cases of discrimination.
The U.S. federal and state governments have enacted many laws prohibiting discrimination. At the federal level, enforcement is centered in a Civil Rights Division within the Justice Department and an independent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. While the origins of these policies are found in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the framework of protection has been extended from racial minorities to women, the aged and disabled, and in some state and local contexts, LGBTQ. The Obama administration made progress with regard to gender equality.

The federal government has not actively pushed affirmative-action policies, such as preferential treatment for disadvantaged groups, since the Clinton administration. The U.S. Supreme Court has imposed restrictions on state-university practices that favored black or Latino students in admissions, while upholding state policies that barred race or ethnicity as considerations in admission. In general, liberals and conservatives disagree on how much the persistence of unfavorable outcomes for African Americans in educational achievement, employment status, income, incarceration and other areas is a consequence of ongoing discrimination despite existing legal protections.

The Trump administration has announced reversals of some Obama-era anti-discrimination policies. The Justice Department has announced that an anti-discrimination law does not protect transgender workers, opening people up to potential discrimination in the workplace based on their gender identity. In 2017, Donald Trump signed a directive reinstating a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. Transgender troops had been able to serve openly since the Obama administration lifted the ban in 2016. The Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress will undoubtedly minimize anti-discrimination enforcement. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was a strong opponent of anti-discrimination policies while he served in the Senate. The administration is also appointing numerous very conservative judges. It is possible that past anti-discrimination achievements will be eroded.
Australia has developed a substantial body of anti-discrimination legislation, covering sex, race, ethnicity, marital status, pregnancy and disability. The body charged with overseeing this legislation, the Australian Human Rights Commission, is a statutory authority. After completion of a National Human Rights Consultation, Gillard’s Labor government moved toward replacing existing anti-discrimination legislation with a single integrated act that additionally incorporated prohibitions on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Despite a reduction in sexual discrimination over recent decades, a 2016 survey of young Australians indicated that discrimination against women remains a problem.

No changes to legislation were ultimately made during the Gillard government’s term in office, and the new coalition government has shown no interest in implementing the changes. Indeed, in November 2013, the attorney general announced a plan to amend part of Australia’s racial-discrimination laws by repealing section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, which makes it unlawful for someone to perform an act that is reasonably likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone because of their race or ethnicity. In response to widespread opposition to the proposal, it was abandoned in August 2014. Several members of the coalition government nonetheless continue to advocate for its repeal.

Even though outside of the review period, it is important to note that Australia has finally joined other OECD countries that permit same-sex marriage. Following a broad majority in a public referendum, Australian parliament passed a bill on 7 December 2017 that allows same-sex marriage.
Discrimination is prohibited by law, and several governmental institutions have been established to ensure non-discrimination. Alongside the Chancellor of Justice, the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner (GEETC) acts as an independent and impartial expert tasked with monitoring the issue of discrimination. Legal standards are set by the Gender Equality Act (2004) and Equal Treatment Act (2009). The Registered Partnership Act (2016) allows same-sex couples to register their partnership, but several secondary legal acts are still missing because of heavy opposition from some parliamentary parties.

Gender equality has been a longstanding challenge and is reflected, for example, in the largest gender pay gap in Europe. Out of all cases filed with the GEETC in 2016, about half were made on the basis of gender. The second-largest number of cases concerns discrimination on the basis of religion, language or citizenship (70 out of 332), followed by disability (55), ethnicity (20), sexual orientation (10), and skin color (5). More than half of the discrimination cases occurred in workplaces.
GEETC (2017) Annual Report to the Parliament. (in Estonian) (accessed 25.10. 2017)
Protection against discrimination on the basis of race has been regulated since 1979, while protection against gender discrimination is regulated by the New Family Law passed in 1983. The European Union’s legislative acts also provide protection from gender discrimination. However, legislation against discrimination has rarely been implemented.

In the period under review, the outcry against racism and the rise to power of a left-wing party, Syriza, contributed to the decline of discrimination. In fact, the opposite of racist discrimination, namely tolerance, solidarity and support of foreigners, was observed in the summer and the fall of 2015, when Greece received a vast inflow of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan (210,000 refugees arrived in and passed through Greece in the month of October alone).

Μοreover, Greece recorded the largest improvement in the protection of LGBTI rights between 2015 and 2016, while new legislation passed between 2015 and 2017 grants extensive rights to same-sex couples and recognizes self-proclaimed gender identity for people experiencing gender dysphoria.
Family relations are regulated through law 1329/1982, while anti-discrimination legislation is found in law 927/1079 (amended in 2001 to facilitate the intervention of prosecuting authorities against trespassers). European Union law, naturally also applicable in Greece, regulates gender discrimination. See, for instance, the Gender Directive, officially known as Council Directive 2004/113/EC of 13 December 2004.

Information on protection of LGBTI rights is available from
At the legal level, anti-discrimination norms exist and are sufficiently developed. Their implementation is sometimes not equally satisfactory. This happens in particular in the field of physical and mental abilities, of gender or for some cases of ethnic minorities (the Roma, for instance). Italy has a very inclusive model for integrating physically and mentally disabled persons. However, in some regions, the system lacks financial resources.

In the public administration there is an increasing effort by the Department for Equal Opportunities to monitor the impact of gender discrimination on a regular basis. The department’s report of 2017 indicates – with some exceptions – significant gains made in gender representation in the higher levels of state administration. The percentage of women among the top ranks of the central administration reached 46%. Levels are lower in universities and independent authorities. The situation of gender representation in the business sector is generally less satisfactory but improving. Much greater progress was achieved in political institutions, such as parliament, assemblies and cabinet.

With regard to immigrants and especially illegal immigrants, discrimination is widespread. Whereas immigrants generally enjoy access to the health care system, their rights in other areas – labor relations in particular – are not well protected.
In 2016, the parliament approved legislation allowing same-sex civil partnerships.
Italy’s constitution and the political reality grants considerable political autonomy and cultural rights to regions with non-Italian or non-mainland minorities and majorities such as Val d’Aosta, Trentino and South Tyrol, Sardinia, Sicily but also to ancient ethnic groups such as the Alberesh, which originated in Albania. Some municipalities created democratically elected assemblies to represent migrants in the local decision-making.
In 2011, Latvia concluded its transposition of EU anti-discrimination directives. Anti-discrimination legal provisions are scattered among more than 30 pieces of legislation, with policy responsibilities dispersed among a significant number of state institutions. No single entity takes the lead in designing and implementing anti-discrimination policy. Individuals complaining of discrimination typically approach the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman has focused on labor-market discrimination on the basis of age, sex and sexual preference, cases of hate speech, and on issues of equal access to education and health services.

Due to Latvia’s ethnic makeup, discrimination based on ethnic origin is often cited in the media. The legal framework has been deemed non-discriminatory and official complaints are rare. However, public rhetoric on issues of citizenship, loyalty, language of instruction in education and use of language in public life can be inflammatory and be perceived as discriminatory. In 2016, new legislation was passed requiring “loyalty” from teachers in the public-school system, creating concerns over how this “loyalty” measure will be implemented.

Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is poorly regulated. It is only mentioned in the context of Labor Law. The Ombudsman’s efforts to draw public attention to the issue of same-sex partnerships have been fraught with controversy due to intense polarization of views within Latvian society.
1. European Network of Legal Experts in the Non-discrimination Field (2011), Report on Measures to Combat Discrimination, Available at:, Last assessed: 18.05.2013

2. The European Network of Legal Experts, Country report – Main Legislation, Available at:, Last assessed: 18.05.2013

3. Latvian Centre for Human Rights (2011), Anti-discrimination in Latvia: From Legislation to Judicial Practice, Available at (in Latvian): na_Latvija_II_Screen.pdf, Last assessed: 21.05.2013.

4. Ombudsman of Latvia (2016), Annual Report, Available at (in Latvian):, Last assessed: 10.11.2017.

5. Ombudsman of Latvia (2012), Report on the Conference Regarding Progress Evaluation of 2012, Available at (in Latvian):, Last assessed: 21.05.2013

6. University of Latvia, Social and Political Research Institute (2014). How Democratic is Latvia: Democracy Audit 2005 – 2014. Available at (in Latvian):, Last assessed: 03.11.2014
Lithuania legislation is largely consonant with European non-discrimination standards. The country’s Criminal Code regulates racially motivated and xenophobic incidents and discriminatory acts. In 2013, Lithuania made it possible to conduct investigations into and prosecute domestic-violence offenses without the victim’s consent, and simplified the procedure for legal gender recognition based on the submission of medical proof of gender‑reassignment surgery.

The number of criminal acts deemed to be inciting hatred increased in 2011 compared to 2010. A number of state institutions are tasked with preventing various forms of discrimination, but their activities lack coordination. Furthermore, NGOs implement activities aimed at strengthening the participation and representation of specific vulnerable groups (i.e., the small Roma population or members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community). Some awareness-raising campaigns have sought to prevent racial discrimination and promote tolerance, but these have been fragmented.

The impact that criminal cases, special-representation measures and awareness-raising campaigns have had on the elimination of discrimination is unclear due to the limited evidence available. Lithuania’s human-rights organizations, particularly the Lithuanian Center for Human Rights, claim that a lack of attention from state institutions, disproportionate budget cuts during the financial and economic crisis, and policy-implementation failures have undermined anti-discrimination and anti-racism efforts.

Some cases of discrimination or racist activities have been observed in recent years, including a resurgence of neo-Nazi activities (e.g., a public march held in 2012) that was emphasized by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Despite the adoption of anti-domestic-violence legislation, spousal and child abuse remain problems, as illustrated by a woman’s death in 2013 (due to a lack of response from the police emergency-response center). According to Eurobarometer surveys, combating discrimination effectively in Lithuania remains difficult due to a lack of public support. In addition, political opposition occasionally forms a significant barrier to the implementation and enforcement of equality legislation.

However, according to public opinion surveys, the perception of discrimination as a widespread problem is significantly lower than EU averages. According to 2015 Eurobarometer data, 29% of respondents in Lithuania agreed that discrimination on the basis of ethnicity was widespread, compared to an EU average of 64%, while 17% of respondents thought that religious discrimination was widespread, compared to an EU average of 50%.
Report on racism and related discriminatory practices in Lithuania can be found at -11/ENAR%20Shadow%20Report_Lithuania_2011_FINAL_CONFIRMED.pdf
Information on Lithuania by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is available at
The 2017 freedom rating of Lithuania by the Freedom House is available at
European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination, Lithuania country report 2016:
State policies seek to redress discrimination, and cases of overt discrimination are rare. Moreover, Portugal has been a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights since October 1976.

Nevertheless, two areas of concern remain:

First, the gap between average pay for women and men has increased steadily in recent years. The unadjusted gender wage gap increased from 8.4% in 2006 to 14.9% in 2014 and to 17.8% in 2015. This latter result pushed Portugal’s gender wage gap above the EU average for the first time since 2006.

Second, racial discrimination remains a concern. The Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination (CICDR) received and analyzed 119 complaints regarding racial discrimination in 2016. This was the highest such number since 2000, and represented a rise from only 84 complaints in 2015.

However, the Costa government also has the most diverse cabinet since Portugal’s democratization. Aside from a prime minister of Indian (Goan) ascent, the cabinet also includes Afro-Portuguese Minister of Justice Francisca Van Dunem, as well as a Roma junior minister and a blind junior minister.
Eurostat, Gender pay gap in unadjusted form, available online at: 

Diario de Noticias, Miguel Marujo, “Queixas por discriminacao racial atingiram numero maximo em 2016.”
Slovenian law guarantees equal rights to all citizens and protects against discrimination based on prescribed criteria. There are also various forms of positive discrimination, including a gender quota in electoral law and special voting rights for the officially recognized national minorities as well as for the Roma population. Despite the legal framework, foreign workers and women are still at times paid somewhat less for the same work than Slovenian and male workers, and there have been cases of discrimination against same-sex couples. Amnesty International and others have criticized the government for not doing enough to counter discrimination toward the Roma. Media rights for minorities other than the Hungarian, Italian and Roma are underdeveloped.
European Commission (2017): Country Report Slowenia about Non-Discrimination. Brussels (
Any discrimination based on birth, race, sex, religion, opinion or any other personal or social condition or circumstance is forbidden in Spain (according to the constitution and all important international and European treaties signed by Spain that are relevant to counteracting marginalization). In addition, any individual, whether a national citizen or not, can invoke a special expedited procedure in the courts asking the state to protect him or her against any form of discrimination. As a result, cases of explicit discrimination are extremely rare. The Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality, the ombudsperson, and several regional agencies are active in monitoring discrimination. Of course, this does not mean that occasional public discrimination and, above all, indirect social discrimination are never observed, particularly concerning women, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and ethnic and linguistic minorities. For example, there remain significant wage differences between men and women, and few women sit on the boards of companies. The recent approval of equal parental leave for fathers may prove a positive development.

Though there are instances of discrimination toward Muslim immigrants and the Roma, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2016 showed that Spaniards express fewer fears than other Europeans regarding minorities and tend to express less negative views about immigration. It is true that anti-Muslim views are comparatively common (50% of Spaniards have an unfavorable opinion of Muslims, although the community represents only 3.5% of the total population), and some tensions emerge from time to time, but it is also true that the state tends to offer protection to minority communities. Spain is also considered to be a pioneer in fighting discrimination against homosexuals and women, although the Rajoy government was less active in this realm than its predecessor. The main national agency tasked with monitoring equality and antidiscrimination efforts is the Institute for Women and Equal Opportunities. Nevertheless, Spain has not yet adopted a comprehensive antidiscrimination law and the European Parliament declared in a 2015 report that “there are some concerns about whether the law in Spain is in complete compliance with the EU directives on racial and employment equality.”
June 2017, Chatham House: “The Future of Europe: Comparing Public and Elite Attitudes
European Commission, Special Eurobarometer 437: “Discrimination in the EU in 2015” /IMG/pdf/ebs_437_en.pdf
Austrian law bars discrimination based on gender, religion, race, age or sexual orientation. In practice, despite the institutionalization of an anti-discrimination policy, discrimination is evident within Austrian society. This includes indirect discrimination directed against women, who are still underrepresented especially at the level of management in the business sector; discrimination against dark-skinned persons, in some cases by the police; and gays and lesbians, whose position has improved, but still features structural disadvantages. Particularly with reference to sexual orientation, Austrian policies had retained a rather conservative orientation, limiting the legal institution of marriage to heterosexual partnerships. Although legal substitutes existed for gay and lesbian couples, the bureaucratic reality made life for heterosexual partners considerably easier. A decision by the Constitutional Court in 2017 ended this kind of discrimination and same-sex marriage will become possible as of 1 January 2019.

From the viewpoint of an inclusive democracy, the most significant form of discrimination is currently the increasing number of people living legally in Austria but excluded from political participation by the obstacles faced when applying for Austrian citizenship. Dual citizenship in Austria is legally possible, but the dominant policy is to make it as difficult as possible.
As in most countries, discrimination exists in practice. Average employment rates and educational achievements among Belgian citizens of foreign origin, for example, are significantly lower than among their native-born counterparts. A significant percentage of the Belgian population openly expresses racist speech or feelings, though rarely through mainstream media outlets.

With regard to providing equal opportunities to the disabled, Belgium performs less well than most northern European countries. The country also falls below the European average with regard to acts of violence against ethnic minorities, although state institutions have taken a proactive stance in such matters. Gay marriage has been legal for more than 10 years without significant social upheaval, mass demonstrations or violence. In 1993, the Belgian parliament founded a government agency called the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism, changing its name to the Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities (UNIA) in 2016. UNIA is easily accessible to the public, and its many activities, including legal support for people subject to discrimination, are publicly visible.

In the years since the terrorist attacks on Paris and Brussels, a specific set of challenges has emerged in the form of reports of police violence and abuse toward Muslims. However, these incidents are not expected to become a part of systematic policy, and thus should be progressively addressed by authorities.

on UNIA: English-language welcome page:
In general terms, political rights are protected by legislature and government bodies. Major failings can be seen, for example, in the case of the Mapuche indigenous conflict in the southern part of Chile. The Mapuche are not constitutionally recognized as an ethnic minority with collective rights. Despite official denials, some Mapuche captives claim to be political prisoners. There have been some important attempts to diminish discrimination, such as the Civil Union Agreement (Acuerdo de Unión Civil) that allows for the official acceptance of same-sex unions. The law on this issue was enacted in October 2015. In June 2017, President Bachelet officially apologized to the Mapuches for the mistakes and horrors (errores y horrores) committed or tolerated by the state toward these communities and presented the Plan de Reconocimiento y Desarrollo (Plan for Recognition and Development) Araucanía. This initiative seeks the recognition of collective rights and their language (mapuzungung), introduces a holiday in their honor (Día Nacional de los Pueblos Originarios) and creates the Ministry of the Indigenous Peoples and the Council of Indigenous Peoples.

With regard to gender, Chile is ranked 63 out of 144 countries in the latest Global Gender Gap Index (2017); its parity-imparity score (ranging from 0.00 = imparity to 1.00 = parity) is 0.704. Both figures represent an improvement compared to last year. Only about 16% of Chile’s serving deputies and senators are women. These averages are much lower than comparable shares elsewhere in Latin America or in the OECD as a whole. In order to improve the ratio of women representatives, a new electoral law obligates political parties’ electoral slates to be composed of at least 40% women beginning in the 2017 elections and provides financial incentives for the candidacy and election of women. Furthermore, a new labor reform package enacted in August 2016 implemented a 30% female quota for the representatives of labor unions.

Gender-discrimination issues are relevant in other spheres as well. For example, health care insurance is twice as expensive for women as for men due to maternity costs. Many other social, political, economic and legal policies and practices lead (directly or indirectly) to gender and ethnic discrimination.
Interparlamentary Union, Situation as of 1. October 2017

Global Gender Gap Index (2017)
Czech Rep.
The Czech legal system guarantees equality of access to work, education and social services before the law. The implementation of EU directives has underpinned such guarantees. Compared to other developed countries, however, gender discrimination remains relatively high, especially in the labor market. The World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report ranked the Czech Republic 88th out of 144 countries due primarily to challenges facing women in the areas of economic participation and political empowerment (ranking 91st and 92nd respectively in these categories). The discrimination of Roma remains a grave issue. The ratio of Roma pupils in so-called special schools that serve individuals with learning disabilities is about 30%, significantly higher than the actual proportion of Roma living in the Czech Republic. Such tracking means that many Roma children have a reduced chance of moving on to higher education and better work opportunities. As low-income Roma families have moved out of cities into rural areas in response to rising housing prices, territorial segregation has increased. The governmental response included a plan to move 6,000 low income (mainly Roma) families from temporary housing into permanent housing by 2020.
World Economic Forum (2017): The Global Gender Gap Report 2017. Geneva (
In principle, any discrimination such as those based on gender, race, ethnic origin or religion is banned by the constitution and by fundamental law. Beyond the recognition of the right of non-discrimination, however, institutional monitoring, judicial support and policy measures to ensure such rights are less than adequate.

France’s legal basis for non-discrimination is solid. The controversial recognition of “marriage for all,” or recognizing the right of gays and lesbians to legally marry, is a point in case. Courts tend not only to apply but also to extend these rights. Many policy measures, particularly financial incentives or subsidies, attempt to compensate for different instances of discrimination, in particular gender, age or migration background. However, the situation is often contradictory in many cases. For instance, while immigrants face challenges in getting residence permits, illegal immigrants have free access to health care and their children can be legally registered at school. A key contention concerns the integration of so-called second-generation immigrants. Despite many policy measures, a large number of these young French citizens feel like foreigners in their country, and they are often considered as such by the population at large. The failure to provide quality schooling and, later, a proper job is one of the most dramatic dimensions of what is called invisible discrimination. Empirical evidence exists examining discriminative practices experienced by Muslim job-seekers (cf., France Stratégie). One serious handicap in dealing with this situation is enshrined in the French republican tradition, which emphasizes strict equality and excludes in principle any sort of discrimination, even positive discrimination (such as gathering statistics based on ethnicity to determine social service allocation). The first measure Macron introduced from September 2017 to tackle these phenomena was a reduction in the number of pupils per class for primary schools located in designated poor and problematic areas. The maximum number of students per class (previously 24) has been halved to 12.

Institutionally, a recent development is the creation of a new body named the Defender of Rights, which replaces several specialized agencies. In addition to national organizations, many regional or sectoral ad hoc institutions that address discrimination cases have been established.
France Stratégie: Lignes de faille, Paris, October 2016
Iceland’s constitution states that every person should enjoy equal human rights regardless of gender, religion, opinion, national origin, race, color, property, birth, or other status. More specific provisions are to be found in the Penal Code, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Equality Act. The Supreme Court has ruled based on those acts and the constitution. The Equality Act states that genders should be accorded equal rights in all areas of society and that discrimination in terms of pay, hiring, and employment is against the law. The Center for Gender Equality monitors adherence to this law and is obliged to refer all major cases to the courts.

Although equal rights are guaranteed by law, the reality is that discrimination occasionally occurs in Iceland, especially against women, disabled persons, and migrants. In the 2012 presidential elections, blind and physically disabled voters were denied the right to have an assistant of their own choice to help them vote at polling stations. Instead, they had to vote with help from public officials working at the polling stations. Following complaints from the Organization of Disabled in Iceland (Öryrkjabandalagið), the electoral laws were adjusted to allow blind or otherwise physically disabled individuals to independently nominate their own assistant who would be sworn to secrecy. This change applied to the 2013 parliamentary elections.

The government’s non-compliance with the binding opinion of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which ruled in 2007 that the management system of Iceland’s fisheries was discriminatory, signals a less-than-full commitment to non-discrimination.

The U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was signed on behalf of the Icelandic government in March 2007. It was not until September 2016 that the Icelandic parliament, Althingi, passed a resolution to enable the government to ratify the convention. At the time of writing, this remains to be done.
The Penal Code (Almenn hegningarlög no. 19/1940).

The Administrative Procedure Act (Stjórnsýslulög no. 40/1993).

The Gender Equality Act (Lög um jafna stöðu og jafnan rétt kvenna og karla no. 10/2008).

Act on changes on the Act on Parliamentary Elections (Lög um breytingu á lögum um kosningar til Alþingis nr. 24/2000 og lögum um kosningar til sveitarstjórna nr. 5/1998 (aðstoð við kosningu). Lög nr. 111 16. október 2012.

Þingsályktun um fullgildingu samnings Sameinuðu þjóðanna um réttindi fatlaðs fólks.
South Korea
Discrimination remains a major problem in South Korea, particularly for women, migrants, LGTB people and North Korean defectors. In the Global Gender Gap Report 2017, South Korea was ranked 118th out of 144 countries measured. The country has shown progress on the Political Empowerment subindex and with regard to parity in tertiary enrollment; however, it also showed a small decrease in share of estimated income earned by women and in perceptions of wage equality within the Korean business community. The Moon government has promised to improve gender equality. As a start, he appointed six female ministers, which at one-third of the cabinet is a considerably higher share than in any previous Korean cabinet.

Discrimination against irregular workers and migrant workers is also common, with many migrant workers still having to submit to an HIV test in order to obtain a work visa. There were approximately 30,000 North Korean defectors in Korea at the end of 2016. They are eligible for South Korean citizenship, but often face months of detention and interrogations on arrival. According to a study by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, half of the North Korean defectors in South Korea have suffered from discrimination, primarily directed at them by people in the street (20.6%), their supervisors (17.9%) or by co-workers (16.5%).

In 2015, the Ministry of Justice rejected an attempt by the Beyond the Rainbow Foundation to become the country’s first registered LGBT advocacy group. However, in August 2017, the Supreme Court ordered the government to allow Beyond the Rainbow to register as a charity with the Ministry of Justice. Article 92 of the Military Penal Code, which currently faces a legal challenge, singles out sexual relations between members of the armed forces of the same sex as “sexual harassment” punishable by a maximum of one year in prison.
Freedom House. “Freedom in the World 2016: South Korea.”
Chosun Daily. “N.Korean Defectors Complain of Discrimination in S.Korea.” March 15, 2017.
World Economic Forum. Global Gender Gap Report 2017. November 2, 2017.
State anti-discrimination efforts show limited success. Many cases of discrimination can be observed.
The Bulgarian constitution, the 2004 Anti-Discrimination Act and various EU directives guarantee protection against discrimination. There is a Commission for Protection against Discrimination, and citizens have access to the courts in cases of suspected discrimination. In practice, however, instances of discrimination can be frequently observed. Discrimination against the highly marginalized Roma minority remains a major issue. Groups such as people with mental and physical disabilities and members of sexual minorities face discrimination within the labor market. Elderly people and those with comparatively low socioeconomic status often face discrimination with regard to the provision of health services. Public discourse regarding migrants has grown increasingly xenophobic as many Bulgarian media outlets openly broadcast hate speech, thereby contributing to racially motivated agitation.
Although discrimination has been prohibited by several different legislative acts for some time, the new Anti-discrimination Act (ADA), which entered into force in 2009, was an important step. The new act prohibits discrimination in 10 specific areas of social life and distinguishes 17 different forms of discrimination. It has enabled new forms of judicial redress for cases of discrimination. The Ombudsman institutions have a large role in combating discrimination, and the Office of the Public Ombudsman serves as a central anti-discrimination body under the ADA. However, although discrimination is prohibited by the law, the legislation has not been fully implemented, and certain vulnerable groups still experience widespread discrimination. In particular, the Roma encounter discrimination in almost all areas of life, especially in education and employment. In addition, although Croatia has a good legal framework governing minority rights, Croatian citizens of Serbian ethnicity remain subject to discrimination.
Israel’s main venue for dealing with cases of discrimination is the court system, particularly the Supreme Court, which address cases of discrimination against women and minorities in professional, public and state spheres. The country has long-standing institutional mechanisms intended to promote equality, such as the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission in the Ministry of the Economy. However, these tend to offer ad hoc solutions instead of comprehensive and long-term plans. Attempts to pass a basic law protecting equality, thus enshrining this normative concept alongside existing laws protecting human dignity and liberty, have proved unsuccessful. Instead, the struggle against discrimination is usually fought through Israel’s media and in the form of vigorous NGO activity.

Progress has been made in recent years in the areas of women’s rights and gay rights. The government addressed the expanding industries of human trafficking and prostitution by opening designated shelters for victims and passing a 2006 law imposing prison terms of up to 20 years for perpetrators. The gay community has also achieved prominent victories; non-biological same-sex parents have been made eligible for guardianship rights and same-sex marriages conducted in foreign countries are now recognized by the state, with the first gay divorce granted in 2012.

The country has generally positive measures protecting the rights of disabled persons. The Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities has stated that the gap between the general employment rate and the disabled employed population is constantly closing, and that the employment rate among disabled persons is rising (to 78% in 2013).The commission’s work is based on the Equal Rights Law for Persons with Disabilities (1998), which mandates Israel to “protect the dignity and liberty of persons with disabilities and anchor their right to equal and active participation in society in all fields of life, as well as properly provide for their special needs in a manner enabling them to spend their lives in maximum independence, privacy and dignity, while making the most of their capabilities.” Examples outside the labor market include fines for a lands authority for releasing a promotional video degrading Mizrahi Israelis; police raids targeting nightclubs and other entertainment venues applying discriminatory selection criteria; and police arrests of people linked to the racist “La Familia” organization.

However, numerous troubling signs remain. Discrimination against Palestinians is widespread and systematic. Following Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Arab residents were issued Israeli identity cards and given the option of obtaining Israeli citizenship, though most choose not to seek citizenship for political reasons. These non-citizens have many of the same rights as Israeli citizens, except the right to vote in national elections. They can vote in municipal as well as Palestinian Authority elections and remain eligible to apply for Israeli citizenship. However, Israeli law strips non-citizens of their local residency if they stay outside the city for more than three months. The most recent annual report of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel argued that there is “institutionalized and long-standing neglect and discrimination against the Arab population in the areas of land allocation, planning and housing.”

A 2003 law denies citizenship or residency status to Palestinian residents of the West Bank or Gaza who marry Israeli citizens. This measure affects about 15,000 couples and has been criticized as blatantly discriminatory. In 2011, the Knesset passed a law allowing the courts to revoke the citizenship of any Israeli convicted of spying, treason or aiding the enemy. A number of civil rights groups and the Shin Bet security service criticized the legislation as unnecessary and overly burdensome.

Women still face discrimination in the labor market, earning lower average wages and salaries than men (women’s average per-hour wage is 83% of the comparable wage for men). Moreover, woman, Arabs and people with low incomes are underrepresented in technological and scientific study courses and work environments, a factor indicating persistent inequality in the educational system.
Dahan, Tal, “Situation report: The state of human rights in Israel and the OPT 2016,” The Association for Civil Rights in Israel,

Adalah, Adalah‘s Annual Report of Activities 2016, April 2017,’s_Annual_Report_of_Activities_2016_15.4.2017_FINAL.pdf

Swirsky, S., E. Konor-Atias, “Social status report 2016,” January 2017. (Hebrew)

Tzameret-Kertcher, Hagar et al. “The Gender Index, Gender Inequality in Israel 2016,” The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute,

Zohar, Gal, “Equal participation – comparative view- Israel and the World,” Report to the Ministry of Justice, 2016
Women still face some discrimination, particularly in the labor market. Women’s average salaries remain 27% below those of their male colleagues (based on 2016 data). The country’s share of female parliamentarians – 9% according to World Bank data for 2017 – is low by the standards of other advanced countries. Prime Minister Abe has called women “Japan’s most underused resource,” and the government has designated “womenomics” as a key pillar of its reform program. Programs being implemented under this rubric include child care support and similar measures, and according to pledges made in the 2017 general election, a portion of the proceeds from the planned 2019 consumption-tax increase will be used for this purpose. Still, given the persistent undercurrent of sexism in Japanese society, de facto workplace discrimination will be hard to overcome.

The 3 million descendants of the so-called burakumin, an outcast group during the feudal period, still face social discrimination, though it is difficult for the government to counter this. Korean and Chinese minorities with permanent resident status also face some social discrimination. Naturalization rules have been eased somewhat in recent years. Workers from the Philippines, the Middle East and elsewhere frequently complain of mistreatment and abuses. According to a 2016 – 2017 Ministry of Justice survey, one in three foreigners have experienced discrimination in the form of derogatory remarks, housing discrimination or similar such behavior.

Japan continues to have a rather serious human-trafficking problem with respect to menial labor and the sex trade, in some cases affecting underage individuals.

The treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers is frequently the subject of criticism. Asylum status is still rarely granted – only 28 asylum-seekers were recognized in 2016 – despite the rising number of applications (around 17,000 in 2017).
Akiko Fujita and Afifah Darke, As Abe injects fresh fiscal stimulus, how is Japan’s ‘womenomics’ faring?, CNBC News, 3 August 2016,

Daniel Hirst, Japan racism survey reveals one in three foreigners experience discrimination, The Guardian, 31 March 2917,

Japan to limit work permits for asylum-seekers from 2018, Japan Times, 27 December 2017,
The Maltese constitution’s chapter on fundamental human rights forbids discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender or politics. Other laws forbid discrimination on the basis of physical disability or handicap. In Malta, the civil courts and the Constitutional Court are staunch defenders of anti-discrimination legislation. Since 2013, the government has strengthened the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people through the establishment of civil unions and a gender identity act. Malta also has a number of independent commissions to protect the rights of vulnerable groups, such as children and disabled people. In the last budget, the government increased the fine for employers who discriminate against disabled people.

Women are generally underrepresented in the social, economic and political life of Malta; although much progress has been made in recent years, there remains a lack of consensus concerning the introduction of positive discrimination measures to address this problem. In the latest Gender Equality Index, composed of several indicators of equality, Malta scored 60% out of 100% overall and only 27.4% in the indicator of power In the workplace, women earn about half of what men receive. Discrimination on grounds of political affiliation remains a problem, a direct result of the electoral system used in Malta. Aggrieved ordinary citizens may take their case to the Constitutional Court, the Employment Commission or the Ombudsman Office, while public servants may also bring a case before the Public Service Commission. Nevertheless, allegations of discrimination on political grounds remain common. In addition, it has been alleged that many cases of discrimination remain unreported. Migrant workers experience discrimination in accessing employment and within employment.
Carabott, S. Expats Petition against Malta Discrimination. Times of Malta 12/04/13
Ellul, T. REPORT ON MEASURES TO COMBAT DISCRIMINATION Directives 2000/43/EC and 2000/78/EC
Unreported discrimination cases causes concerns Di Ve 24/05/13.
Malta is almost half way to gender equality, European Institute for Gender equality 24/06/16
Times of Malta 04/11/17 Women in Malta earn half of what men get
While there is a societal norm against overt racial discrimination, there is a significant correlation between race and class. Light-skinned Mexicans are over-represented among the wealthy and powerful. Tecent data from the Latin American Public Opinion Project shows that they have significantly higher educational attainment and more material wealth. Social discrimination varies by region and setting. In urban centers, there is growing awareness around issues of gender and sexuality. The local constitution adopted by the Mexico City constituent assembly includes a number of liberal and progressive provisions. Nevertheless, more traditional gender roles and the political and social marginalization of women continue to be the norm, particularly in rural and less affluent areas.

The courts are increasingly assertive in taking up cases of gender equality. However, while there is generally more awareness of gender discrimination, attention to indigenous rights and other forms of social stigmatization is more limited. Moreover, as is often the case in Mexico, there is a considerable gap between formal rights and their effective guarantee and enforcement.

In an attempt to increase LGBT rights, the government presented a constitutional reform that would legalize same-sex marriages across the country and campaigned in favor of more inclusive rights for minorities. However, the government’s proposed legislation failed in Congress and Mexico is considered one of the most dangerous countries in Latin America for trans individuals.
Latin American Regional Report: Mexico & NAFTA (November 2016). “Spotlight on transgender rights.”

Zizumbo-Colunga, D. and Iván Flores Martínez (2017). “Is Mexico a Post-Racial Country? Inequality and Skin Tone across the Americas.” AmericasBarometer: Topical Brief #31, (
A comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Act in line with EU directives has been in effect only since the beginning of 2011. The implementation of the Act on Equal Treatment largely rests with the Commissioner for Citizens’ Rights (Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich), which was originally established in 1987. This body’s effectiveness has suffered as it has assumed more responsibilities, as the expansion has not included a corresponding increase in resources. Anti-discrimination policy has not featured prominently on the agenda of the PiS government. Quite to the contrary, the PiS government has launched a strong discourse against Muslims and has spoken out against the LGBT community and “gender-ideology.” The new legislation on the financing of NGOs will make it more difficult for NGOs that campaign against discrimination to access public money. In a number of cases, NGOs that focus on women’s rights, domestic violence or asylum-seeker and refugee issues have already been denied funds.
The Romanian state has been ineffective in countering discrimination against a number of vulnerable groups, including members of the LGBT community, adults and children infected with HIV, people with disabilities, and the country’s large Roma minority. The civil code still prohibits same-sex partnership and marriage, and fails to recognize any such marriages registered abroad. The popular initiative to make the constitutional definition of marriage more restrictive, with strong support by the Romanian Orthodox Church, has favored the discrimination of members of the LGBT community.
While Slovakia has fairly sophisticated anti-discrimination legislation in place, the discrimination of Roma, women and LGBTI persons continues to be a major problem. The Roma population has suffered from the lack of access to adequate housing, the pervasive segregation of Roma children and their very high dropout levels in the education system, the excessive use of force by police officers during raids carried out in Roma settlements and various manifestations of hate speech. The second and the third Fico governments alike have not cooperated with Public Defender of Rights (Ombudswoman) Jana Dubovcová who has again and again drawn public attention to the discrimination of Roma. The new commissioner (government proxy) for Roma affairs appointed by the third Fico government (nominated by Most-Híd) has been only slowly gaining public support and political standing. Since the onset of the refugee crisis, Prime Minister Fico stirred a discriminatory discourse on refugees and migrants. Intolerance of immigrants, and discrimination and violence against minorities in Slovakia is relatively high. The most recent report of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) underlines the continuing discrimination of Roma and recommends effective measures to eliminate discrimination against members of the Roma minority. Moreover, CERD also expressed regret over the Slovak government ignoring its previous recommendations on creating an independent institution to investigate crimes committed by the police. The CERD again recommended that the government quickly create such an institution. The conclusions of the European Council’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) issued in March 2017 recommended the adoption of legislative changes to tackle racism and racial discrimination, the introduction of a mechanism for collecting joint data on hate speech incidents, the adoption of legislation banning political parties openly hostile to human rights, and the ratification of the Additional Protocol the Convention on Cybercrime. Moreover, the report states that the Ministry of Justice set up a working group in 2016 in order to develop proposals for the reform of the Slovak National Center for Human Rights. This task has not been accomplished yet.
European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) (2017): Conclusions on the implementation of the recoomendations in respect to the Slovak Republic subject to interim follow up. CRI(2017) 24. Strasbourg (

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (2018): Concluding observations on the combined eleventh and twelfth periodic reports of Slovakia. CERD/C/SVK/CO/11-12, Geneva (
Hungary has a comprehensive anti-discrimination legal framework in place, but in practice, little is done to enforce it. Fidesz’s traditional family concept corresponds with strong discrimination against women in the areas of employment, career and pay, although there are some steps to reverse this policy. However, there are no female ministers or top-level leaders in Fidesz. The failure is even greater regarding the Roma minority. By trying to create a separate school system, the Orbán government has aggravated segregation. The government has also continued its hate campaign against Muslims and refugees. As a result, xenophobia has grown among Hungarians, with a spillover to all kinds of minorities, including Jews. The government’s campaign against George Soros invoked anti-Semitic stereotypes.
While Article 10 of the constitution guarantees equality before the law, irrespective of language, race, sex, political opinion or religion, the political reality in Turkey differs significantly from this constitutional ideal. The executive’s political discourse discriminates and insults opposition groups, including the CHP (the main opposition party), the HDP (the pro-Kurdish party), journalists, academics and LGBT communities. Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey punishable by up to four years in jail. In 2016, 4,936 cases against people charged with “insulting” President Erdoğan were opened. The courts convicted 1,080 of the defendants, acquitted 679 individuals and suspended judgment in 867 other cases.

The Law on the Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey provides a positive development toward non-discrimination. Turkey did not ratify Protocol 12 of the ECHR providing a general prohibition of discrimination. The definition of hate crime is excessively narrow, while the Criminal Code does not explicitly provide that racist, homophobic or transphobic motivations constitute an aggravating circumstance. Core elements of the anti-discrimination law are not in line with recommendations from the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). Members of the Human Rights and Equality Institution were selected by the Council of Ministers (eight members) and the president (three members) in March 2017, only one member of the institution is female.

The educational needs of refugee children, work permits for refugees and return of displaced Kurds are major issues affecting the integration of disadvantage groups. Although Turkey ratified the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, gender-related violence, hate speech and discrimination against LGBT communities are serious problems. LGBT communities do not have any legal protections. The number of female victims of violence increased from 278 in 2016 to 293 in 2017. Physical attacks on non-Muslim residents were reported during the period under review, and physical and verbal anti-Semitic assaults are common in public. According to the Anti-Defamation League’s 2015 Global Anti-Semitism Index, 71% of Turkey’s adult population is estimated to harbor anti-Semitic attitudes – a slightly higher figure than for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region overall.

A number of high court rulings remain unimplemented, including the European Court of Human Rights’ December 2014 decision on cemevi (gathering places for Alevi Muslims) as a place of worship and February 2015 rejection of Turkey’s appeal on the issue of compulsory religious-education classes, as well as the Turkish Court of Cassation’s August 2015 judgment on cemevi as religious locations within the scope of the ECHR ruling. Some leading politicians’ “uneven” treatment of the Alevis negatively affects the public atmosphere.

The use of Kurdish and some other languages in formal education gradually widened. However, investigations and detentions of Kurdish activists have undermined efforts to find a workable solution to the Kurdish issue. The government introduced a National Strategy and Action Plan for Roma people, yet Roma continued to face discrimination in social and economic life.

Three years ago, the Ministry for Family and Social Policies adopted a national action plan to combat violence against women. However, despite rising public awareness, the incidence of violence against women in Turkey has undergone a dramatic and rapid increase in the last decade. Even though a large number of cases go officially unreported, women’s rights groups reported that 230 women had been killed in 2016 as of mid-November. In some cases, courts have ruled that “extenuating circumstances” existed for perpetrators of so-called honor crimes. A 2014 Penal Code amendment expanding penalties for violence against women was considered unsatisfactory by women’s rights associations. A controversial amendment on victims of sexual abuse was submitted by a group of AKP deputies in early November 2016, yet withdrawn by the Constitution Commission following street protests. Gender discrimination and discrimination against LGBTI in the workplace is widespread.
European Commission, Turkey 2016 Report, Brussels, 9.11.2016, f (accessed 1 November 2016).
Anti-Defamation League, Global 100, 2015 Update, (accessed 1 November 2016).
“Turkey withdraws child rape bill after strreet protests,” 22 November 2016, (accessed 1 November 2016).
Cumhuriyetçi Eğitim Ve Kültür Merkezi Vakfi v. Turkey (application no. 32093/10) ECHR 355 (2014), 02.12.2014, (accessed 27 October 2015)
2015 Human Dimension Implementation Meeting Warsaw, 21 September – 2 October 2015, (accessed 27 October 2015)
Yargıtay’dan cemevi kararı, Hürriyet daily newspaper, 17 August 2015, (accessed 27 October 2015)
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The state does not offer effective protection against discrimination. Discrimination is widespread in the public sector and in society.
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