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.
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 and diverse 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 review period, ethnic segmentation in several suburbs of metropolitan areas in Sweden has further increased. This societal fracturing remains an unsolved political challenge in contemporary Sweden. With the increased immigration since 2015, 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. Reports by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2014), the U.N. Human Rights Committee (2015) and Human Rights Watch (2018) found that the rights of Indigenous peoples were consistently violated, including unresolved treaty rights, violence against Indigenous women and girls, disproportionately high rates of incarceration, and inadequate access to clean and safe drinking water.
UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya (2014), 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.

Human Rights Watch, World Report 2018, available at

OECD (2012), Closing the Gap – Canada, posted at
An extensive body of laws and measures aims to protect the rights of all persons and to prevent discrimination. Article 18 of the constitution guarantees 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 and incidents of discrimination do take place.

In line with relevant EU directives, laws on gender equality and against discrimination provide for proactive measures. They enforce equal treatment in employment, occupations and training. However, inequalities are present, while combating racism and other forms of discrimination and protecting persons with disabilities remains an unattained goal. Disabled persons are, however, offered additional protection and special treatment.

Among the positive steps taken in recent years were the adoption, in late 2015, of a law on civil partnerships and the recognition of a right to parental leave in 2017.

The Ombuds office, tasked with protecting against discrimination, issued three reports on complaints in 2018. In a 2016 resolution, the minorities committee of the Council of Europe recommended, among others, that Cyprus take measures to protect minorities’ rights and enable minority groups the right to self-identification and promotion of their language as well as the participation of constitutionally recognized “religious groups” in decision-making.
1. Reports -decisions of the Ombudsman as Authority against Racism and Discrimination 2018, (in Greek)
2. CoE committee on minorities, Resolution on Cyprus 2016,
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. Gender-based discrimination in the labor market relates primarily to wages, but also, more generally, to hiring and career options. About two-thirds of the observed average gender-wage difference can be explained by individual differences and sectoral employment, but the remaining difference suggests that there is not equal pay for equal work. Rules for parental leave have been expanded to extend the right (and duty) of fathers to take paternity leave and for all employers (since 2006) to contribute to the financing of parental leave schemes.

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 (from outside the European Union) which have been residing in the country seven out of the last eight years. While formally treating all immigrants equally, the scheme in particular targets immigrants from low-income countries with a low employment rate.

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. Immigration rules and their implementation have been tightened several times. Even the Social Democrats, under the party’s new leadership, now favors a tight immigration policy. Although immigration and asylum pressure decreased rather substantially by 2018, it is expected to be among the most important issues on the agenda during the forthcoming electoral debate.
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).
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. In 2018, the government introduced several measures to strengthen transparency in public sector pay and combat the gender pay gap. The Labor Inspectorate was given the right to monitor the implementation of equal pay regulations, while state databases were enhanced to allow more rigorous analysis of the situation.
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, although 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. The Sami population, comprising approximately 10,000 individuals, was granted self-government in the Sami Homeland with regard to language and culture in 1995. Finland has often been seen as a forerunner concerning its efforts to maintain an effective minority-protection policy. Cases of discrimination are rather few, although people with an immigrant background are more likely to encounter discrimination. Roma individuals, who make up a small proportion of the population, are marginalized. The Finns Party – which split in two in 2017, with one fraction remaining within the government coalition – has been accused of encouraging 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.

The Federal Constitutional Court decided in June 2013 that treating same-sex partnerships and opposite-sex marriages differently from a taxation perspective was unconstitutional. In June 2017, the Bundestag, with a large majority, went a step further and opened civil-law marriage to same-sex couples, which has overcome any remaining unequal treatment.

In January 2015, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that a bill banning headscarves for teachers at public schools must adhere to state laws (Ländergesetze). A general prohibition on teachers expressing religious beliefs through their 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 November 2017, the Federal Constitutional Court requested that the government accept a third sex thus avoiding discrimination of intersexual persons.
In its 2016 annual report, the Centre pour l’égalité de traitement (Centre for Equal Treatment – CET) revealed that it received 115 discrimination case files, of which over half (54%) were submitted by men and 34% by women. The remaining 12% were submitted by organizations, associations or on the basis of self-referral. Most (25%) of the people were aged between 31 and 40, 9.6% were between 18 and 30, and 5.2% were over the age of 60. Finally, 67% of files were from citizens of the European Union, 44% of whom were Luxembourgers.

The CET was created by the above-mentioned law on 28 November 2006. The CET carries out its work completely independently. Its purpose is to promote, analyze and monitor equal treatment between all persons without discrimination based on race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, religion or beliefs, disability, or age. The CET is very active.

Nevertheless, in a school textbook for 9/10-year-old students, a misogynistic caricature was published by the “Syndicat National des Enseignants” in 2018 (“Mon cahier de vocabulaire – Tome 1 – Cycle 3.2”).

The caricature is of a female teacher in a provocative pose. In addition, on the board it is written “J’adore mon institutrice.” This caricature is supposed to convey that students can like their teacher, if the teacher acts according to the caricature. Due to the controversial message of the caricature, an investigation has been initiated.
Rapport d’activités 2016. Centre pour l’égalité de traitement, 2017. Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.
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). The Human Rights Act protects all people in New Zealand from discrimination including on the basis of gender, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation. However, Māori – who account for approximately 16% of the population – are disproportionally represented in the prison population (about 50% of the total prison population as of December 2017) and all detention centers, 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 Māori 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 Māori groups claiming that Māori had a rightful claim to the title, based on the Treaty of Waitangi. Māori and Pacific Islanders also experience occasional discrimination in the education and health system. As Amnesty International reported in its 2017-2018 report, the Waitangi Tribunal, a permanent commission of inquiry, found that the government had failed to prioritize the reduction of the high rate of recidivism among Māori and had breached its Treaty of Waitangi obligations. The commission called for urgent practical action to reduce the number.
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.āori-party-puts-govt-on-notice-over-kermadec-row (accessed 12 October, 2016).
Amnesty International. 2018. New Zealand 2017/2018.
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.” Comparatively, support for the non-discrimination of foreigners is very strong, with only the Scandinavian countries showing stronger support. The acceptance of gays and lesbians corresponds to the average across European countries.

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 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.
Klaus Armingeon and Sarah Engler 2015: Polarisierung als Strategie. Die Polarisierung des Schweizer Parteiensystems im internationalen Vergleich, in Markus Freitag und Adrian Vatter (Hrsg.): Wahlen und Wählerschaften in der Schweiz, Zürich: Verlag Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 355-379, 467-469. ISBN: 978-3-03810-098-0
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 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, Trump ordered the reinstatement a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.
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.

Importantly, the Australian parliament passed a bill on 7 December 2017 that allows same-sex marriage. That bill followed a non-binding referendum, which was supported by 61.6% of Australian voters.
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.

Since 2015, the outcry against racism and the rise to power of a left-wing party, Syriza, contributed to a decline in 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
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.

In addition, a new law was introduced in 2017, which restricts a person’s right to cover their face. The law was developed by the Ministry of Justice.

Furthermore, although Latvia signed the Istanbul Convention in 2016 and has implemented most of its recommendations, the parliament still has not ratified it. This further hinders the state’s ability to address the issue of domestic violence in Latvia. The most recent available data (2014) indicates that 32% of women aged 15 and over in Latvia have faced physical and/or sexual violence.

According to the European network of legal experts on gender equality and non-discrimination, gender equality laws in Latvia generally do not significantly exceed the European Union’s minimum requirements – no positive measures have been taken to date.
1. European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination, Country Report: Non-discrimination 2018, Available at:, Last assessed: 05.01.2019

2. European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination, Country report: Gender equality 2018, Available at:, Last assessed: 05.01.2019

3. UN (2018) Global Database on Violence Against Women, Available at:, Last assessed: 05.01.2019

4. European Network of Legal Experts in the Non-discrimination Field (2011), Report on Measures to Combat Discrimination, Available at:, Last assessed: 05.01.2019

5. 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.

6. Ombudsman of Latvia (2017), Annual Report, Available at: 624612.pdf , Last assessed: 04.01.2019

7. Ombudsman of Latvia (2012), Report on the Conference Regarding Progress Evaluation of 2012, Available at (in Latvian): sons_2012_tiesibsarga_konferences_preses_konference_12122012.pdf , Last assessed: 21.05.2013

8. University of Latvia, Social and Political Research Institute (2014). How Democratic is Latvia: Democracy Audit 2005 – 2014. Available at (in Latvian): its_2014_kopaa.pdf , 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 (e.g., the small Roma population and 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 2018 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 17.8% in 2015 and 17.5% in 2016, a level that is above the EU average.

Second, racial discrimination remains a concern. The Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination (CICDR) received and analyzed 179 complaints regarding racial discrimination in 2017, an increase of some 50% compared to 2016 (119). This was the highest number since at least 2000, surpassing the previous high in 2016.

Moreover, the period was marked by cases of apparent discrimination, which gained considerable media traction. In July 2018, a Colombian woman was beaten up by the security guard of a bus company allegedly due to racial motivations, with the immediate police response seemingly inadequate.

Furthermore, a trial has started of a case in which the public prosecutor has accused 17 police officers of a racially motivated attack on a group of young black Portuguese men in 2015, which the police officers are also accused of covering up. The trial is ongoing.
Comissão para a Igualdade e Contra a Discriminação Racial, “Relatório Anual 2017,” available online at:ório+Anual+2017_Igualdade+e+Não+Discriminação.pdf/3f40f660-642d-45b0-9e7f-574b077d257d

Eurostat, Gender pay gap in unadjusted form, available online at:

Público (2018), “Cova da Moura: cronologia dos acontecimentos,” available online at:

Público (2018), “Jovem agredida por fiscal: ‘Pôs-me os joelhos em cima, como se fosse um troféu’,” available online at:
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. The annual report of the Human Rights Ombudsman for 2017 addressed several persistent discrimination issues, such as the difficult living conditions of some Roma families, the lack of infrastructure and sanitation in non-regularized Roma settlements, and the fact that the responsibility for resolving Roma settlements issues should not rest exclusively with municipalities.
Human Rights Ombudsman (2018): Annual Report for 2017. Ljubljana (
Any discrimination based on birth, race, sex, religion, opinion or any other personal or social condition or circumstance is forbidden in Spain. 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. Cases of explicit discrimination are extremely rare, but this does not mean that occasional public discrimination and, above all, indirect social discrimination are never observed. 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 time and measures seeking to guarantee equal pay for women and men may prove positive developments.

In general terms Spaniards express fewer fears than other Europeans regarding minorities, and tend to express less negative views about immigration. In 2018 the Council of Europe acknowledged that there is less hate speech in Spain than in other European countries, although the incidence of hate speech on the Internet and social media has risen sharply. Spain is considered to be a pioneer in fighting discrimination against homosexuals and women. The main national agency tasked with monitoring equality and antidiscrimination efforts is the Institute for Women and Equal Opportunities. However, in 2018, the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) called on Spain to “urgently” create an independent equality body specifically designed to tackle racism. The ECRI report also criticized the lack of measures to integrate migrants, as well as the segregation experienced by Roma children.
ECRI (2018), Fifth report on Spain.
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 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 and well above the European average negative climate of opinion and stereotyping of Muslims. A direct political consequence was the establishment in 2015 of a political party that appeals to second- and third-generation migrants, DENK (meaning “think!” in Dutch, but “equal” in Turkish). DENK has secured three seats in the 150-seat Dutch parliament and a total of 23 seats in 13 different municipal councils. Growing awareness of employer’s discriminating against young people with migrant backgrounds in job application processes forced new national and local government initiatives. According to recent survey research, the Dutch population is seriously worried about the intolerant and discriminatory dominant approach to diversity at present.
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

Hoofdlijnenbrief Actieplan Arbedsdicriminatie 2018-2021 (rijksoverheid, accessed 26 October 2018)

Movisie, Lokaal antidiscriminatiebeleid: Het perspectief van Nederlandse gemeenten, December 2017

SCP, Zorgen over immigratie nemen weer toe, 27 September 2018 (, accessed 26 October 2018)

DENK (political party) (
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 Windrush scandal in 2018, in which Home Office employees destroyed legal documents of British citizens with roots in Caribbean countries (see “Integration Policy”), is an interesting test case. On the one hand, it revealed an administrative disregard for the rights of those affected. Yet, on the other hand, the rapid political reaction and public dismay testified to an underlying support for anti-discrimination policies.
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.

A sphere of increasing importance is the government’s tendency to forbid certain freedoms of expression linked to Islamic traditions (e.g., women’s rights to wear headscarves). The government justifies its actions on basis of the need to fight Islamic extremism and promote social integration (i.e., preventing the existence of closed milieus or “sub-societies”). By following this path, the government provokes the question of whether such a policy violates basic freedoms.

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, former 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 (mapudungún), 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. The current president, Sebastián Piñera, has continued with its implementation, emphasizing the urgent need to create a proper ministry and secure constitutional recognition for indigenous peoples. Once operational, it remains to be seen if the ministry will improve protections against discrimination for the indigenous population.

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 previous years. Only about 22.6% of Chile’s serving deputies and senators are women, a slightly better average than last year. Nonetheless, 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. September 2018

Global Gender Gap Index (reviewed by October 18th 2018)
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. Differences in average wages of women and men are still around 22%, which is one of the highest rates in the EU regarding this indicator. The representation of women in politics at the national level has not changed significantly; in the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament, only 22% are women. Women’s representation in decision-making positions remains low, as well as in government, business, justice and diplomacy. With women accounting for 9% of public and private leadership positions, Czechia remains at par with both global and European averages. The World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Gender Gap Report ranked Czechia 82th out of 149 countries due primarily to challenges facing women in the areas of economic participation and political empowerment (ranking 87th in these two categories). In fall 2018, the ratification of the Istanbul Agreement was vocally opposed by conservative circles and the Catholic church. The critics presented the Istanbul agreement and anti-discrimination charter of the Council of Europe (which entered in force in 2014, but which Czechia along with several other CEE countries and the UK has not ratified yet) as a “diffusion of gender ideology and a threat to traditional gender roles.”

The discrimination against Roma remains another grave issue. The ratio of Roma pupils in so-called special schools that serve individuals with learning disabilities is about 25%, significantly higher than the actual proportion of Roma living in Czechia. 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: implementation has yet to begin. The discrimination of the Roma in some segments of society is echoed by several prominent politicians and their parties. In 2017 this was the case of Okamura’s party of Direct Democracy and his 2018 statements included the denial of holocaust against the Czech Roma minority in Lety Concentration Camp during World War II. President Miloš Zeman has a long track record of anti-Roma statements, attacking them as welfare parasites. An off-the-cuff remark in October 2018 provoked criticism by the media and the opposition. In a social media campaign that went viral, members of the Roma community posted pictures from their workplace on social media entitled “Mr. President, I work.”
World Economic Forum (2018): 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 in late 2018, 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. Accessed 22 December 2018.
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.

The Department for Equal Opportunities of the Government Presidency has made a greater effort to monitor the impact of gender discrimination in public administration on a regular basis. The department’s report of 2018 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. The new government and especially Minister of Interior Matteo Salvini (Northern League) officially encourages Italians to oppose immigrants and foreigners, promoting discrimination against immigrants and other minorities.
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.
South Korea
Discrimination remains a major problem in South Korea, particularly for women, migrants, LGBT people and North Korean defectors. In the Global Gender Gap Report 2017, South Korea was ranked 118th out of 144 countries measured. The gender-based pay gap remains the largest in the OECD. 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. After several reshuffles the cabinet has now five female minsters.
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. However, mandatory HIV tests for foreign teachers and students were abolished in 2017.
There are approximately 30,000 North Korean defectors in South Korea, and discrimination against them is widespread. They are eligible for South Korean citizenship, but often face months of detention and interrogations upon 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%).
While courts have strengthened some rights for the LGBT community, the government has failed to take decisive actions to reduce discrimination. 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 aim to provide 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 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, as do women. Public discourse regarding migrants has grown increasingly xenophobic as explicitly nationalistic parties have joined the ruling coalition and many Bulgarian media outlets openly broadcast hate speech, thereby contributing to racially motivated agitation. Over the course of 2018, the government tried, but failed to push through the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. The public debate on the issue revealed deep distrust of state measures to bolster the rights of women and sexual minorities.
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 a 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 to join existing legislation protecting human dignity and liberty did not yield results. Instead, the struggle against discrimination is usually fought through Israel’s media and by vigorous NGO activity.

Progress was achieved in recent years regarding women’s and gay rights. The government addressed the expanding industry of human trafficking and prostitution by opening designated shelters for victims and legislating (2006) prison terms of up to 20 years for perpetrators. The gay community also marked prominent victories: non-biological same-sex parents have been made eligible for guardianship rights and same-sex marriages conducted in foreign countries are recognized by the state, with the first gay divorce granted in 2012. However, in 2018 the Surrogate Law was passed, which expands eligibility for state-supported surrogacy to include single women but excludes single men and gay couples from funded surrogacy services (see also G6.2a section).

Nonetheless, discrimination is prevalent and systematic regarding Palestinians’ rights. 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. Regarding the Arab society, a 2016 annual report of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel argued that there is an “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 and 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.

In the labor market, there is still discrimination against women. Women continue to earn less than men (on average, women earn 85% less than men per hour). Furthermore, there are less women, Arabs and people with low incomes studying and working in the high-tech and science sectors. This is widely attributed to inequalities in the educational system in Israel.

However, there have been some advances in the field of discrimination. For example, regarding protecting the rights of disabled persons, Israel is introduced substantial measures. The Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities has stated that the gap between the general employed population and the disabled employed population is constantly closing, and the rate of disabled employment is rising (a rise of 23% in 2017).The commission’s work is based on the Equal Rights Law for Persons with Disabilities (1998) that sets a goal for 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.” In addition, the Ministry for Social Equality, launched in 2015, is dedicated to reducing discrimination against and advancing equality for minorities, women, and older and younger citizens.
Association for Civil Rights in Israel,

Gild-Hayo, Debbie, Overview of Anti-Democratic Legislation Advanced by the 20th Knesset, October 2018:

Mako editiorial “The Surrogacy Storm: General Strike and Rage March of the LGTB Community,” 18/7/18, MAKO:

Sober, Tali Heruty “A rise of 23% in the employment of disabled,” The Marker, 29/11/17:

Swirsky, S., E. Konor-Atias, “Social status report 2017,” January 2018. (Hebrew)

Tzameret-Kertcher, Hagar et al. “The Gender Index, Gender Inequality in Israel 2017,” 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. Still, given the persistent undercurrent of sexism in Japanese society, de facto workplace discrimination will be hard to overcome. In 2018, a scandal emerged in which Tokyo Medical University was shown to have given female applicants artificially low scores in order to ensure the enrollment of more male students, a practice the government called “extremely disturbing.”

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 20 asylum-seekers saw their applications approved in 2017, down from 28 a year before – despite the rising number of applications (19,629 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,

Murakami, Yumiko, Gender discrimination: Nation’s dignity is being questioned (Opinion), The Japan Times, 13 August 2018,

Chisato Tanaka, Japan’s refugee-screening system sets high bar, The Japan Times, 21 May 2018,
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 2018, Malta was ranked 15th in the EU-28 in an index published by the European Institute for Gender Equality. In the workplace, women remain disadvantage when it comes to earnings and pensions. 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, although at lower levels than previously. In addition, it has been alleged that many cases of discrimination remain unreported. In 2018, the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality highlighted the discrimination faced by sub-Saharan migrants Malta in accessing employment, in employment itself, in accessing housing, and when contacting school authorities as parents.
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
Malta Independent 15/01/18 Discrimination affecting large number of ethnic minorities
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. 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.

Worth mentioning are gender quotas for parties and elections, included in the 2014 constitutional reform. Women now hold 49% of seats in the Senate and 49.2% of seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Additionally, five women ran as candidates for mayor of Mexico City and Claudia Sheinbaum (MORENA) became the first woman to govern the city.

The courts are increasingly assertive in taking up cases of gender equality, and LGBT and transgender rights. The Supreme Court ruled in October 2017 in favor of a transgender person against the state of Veracruz after the state had refused to change the person’s name and gender on their birth certificate. Another court ruling found in favor of same-sex marriage. In 2015, Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriage, but only 15 states including Mexico City have so far followed this ruling. However, while there is 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. However, it is expected that the new AMLO government will invest more in the issue of non-discrimination.
Human Rights Watch (2018). “Mexico Ruling Backs Same-Sex Couple.”
Human Rights Watch (2018). “Mexico Transgender Ruling a Beacon for Change.”
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 engaged in strong anti-Muslim and anti-migrant rhetoric, 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, those infected with HIV, people with disabilities, and members of the country’s large Roma community. Massively backed by the governing coalition, the 2018 referendum calling for a constitutional amendment to specifically define a “union” as that between a man and a woman, though ultimately defeated, has fostered discrimination toward the LGBT community. Human Rights Watch criticized the referendum for being “little more than a thinly veiled attempt to scapegoat a vulnerable minority.”
Reid, G. (2018): Cynical Romanian Referendum Tries to Redefine ‘Family’. Human Rights Watch, October 3 (
While Slovakia has fairly sophisticated anti-discrimination legislation in place, the discrimination of women, Roma, LGBTI persons and migrants 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 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. A 2018 report of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) underlined the continuing discrimination of Roma and recommended 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.
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 (
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. The rights of LGBT persons have been subject to pressures fueled by various types of disinformation about gender, sex and sexual orientation, often propagated by conservative NGOs and initiatives, such as the Truth about the Istanbul Convention initiative. According to the initiative’s backers, the Istanbul Convention promotes “gender ideology,” something they strongly oppose. All these processes have had a negative effect on the capacity of LGBT persons in Croatia to exercise their human rights.
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. Tellingly, there is only one female minister in the fourth Orbán government. The failure is even greater regarding the Roma minority. By trying to create a separate school system, the Orbán government has aggravated the segregation in education. 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, since the government’s aggresive campaign against George Soros invoked anti-Semitic stereotypes.
European Commission (2018): Civil society monitoring report on implementation of the national Roma integration strategies. Brussels (
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 2017, 6,033 lawsuits involving “insulting” President Erdoğan were opened. Of these lawsuits, the courts passed judgment in 5,150 cases. Of these 5,150 cases, courts convicted 2,099 defendants, acquitted 873 individuals, deferred announcing the verdict in 1,660 cases and suspended judgment in 518 cases.

During the first four months of 2018, 2,265 newspaper columns and articles targeted national, ethnic and religious groups, with 2,370 instances of hate speech identified in these articles.

The principle of non-discrimination is not sufficiently protected by law nor enforced in practice. Turkey did not ratify Protocol 12 of the ECHR, prohibiting 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).

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 which do not have any legal protections are serious problems.

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 (2016 – 2021) and Action Plan (2016 – 2018) for Roma people, but the committee for monitoring and evaluating the strategy only met once in February 2017. There are no strategies or action plans in place on non-discrimination in employment and social policy.

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 over the last decade. There are no strategies or action plans in place on non-discrimination in employment and social policy. The National Human Rights and Equality Institution has been established and its members elected in March 2017. Secondary legislation was passed in November 2017, setting up an individual application mechanism for discrimination complaints. However, the institution has not finalized any of the cases it has started to process.
European Commission, Turkey 2018 Report, Brussels, 17.4.2018, report.pdf (accessed 1 November 2018)
World Justice Project, Rule of Law Index 2017-2018, -Online-Edition_0.pdf (accessed 1 November 2018)
Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2018, Turkey Profile (accessed 1 November 2018)
Şiddetten Ölen Kadınlar İçin Anıt Sayaç, (accessed 1 November 2018)
Media Watch on Hate Speech Report January-April 2018, (accessed 1 November 2018)
“Akdeniz: Erdoğan döneminde 12 bin 305 ‘hakaret’ davası açıldı,” (accessed 1 November 2018)
The state does not offer effective protection against discrimination. Discrimination is widespread in the public sector and in society.
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