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 Traveler 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 to 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.

Daycare services are widespread and heavily subsidized. To a large extent, the supply of childcare 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 UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2014), the UN 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.

Heterogeneous provincial policies present another potential human-rights challenge in Canada. Conversion therapy, for instance, is banned only in Ontario and Manitoba, but continues to be legal elsewhere. Another case in point is the highly controversial Bill 21 passed in Quebec in 2019, which restricts government employees’ right to wear religious symbols if they are in positions of authority (e.g., school teachers, police officers or judges). This bill been criticized by several UN rapporteurs for violating the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the Canadian government signed. Due in part to the bill’s popularity with Quebec voters, however, the federal government has been reluctant to interfere. In any event, further action by the federal government would have to entail taking the issue to court, basing the argument either on the constitution generally or specifically on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
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.

Equaldex. LGBTQ Rights in Canada, retrieved Nov 20 2019 from

Human Rights Watch, World Report 2018, available at

OECD (2012), Closing the Gap – Canada, posted at
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 the residence requirement for social assistance (which, if not fulfilled, lowers the amount of assistance) offered to immigrants from outside the European Union. While formally treating all immigrants equally, the scheme in particular targets immigrants from low-income countries with a low employment rate.

Immigration laws have been tightened several times since 2001. While previous parliaments were often split on these changes, parliamentary majorities have in recent years supported a tightening of immigration policy. Consequently, the recent shift in the position of the Social Democratic Party is significant. After coming to power in June 2019, the new Social Democratic government has liberalized a few minor aspects of Danish immigration policy. Though family reunions, except in the case of spouses from other EU member states, remain extremely difficult.
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 long-standing challenge, and is reflected in the largest gender pay gap in Europe and the highest share of citizen appeals to the GEETC. In 2018, nearly half of appeals (137 out of 304) concerned gender issues. 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.
Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner (2019). Annual Report to the Constitutional Committee of the Riigikogu.
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 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 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 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 levels. 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 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 federal-state laws (Ländergesetze). In its ruling, the court indicated that generally prohibiting teachers in state schools from expressing their religious beliefs through their outer appearance was 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 ruled that the government must recognize a third gender category in order to avoid discrimination against intersexual persons.
The Centre for Equal Treatment (Centre pour l’égalité de traitement, CET) was created 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.

As an example, in 2018 a misogynistic caricature was printed in a school textbook for nine- to 10-year-old students published by the Syndicat National des Enseignants (“Mon cahier de vocabulaire – Tome 1 – Cycle 3.2”). The caricature was of a female teacher in a provocative pose. In addition, the text “J’adore mon institutrice” was written on the chalkboard in the image. This caricature seemed to convey the sense that students could like their teacher, if the teacher acted according to the caricature. Due to its controversial message, an investigation was initiated.
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.

What is more, New Zealand has, for a long time, pursued positive discrimination measures to address the structural disadvantages to which the Māori are subject. The electoral system for parliamentary elections has, since the implementation of the Māori Representation Act in 1867, included Māori electorates specially set up for people of Māori ethnicity or ancestry who choose to place themselves on a separate electoral roll (currently, there are seven Māori electorates). In 1975, the Treaty of Waitangi Act established the Waitangi Tribunal to redress grievances that Māori face as a result of colonization. In particular, the Waitangi Tribunal investigates Māori land claims and comments on government policies that have the potential to affect the Māori population. New Zealand law also imposes Māori quotas in certain areas, such as in fishing and tertiary education.

However, these measures have had little effect, as Māori continue to experience significant disadvantages in a wide range of ways. Compared to Pākehā (New Zealanders of European descent), Māori suffer worse health, have lower education attainments, employment and income, and are more likely to be victims of crime. Māori are also disproportionately represented in the penal system, accounting for just over half of the prison population as of December 2018.

In 2018, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed serious concerns about racial discrimination. The Committee called attention to the fact that Waitangi Tribunal recommendations are not binding and are frequently ignored, and recommended that the New Zealand government “take immediate steps” to work with Māori in developing the constitutional role of the Treaty of Waitangi.

In addition, New Zealand has come under international scrutiny for the human rights situation for the LGBTQI community. In January 2019, the United Nation’s Human Right’s Council highlighted that, in its current state, the Human Rights Act does not explicitly protect people from discrimination on the grounds of gender identity, it only prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex.
Human Rights Amendment Bill 2011 (Wellington: The Government of New Zealand 2011).
New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (Wellington: The Government of New Zealand 1994).
Hurihanganui, Waitangi Tribunal’s recommendations frequently ignored – UN report, RNZ (
Murphy, NZ told to improve human rights of LGBTQI people, RNZ (
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
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. These phenomena may be primarily rooted in security concerns rather than in explicit discrimination. They can, however, nurture discriminating path dependencies in criminal investigations. While such relations have lately been the subject of heated public debates in countries like France, the Netherlands and the United States, the debate in the United Kingdom has remained comparatively quiet. 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, LGBT.

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 Department of Justice under Trump has argued that anti-discrimination legislation does not include transgender workers and has blocked efforts to prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on gender identity. It also supports the right of small businesses to withhold services from LGBTQ individuals if, for example, the business owners have religious objections to same-sex marriages. In an action initiated in a tweet by the president, without consultation of the Department of Defense, the Trump administration has banned transgender individuals from serving in the military. For the most part, however, the Trump administration positions have resisted expansion of anti-discrimination protections, especially for transgendered persons, rather than withdrawing established protections.
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 later Coalition governments have shown no interest in implementing the changes. However, the Australian parliament passed a bill on 7 December 2017 that allows same-sex marriage. That bill followed a non-binding referendum that was supported by 61.6% of Australian voters.

As of November 2019, the government was considering legislation aimed at preventing religious discrimination. The Religious Discrimination Act would ostensibly prohibit religious discrimination, although the proposed exemptions would in fact legalize discrimination on the basis of religion, for example by permitting a (religious) school to dismiss an employee because of their faith. It is also possible that the proposed legislation would permit discrimination on the basis of other, normally protected, traits such as sex, sexuality and marital status.
Article 18 of the constitution guarantees equality and non-discrimination for all. It explicitly prohibits discrimination, as do specific laws that aim to protect rights and prevent discrimination on the grounds of gender, race or religion. Legislation also aims to proactively protect the rights of minority groups in various ways. However, no comprehensive policy framework exists that could effectively address the issue of equal and non-discriminatory treatment of all.

In line with relevant EU directives, laws on gender equality and against discrimination enforce equal treatment in employment and training. In practice, inequalities continue, with little progress achieved. Combating racism and other forms of discrimination and protecting persons with disabilities remain unattained goals. Disabled persons face problems in their movement and access to employment.

The adoption, in late 2015, of a law on civil partnerships and the recognition of a right to parental leave in 2017 are among the positive steps promoted in recent years.

In its conclusions published in June 2019, the Council of Europe’s ECRI observed that its 2016 recommendations relating to the Office of the Ombudsman acting as an anti-discrimination authority were only partly met. And though it “strongly recommended that the authorities develop a new integration plan for non-nationals,” including various foreign groups, its recommendation has not yet been implemented. The Gender Equality Index for Cyprus (56.3) was below the EU average (67.4) in 2019.

The 2019 murder of seven persons by a serial killer raised many questions. Critics argued that the disappearances were not properly investigated by police because the victims were foreign domestic workers.
1. Cyprus serial killer case exposes abuse of migrant women, BBC, 2 May 2019,
2. CoE European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, Conclusions on the Implementation of Recommendations, Cyprus, June 2019,
Protection against discrimination on the basis of race has been regulated since 1979, while protection against gender discrimination is regulated by the 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 effectively. Women in particular, though theoretically enjoying equality before the law, continue to face workplace discrimination in practice. The Romany minority (numbering probably more than 200,000) is also subject to discrimination despite legal protections.

In the years 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). In January 2018, the parliament adopted legislation that limited the jurisdiction of muftis applying Shariah principles to family-law disputes among Muslims in Thrace (in December of the same year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the system in place prior to the legal change was discriminatory).

Greece has seen significant improvement in the protection of LGBTI rights in recent years. New legislation passed between 2015 and 2017 grants extensive rights to same-sex couples, and recognizes self-proclaimed gender identities for people experiencing gender dysphoria.

In the autumn of 2019, the sudden new influx of refugees and migrants to Greece took the government and the population by surprise. The inflow provoked negative reactions within many communities of small towns and villages, particularly when reception centers for refugees and migrants had been built in their vicinities. A general climate of unfriendliness, if not outright hostility, toward refugees and migrants had at this point become palpable in communities scattered around Greece.
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 has still not ratified it. This hinders the state’s ability to address the issue of domestic violence in Latvia, as Latvia lacks an integrated approach to eradicating it. None of the NGOs that provide services to women who have suffered from violence receive financial assistance from the state. 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. OECD (2019) Social Institutions and Gender Index, Available at:, Last assessed: 15.11.2019

2. European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination (2018), Country Report: Non-discrimination 2018, Available at:, Last assessed: 15.11.2019

3. European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination, Country report: Gender equality 2018, Available at:, Last assessed: 15.11.2019

4. UN (2018) Global Database on Violence Against Women, Available at:, Last assessed: 15.11.2019

5. Kamenska, A. (2013), Report on Measures to Combat Discrimination, Country Report: Latvia, European Network of Legal Experts in the Non-discrimination Field, Available at:, Last assessed: 15.11.2019

6. Latvian Centre for Human Rights (2011), Anti-discrimination in Latvia: From Legislation to Judicial Practice, Available at (in Latvian):, Last assessed: 15.11.2019

7. Ombudsman of Latvia (2017), Annual Report, Available at: 624612.pdf, Last assessed: 15.11.2019.

8. University of Latvia, Social and Political Research Institute (2014). How Democratic is Latvia: Democracy Audit 2005 – 2014. Available at:, Last assessed: 15.11.2019.
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.

Lithuania ranks 23rd in the European Union on the Gender Equality Index, with 55.5 out of 100 points. Between 2005 and 2017, there was little progress made toward greater gender equality. According to the European Institute of Gender Equality, Lithuania’s scores are lower than the EU average almost in all domains, especially those of power (gender equality in decision-making positions across the political, economic and social spheres) and time (gender inequalities in the allocation of time spent doing care and domestic work and social activities).
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 2019 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:
The 2019 Gender Equality Index available at
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. As the report noted below indicates, Portugal is recognized for having a low level of discrimination.

Nevertheless, two areas of concern remain.

First, the gap between average pay for women and men, which is higher now than in the late 2000s. The most recent data indicates an unadjusted gender wage gap of 16.3% in 2017. This is better than the level in 2016 (17.5%), but it is still above the EU average and well above the levels in the 2000s, when it stood at 8.5% in 2007.

Second, racial discrimination remains a concern. The Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination (CICDR) received and analyzed 346 complaints regarding racial discrimination in 2018, an increase of some 93% compared to 2017 (119). This was the highest number since at least 2000, surpassing the previous high in 2017.

As in the previous SGI review period, the current period was marked by cases of apparent discrimination, which gained considerable media traction. In particular, a video of police violence against people of Angolan origin in a deprived neighborhood in the suburbs of Lisbon (Bairro da Jamaica) in January 2019 sparked considerable public discussion and protests, though with little practical consequence. In the aftermath of this debate, the vice-president of the largest police union spoke of his academic research in which he highlighted the existence of pockets of racism and xenophobia in the police force. He was forced to resign from his post in the union as police officers protested against his comments.

The period under review also saw the conclusion of the trial involving 17 police officers accused of carrying out and then covering up racially motivated attacks on a group of young black Portuguese men in 2015. In total, eight of the police officers were found guilty of some of the charges, although all were acquitted of the charges of racism and torture. The decision was seen as historic, as it was the first of its kind to involve an actual prison sentence for a police officer: one of the officers was sentenced to a year and half in prison (for being a repeat offender), with the other seven receiving suspended sentences. However, the outcome did not satisfy the plaintiffs, who felt that the accused had got off lightly. It also it did not satisfy some police sectors, with one police union starting a fund-raising campaign in support of the officers found guilty.
Comissão para a Igualdade e Contra a Discriminação Racial, “Relatório Anual 2018,” available online at:ÃO+FINAL.pdf/61a87690-3cdd-43e4-ab7f-1f415559fb42

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

Público (2019), “PSP abre inquérito à denúncia de violência policial no Bairro da Jamaica,” available online at:

Público (2019), “Sindicalista histórico demite-se após alertar para racismo na PSP,” available online at:

Público (2019), “Oito polícias de Alfragide condenados, nove absolvidos. Vítimas vão receber indemnizações,” available online at:

TVI24 (2019), “Sindicato dos Profissionais de Polícia abre conta solidária para agentes condenados da Esquadra de Alfragide,” available online at:…2019/ocde-portugal-tem-niveis-de-discriminacao-muito-baixos-c..
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 2018 addressed several well-known 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 (2019): Annual Report for 2018. 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. Although in 2018, the Council of Europe acknowledged that there is less hate speech in Spain than in other European countries, the rise of populist movements, including Vox, led to stronger rhetoric on immigration and minority group issues during the elections campaigns in 2019.

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. During the period under review, no visible progress has been made on this issue.
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 fewer negative connotations in a religiously and culturally diverse society like the Netherlands). Nevertheless, while it is difficult to document racism as manifest in decisions or actions taken (the number of complaints is not public), it cannot be denied that racism is increasingly manifest in verbal statements. A recent expert report criticized Dutch anti-discrimination sanctions as “ineffective,” and as neither “dissuasive” nor “proportionate.” Previous signals that discrimination is practiced by Dutch police have recently been confirmed; for instance, a chief of police who identified and sought to address discrimination in her own precinct was recently fired.

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)

NRC Next, 22 November, 2018.Neemt racisme toe in Nederland? (, accessed 3 November 2019)

NRC Next, 16 Juy 2019. Discriminatie en uitsluiting bij de politie, we konden het weten (, accessed 3 November 2019)

NRC Next, 25 September 2019. Politiechef die discriminatie aankaartte, is naar huis gestuurd. ((, accessed 3 November 2019)

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

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

DENK (political party) (

B. van der Ent, 2019. Discriminiatie op de arbeidsmarkt, in Sociologie, 4,1:25-57
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 form of discrimination and same-sex marriage were legally recognized as of 1 January 2019 – against the opposition of a vocal, but politically insignificant minority.

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, some are questioning 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.
Belgium is a highly diverse and generally tolerant country. Residents of Brussels represent 184 nationalities. Gay marriage has been legal since 2003, although cohabitation is not always easy. Nevertheless, racist or homophobic hate speech does exist and could be more harshly penalized. Discrimination also translates into lower employment rates and educational achievements among Belgian residents of foreign origin.

A dark spot has been the refugee crisis that led from the Libyan and Syrian civil wars. Although the government denies wrongdoing, human rights activists denounced police abuse when dealing with the presence of refugees in public parks. Hate speech also seems to have increased during the electoral period and elections witnessed a renewal for the extreme-right, with the Vlaams Belang winning 18% of votes in the Flemish regional elections in May 2019. As a consequence, the newly created Flemish government decided to withdraw from UNIA, the Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism.

Though, to repeat, this dark spot is not the whole picture. The press, the judiciary and most political forces actively oppose racism and discrimination.

Less apparent, Belgium is less active in its support for disabled people and, in that regard, Belgium performs less well than most northern European countries. Another significant issue, which has thus far been systematically neglected, is the rights of and protections for elderly people living in retirement homes. Retirement home residents comprise a growing proportion of the population and it is clear – though this is not systematically monitored – that there are issues related to residents’ rights (e.g., issues of maltreatment).
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. 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 54th out of 149 countries in the 2018 Global Gender Gap Index; its parity-imparity score (ranging from 0.00 = imparity to 1.00 = parity) is 0.717. Both figures represent an improvement compared to previous years. Only about 22.6% of Chile’s serving deputies and 23.3% of the senators are women, a slightly better average than the former election period. 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 mandated that at least 30% of labor-union representatives be women.

As of the end of the review period, same-sex marriages had not been recognized, while both heterosexual and homosexual couples could enter into civil unions. However, two draft laws on same-sex marriage and same-sex couples’ adoption of children were being debated by Congress.
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 a relatively serious problems. The gap between the average wages of women and men has decreased slightly, to 21%, but this remains one of the highest rates in the EU. The representation of women in national-level political bodies has not changed significantly; only 22% of the parliament’s members are women. Women’s representation in other decision-making positions has also remained comparatively weak. The World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Report ranked Czechia 78th out of 153 countries, primarily due to the challenges facing women in the areas of economic participation and political empowerment.

The discrimination against Roma people remains another grave issue. Approximately half of the Roma population (estimated at 240,000 individuals, or 2.2% of the population) lives in poverty and suffers from social exclusion. Most Roma live in the Ústí and Moravian-Silesian regions, which show the highest rates of social exclusion. The majority society continues to hold a negative perception of the Roma minority; public-opinion surveys show Roma as the Czech minority perceived as being the second-most unsympathetic, after Arabs. Roma are hampered within the labor market primarily by societal prejudices and discrimination, along with low average education and skills levels within this population. Poverty, high levels of indebtedness, societal prejudices, a lack of affordable housing and low incomes additionally hinder some Roma individuals’ ability to access housing.
Guasti, P., L. Buštíková (2020): In Europe’s Closet: the rights of sexual minorities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in: East European Politics 36(2): 226-246.

World Economic Forum (2020): The Global Gender Gap Report 2020. Geneva (h
In principle, any discrimination based on factors such as gender, race, ethnic origin or religion is banned by the constitution and by many specific laws. 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 healthcare 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 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 studies have confirmed the discriminatory 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).

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 respect. 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 work and pay 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 2019, 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.
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, especially against the highly marginalized Roma minority. There is some labor market discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability, and ethnicity. The public discourse has become increasingly xenophobic, as explicitly nationalistic parties serve in the ruling coalition and routinely rely on agitation during election campaigns. The government failed to push through the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, and some portions of it were pronounced unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court.
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 discrimination. In particular, the Roma sometimes encounter discrimination in education and employment. The rights of LGBT persons have been occasionally circumscribed, but Zagreb and Split Pride, as well as the failure of conservative NGOs to collect sufficient signatures for a referendum against the Istanbul Convention suggest that the overall social climate toward LGBT community has significantly improved. Despite the fact that gay couples are denied the right to officially marry, they can enter into same-sex partnerships with almost equal rights to opposite-sex partnerships since 2014. A court decision in December 2019 finally acknowledged the right of gay couples to become foster parents.
Israel’s main venue for dealing with cases of discrimination is the court system, particularly the Supreme Court, which addresses cases of discrimination against women and minorities in professional, public and state spheres. Israel 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 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.

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.

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:

Heruti-Sover, Tali. “Gender Wage Gap in Israel Among Highest in the West,” 11/10/2017:

Heruti-Sover, Tali. “Report Finds Wide but Varying Pay Gaps by Gender, Religion and Background,” 19/2/2019, Haaretz:

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, Naomi Chazan, Hanna Herzog, Yulia Basin, Ronna Brayer-Garb and Hadass Ben Eliyahu. “The Gender Index, Gender Inequality in Israel 2018,” The Van-Leer Jerusalem Institute,

Zohar, Gal, “Equal participation – comparative view- Israel and the World,” Report to the Ministry of Justice, 2016

Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples – Israel: Ethiopian Jews, August 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). In principle, Italy has a very inclusive model for integrating physically and mentally disabled persons. However, in some regions, the system lacks financial resources.

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 and Sicily, as well as to ethnic groups with ancient roots such as the Alberesh, which originated in Albania. Some municipalities have democratically elected assemblies to represent migrants in local decision-making processes.

The Department for Equal Opportunities, which reports to the president of the Council of Ministers, has improved efforts to monitor gender discrimination in the public administration on a regular basis. The department’s 2018 report indicates that – with some exceptions – significant gains have been 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 among independent authorities. Gender representation in the business sector is generally less satisfactory, but improving. Much greater progress has been achieved in political institutions such as parliament, assemblies and the cabinet. Eurostat data indicates that the gender pay gap in Italy (5%) is well below the EU average (16%).

Discrimination against immigrants is widespread, particularly with regard to illegal immigrants. Whereas immigrants generally enjoy access to the healthcare system, their rights in other areas – labor relations in particular – are not well protected. The first Conte government and especially Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini (Northern League) officially encouraged Italians to oppose immigrants and foreigners, promoting discrimination against immigrants and other minorities.
Women still face considerable discrimination, particularly in the labor market. Women’s average salaries remain 27% below those of their male colleagues (2016 data). Only slightly more than 10% of the lower house’s lawmakers were women as of early 2019, placing Japan among the 30 worst-performing countries worldwide in this regard. Prime Minister Abe has called women “Japan’s most underused resource,” but there were only two women in his cabinet formed in September 2019.

The government has designated “womenomics” as a key pillar of its reform program. Programs being implemented under this rubric include childcare support and similar measures. 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 abuse.

Japan ranks below the OECD average with regard to discrimination against LBGT individuals.

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

The treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers is frequently criticized. Asylum is still rarely granted – only 42 asylum-seekers saw their applications approved in 2018, out of 10,493 total applications. In 2019, a hunger strike protesting harsh conditions occurred in one of the country’s immigrant detainee centers.
Inter-Parliamentary Union, Statistical Archive: Women in National Parliaments, (accessed 6 December 2019)

Kathy Matsui et al., Womenomics 5.0, Goldman Sachs, Portfolio Strategy Reserach, April 2019

OECD, Society at a Glance 2019. A spotlight on LGBT people. How does Japan compare?, March 2019

Sakari Mesimaki, The Quiet Desperation of Refugees in Japan, The Diplomat, 23 August 2019,
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. The country has also worked to increase female representation at various levels, although women are still underrepresented in parliament, on state boards and in the workforce compared to most EU states. Malta’s rank remains unchanged at 15th place in the EU-28 in a 2019 index published by the European Institute for Gender Equality. In the index, the country scored well in terms of health and monetary resources, but very poorly in terms of women’s access to power. A bill on the issue of equality bill is presently making its way through parliament. This act will give legal protection to victims of discrimination, and harmonize equality and non-discrimination laws. It will include gender quotas with regard to parliamentary representation and in the public administration to ensure that at least 40% of positions are held by women. In the workplace, women remain disadvantaged when it comes to earnings and pensions. Discrimination on grounds of political affiliation remains a problem, a direct result of the country’s small size, but aggravated by the type of electoral system in place. Aggrieved citizens may take cases 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
European Institute (2019) Gender equality Index
Equity Act 2019
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. In this respect, Mexico is the leading country in the OECD. Additionally, five women ran as candidates for mayor of Mexico City, with Claudia Sheinbaum (MORENA) becoming the first woman to govern the city.
A crucial problem in gender discrimination are femicides. Between 2015 and June 2019, more than 3,000 women were murdered in Mexico, which marks a rising tendency.

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. The government of López Obrador has taken further steps to strengthen LGBT rights. In May 2019, Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard announced that Mexican consulates around the world would start conducting same-sex marriages for citizens. Marcelo Ebrard had been a strong supporter of same-sex marriage while mayor of Mexico City.

However, while there is more awareness of gender and LGBT rights, attention to indigenous rights and other forms of social stigmatization is more limited, and, as is often the case in Mexico, there is a considerable gap between formal rights, and their effective guarantee and enforcement.
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 without a corresponding increase in resources, rather its budget has been cut by the government. This is mostly due to the PiS’s resentment of the office. Anti-discrimination policy has not featured prominently on the agenda of the PiS government. Quite to the contrary, many public positions are not filled according to any anti-discrimination regulations, but according to political loyalty. In addition, 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 legislation on the financing of NGOs already disables those NGOs that campaign against discrimination to access public money, and the Polish Society of Antidiscrimination Law (PSAL) has reported plenty of cases of individual, group-based or institutional discrimination.
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (2019): Submission to the 99th Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Warsaw (
The Romanian state has been ineffective in countering discrimination against a number of vulnerable groups, including members of the LGBTQ 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 LGBTQ community. Human Rights Watch criticized the referendum for being “little more than a thinly veiled attempt to scapegoat a vulnerable minority.” In November 2018, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats voiced support for legislation which would allow for civil partnerships or unions for both heterosexual or LGBTQ couples. While a draft law was tabled in parliament to recognize civil partnerships in Romania, the draft law is yet to be considered by both chambers. As a result of the June 2018 ruling of the European Court of Justice, same-sex married partners of EU citizens must be recognized for the purpose of establishing a right of residency in Romania. On April 18, 2019, the International Roma Day, President Iohannis made a statement renewing his commitment to protecting citizens of all ethnic minorities.
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. In the period under review, this did not happen nor were any major anti-discrimination measures introduced.
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 (
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 2018, South Korea was ranked 115th out of 144 countries measured, up from 118th place the previous year. The gender-based pay gap, at 35%, remains the OECD’s largest, with the group’s average falling at 13.8%. The Moon government has promised to improve gender equality. As a start, he appointed six female ministers, which at one-third of the cabinet was a considerably higher share than in any previous Korean cabinet. After several reshuffles, the cabinet has now five female minsters. Moon also set a goal of reducing the gender gap in government by 2022 by increasing the share of women in senior government roles to at least 10% and the share of women serving as public-company executives to 20%. Discrimination against non-regular workers and migrant workers remains common, with many migrant workers still having to submit to an HIV test in order to obtain a work visa. 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. While courts have strengthened some rights for the LGBT community, the government has failed to take decisive actions to reduce discrimination. At the time of writing, the Constitutional Court was reviewing Article 92 of the Military Penal Code, which criminalizes sexual relations between members of the same sex within the armed forces. Violations are punished by up to two years in prison regardless of whether the sexual relation was consensual or not.
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.
Human Rights Watch. 2019. “South Korea: Events of 2018.” Retrieved from
The World Economic Forum. 2018. “The Global Gender Gap Report 2018.” Retrieved from
Stangarone, Troy. 2019. “Gender Inequality Makes South Korea Poorer.” The Diplomat, June 14. Retrieved from
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, while there are only two female ministers in the fourth Orbán government, this low number is a sign of progress compared to the third 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 aggressive campaign against George Soros invoked anti-Semitic stereotypes. In this respect, government policies follow a distinct pattern: They are built up as political campaigns funded with state money and serve as a lightning rod every time the population shows some dissatisfaction with government policies. Thus, they do not reflect a conviction or (crude) political philosophy, but are part of the tactical weaponry of the regime.
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. Gender disparities still exist in areas such as decision-making, employment, education and health outcomes. Gender-based violence is widespread. The Türkiye İnsan Hakları ve Eşitlik Kurumu (NHREI), which is in charge of applying anti-discrimination legislation, finalized only 35 decisions between January 2018 and October 2019. Hate crime legislation is not in line with international standards and does not cover hate offenses based on sexual orientation. Turkey has ratified the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, domestic violence and gender-related violence. However, hate speech and discrimination against LGBT communities, who do not have any legal protections, are serious problems.

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 punishable by up to four years in prison. In 2018, 2,462 persons were convicted of “insulting” President Erdoğan. During the last four years, a total of 5,683 persons were found guilty of this “crime.”

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.

The use of Kurdish and some other languages in formal education is gradually becoming more common. However, there are no anti-discrimination employment or social policy strategies or action plans in place.

The Ministry for Family and Social Policies adopted a national action plan to combat violence against women. Recently, the ministry announced the Strategic Document and Action Plan for Strengthening 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.

On the rights of persons with disabilities, Turkey continues to promote inclusive education services. The challenges of child poverty, child labor and child marriage persist. Similarly, gaps in access to quality education, and protection from violence and abuse persist, particularly for the most vulnerable groups, including Roma.
European Commission, Turkey 2019 Report, Brussels, 29.5.2019, report.pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

Türkiye İnsan Hakları ve Eşitlik Kurumu, 2018 ve 2019 Kararları, (accessed 1 November 2019)

World Justice Project, Rule of Law Index 2019, pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2018, Turkey Profile (accessed 1 November 2018)

Şiddetten Ölen Kadınlar İçin Dijital Sayaç, (accessed 1 November 2019)

Kadının Güçlenmesi Strateji Belgesi ve Eylem Planı (2018-2023), (accessed 1 November 2019)

Hate Speech Report: Jews, Armenians and Syrian Refugees Most Targeted Groups in 2018, 13 September 2019, (accessed 1 November 2019)

Cumhurbaşkanına Hakaret Hükmü, (accessed 1 November 2019)
The state does not offer effective protection against discrimination. Discrimination is widespread in the public sector and in society.
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