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 and under the Irish constitution. 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 and one for the right to non-discrimination based on gender, disability, ethnicity and sexual orientation. As of 2021, Norway also has an ombudsperson tasked with protecting the elderly from ageism. The Sámi minority living in the north have a limited right to self-rule, though there still are some unsettled issues over the use of natural resources in this area.

Men and women are nearly at par in terms of education levels. Women’s labor-force participation rate is comparatively high among OECD countries. Women earn on average 87.5% of what men do. However, once specifics such as hours worked, occupation, education and seniority are taken into consideration, it is difficult to verify 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 for high-paying occupations). In 2017, several instances of gender-based discrimination were disclosed as a result of the #metoo campaign. That being said, 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.

Some discrimination against non-Western immigrants seems to persist. In some areas of the economy, immigrants find it comparatively difficult to find work and are generally paid lower wages. Unemployment rates are also substantially higher among immigrant populations than that seen among 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. The Discrimination Act of 2008 identifies seven disallowed grounds for discrimination: sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation, and age. Established on 1 January 2009, the Equality Ombudsman is a government agency that works to promote a society free from discrimination.

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.

During the review period, de facto segregation in several suburbs of large metropolitan areas in Sweden further increased. This societal fracturing remains an unsolved political challenge in contemporary Sweden. Given the increased immigration flows since 2015, there is an increased risk that these challenges will be exacerbated. In the period under review there were increased levels of antisemitism in Sweden, as well as in the rest of Europe. The government sees this as a rising concern (Regeringskansliet, 2021).
Regeringskansliet (Government Offices of Sweden). 2021. “Measures to Combat Antisemitism and Increase Security.”
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 Biden Administration took decisive action on a number of issues of importance to the LGBTQ+ community, including clarifying the scope of sex discrimination protection in federal law and renouncing the ban on open service by transgender people currently in the military, and those wishing to serve. Furthermore, several Executive Orders expand LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections.
State anti-discrimination protections are moderately successful. Few cases of discrimination are observed.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted in 1982, with the aim of preventing discrimination based on gender, physical or mental disability, ethnic or national origin or religion (section 15). Citizens believing they are victims of discrimination from government legislation have, often successfully, challenged such legislation in court based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Courts have stated that Canadians were also protected against discrimination linked to sexual orientation by section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The federal 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. There also exists a federal Court Challenge Program that provides funding for citizens seeking to raise in court rights issues of national significance.

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.

One piece of legislation that has been the subject of much political discussion around the issue of discrimination is Québec’s Bill 21 (Loi sur la Laïcité de l’État), which forbids public sector employees from wearing religious symbols while at work. This legislation is being challenged in court. The federal Liberal government has stated it does not agree with Bill 21 but it has not clearly said if and how it would formally oppose it if the case ends up being heard by the Supreme Court of Canada. This legislation is hugely popular in Québec and the Québec government has already invoked article 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the so-called notwithstanding clause) that allows a parliament to adopt a law deemed by courts to be incompatible with sections 2 or 7-15 of the Charter.
UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya (2014), 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 by 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. There are clear horizontal and vertical gender divisions in the labor market, and women are overrepresented in public sector jobs related to welfare and underrepresented among leaders of various types. Much of the pay disparity between men and women can be explained by these factors, but there remains a wage differential of 1-3% that may be attributed to other factors related to gender discrimination. 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. A recent law aiming to induce men to take on a larger parenting role changes how parents can split such leave.

Cases of discrimination in the labor market are frequently reported in the press. These include, for example, reports of ethnic markers such as a person’s name influencing whether or not a person has a difficult time finding a job. There can be several reasons explaining why people are treated differently or have different options in the labor market; to date, there is no thorough academic analysis that has attempted to examine and evaluate the various causes in the Danish case in order to assess the extent of discrimination in the Danish labor market.

Indirect discrimination can take various forms. Rules and regulations are one notable area. Whereas rules and regulations are general and apply to all citizens, they can also effectively target particular groups. For example, Denmark’s requirement of residency for social assistance (which, if not fulfilled, lowers the amount of assistance) that is offered to immigrants from outside the European Union. While formally treating all immigrants equally, the scheme de facto impacts immigrants from low-income countries with a low employment rate in particular.

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. The current Social Democratic government has liberalized a few minor aspects of Danish immigration policy, but has continued to maintain the overall strict policy.
Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2014 – Denmark, (accessed 21 October 2014).

United States Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 – Denmark, (accessed 21 October 2014).

Lønkommissionen, 2011, Betænkning, København
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. Besides handling citizens’ appeals and monitoring the overall situation, the GEETC office puts significant effort into awareness-raising activities.

Gender equality has been a long-standing challenge, and is reflected in the largest gender pay gap in Europe and the highest share (50%) of citizen appeals to the GEETC. Hence, despite several programs and measures introduced by the government to combat gender pay gaps and labor market inequalities, fundamental is still needed.
Appeals against discrimination on grounds of disability, age and ethnicity compose about 8–12% of all appeals, a proportion that has remained unchanged in recent years.

LGBTQ+ rights continue to be disputed. The Registered Partnership Act (2016) allows same-sex couples to register their partnership, but secondary legal acts are still missing because of heavy opposition from conservative parties. Conservative parties (EKRE and IL) attempted in 2020 to organize a public referendum to define marriage constitutionally as the union between a man and a woman. The parliament rejected the proposal and the plan was shelved after the change of government two weeks later, partly because of disagreements over the issue. The sitting government has not made any steps in either direction concerning marriage and LGBTQ+ rights.
Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner (2020). Annual Report.
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 areas. For example, women are underrepresented in parliaments. The share of women elected as representatives to the Bundestag increased from the previous election’s 31% to 34% in the 2021 general election (Tagesschau 2021), a share that remains far from parity. Attempts at the state levels in Brandenburg and Thuringia to enforce parity through legal parity requirements for party lists were rejected by the state constitutional courts as contradicting voting freedoms.

A law requiring large German companies to reserve at least 30% of nonexecutive-board seats for women took effect in 2016. In 2021, a similar quota was enacted for executive boards requiring at least one woman for boards with four or more members. All these requirements affect only a limited number of large companies.
Adoption and tax legislation passed in 2014 gave equal rights to same-sex couples in these areas. The government legalized same-sex marriage in 2017 (Freedom House 2021).

Xenophobia, antisemitism and Islamophobia are a problem, and politically motivated crime including demagoguery and violent assaults is on the rise (see “Internal Security Policy”).
Freedom House (2021): Freedom in the World 2021, German, (accessed: 14 January 2022).

Tagessschau (2021): Zusammensetzung des Bundestags, Mehr Frauen ins Parlament – aber wie?, (accessed: 14 January 2022).
The law of 28 November 2006 on equal treatment condemns discrimination. This applies to all public or private, natural or legal persons, including public bodies.

The Centre for Equal Treatment (Centre pour l’égalité de traitement, CET) was created on 28 November 2006. The CET carries out its work 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.

In its annual report, the CET highlighted that among the 203 discrimination cases handled in 2020, 49 were focused on people with disabilities, 44 were based on race or ethnicity, 39 dealt with gender discrimination, 12 with sexual orientation, eight with religion and six with age. In addition, 14 cases belonged to the “multiple discrimination” category and 31 to the “other” category. A total of 42 cases were still in progress, while 45 other cases emerged in 2021 related to job offers that did not respect the guidelines for equal treatment.

The Chamber of Employees (Chambre des Salariés) has created the website, which is entirely dedicated to the issue of discrimination in the workplace, including the legal framework and means of action in the field.

In June 2021, the Luxembourg Institute of Socioeconomic Research (LISER) and the Ministry of Family Affairs, Integration and the Greater Region launched a national survey on racism and ethno-racial discrimination in the country in order to better understand how discrimination due to skin color, nationality, country of origin, surname, religion and so on are rooted in daily life in Luxembourg. The large-scale survey will gather the opinions of adult residents on this issue.
“Launch of a national survey on racism and ethno-racial discrimination in Luxembourg.” LISER (18 June 2021). Accessed 14 January 2022.

“Centre for Equal Treatment.” RTL Today (8 April 2021). Accessed 14 January 2022.
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 Māori citizens’ structural disadvantages. 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 (Walters 2018).

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. The Labour/Green government that took power in 2020 has addressed concerns of the LGBTQI community by introducing a bill to outlaw so-called gay conversion therapy in July 2021, and by passing a law in December 2021 making it easier to change the sex registered on birth certificates (Corlett 2021).
Corlett (2021) “New Zealand passes law making it easier to change sex on birth certificates.” The Guardian.

Hurihanganui (2018) “Waitangi Tribunal’s recommendations frequently ignored – UN report.” RNZ

Murphy (2018) “NZ told to improve human rights of LGBTQI people.” RNZ.

Walters (2018) “Fact check: Disparities between Māori and Pākehā.” Stuff.
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 and Islamophobic discourse, which has resonated well within the population, and several initiatives discriminating against foreigners and Muslims have been adopted by a majority of voters. 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 two decades, 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. A perception that the indigenous population is crowded out from public services and social housing has contributed to populist right-wing views about the impact of immigration, but gains only limited traction. Some high-profile cases, particularly those involving trans-identified people, have resulted in increased tensions and heated public discourse about just how far anti-discrimination should go.

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.
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. Further, 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.

In November 2021, the government sought to pass the Religious Discrimination Act, which would ostensibly prohibit religious discrimination. However, 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 legislation would permit discrimination on the basis of other, normally protected traits, such as sex, sexuality and marital status. The bill currently appears unlikely to be passed in the Senate in its current form.
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. Greece has seen significant improvements in the protection of LGBTQ+ 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.

Ιn 2020 and 2021, the influx of migrants and refugees slowed down. The coastal communities on the Greek islands of the Aegean Sea did not have to manage the large waves of immigration encountered before to 2019 under the permissive policies of the previous government. Migration policy became much stricter after the change of government in 2019. However, in early 2020, very large, organized groups of immigrants suddenly tried to push through Greece’s land border with Turkey and enter the country. Greek security forces held them back and massive inflows were prevented. In view of the above, a general climate of unfriendliness, if not outright hostility, toward refugees and migrants has become the norm 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
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.
Latvia adheres to 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, but 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.

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 on the issue within Latvian society. In 2020, the Saeima rejected an initiative signed by more than 10,000 Latvian residents regarding the registration of same-sex partnerships.

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

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. According to the Central Statistical Bureau, 38.6% of women have suffered from physical or sexual violence since the age of 15 in Latvia, while 6.3% have done so during the past 12 months. Among this population, 32.1% have never told anyone about the violence, which is more than twice the comparable average in the EU.

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. Receiving 60.8 out of 100 points (7.1. points lower than the EU average), Latvia ranks 17th in the EU on the Gender Equality Index.
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Non-discrimination 2018, Available at:, Last accessed: 15.01.2022.

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4. Ombudsman of Latvia (2017), Annual Report, Available at: 624612.pdf, Last assessed: 15.01.2022.

8. University of Latvia, Social and Political Research Institute (2014). How Democratic is Latvia:
Democracy Audit 2005 – 2014. Available at:, Last accessed: 15.01.2022.

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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.

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 LGBTQ+ 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.

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 20th in the EU on the Gender Equality Index, with 58.4 points out of a possible 100 (up by one position and 2.1 points compared to 2020). Since 2010, Lithuania’s score has increased by 3.5 points, but its relative ranking has deteriorated by three positions. According to the European Institute of Gender Equality, Lithuania performs best when it comes to work (11th place in the EU) and lags most in the domain of power (18th) which reflects “gender equality in economic decision-making.” Currently, 73% of parliamentarians are men, but only 57% of the government’s members are men. Furthermore, all three leaders of the ruling coalition are women, with two of them serving as the prime minister and as speaker of the parliament.
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 2021 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 2021 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 has proved persistent. While the gender pay gap fell from 16.0% in 2015 (above the EU-27 average of 15.5%) to 8.9% in 2018 (vs. 14.4% in the EU-27), the data in 2019 indicates a projected deterioration to 10.6%, 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 665 complaints regarding racial discrimination in 2020, an increase of some 50% compared to 2019 and almost six times the level of 2017 (119). This is the highest number since at least 2000.

As in the previous SGI review period, the current period was marked by cases of apparent discrimination, which gained considerable media traction. The most tragic was that of Ihor Homeniuk, a Ukrainian citizen who was detained at the border crossing in Lisbon airport and killed by Portugal’s Border Control (SEF) officers while in detention in March 2020. The case was uncovered in November 2020, and received extensive media coverage. As a result, three SEF officers involved were tried and convicted. Moreover, the SEF’s institutional failings over this case accelerated calls for the service to be dismantled, with parliament narrowly giving its approval in 2021, with support from the PS and BE. However, this measure had not yet been implemented as of the time of writing.
Comissão para a Igualdade e Contra a Discriminação Racial, “Relatório Anual 2020,” available online at:ório+Anual+2020+-+CICDR.pdf/522f2ed5-9ca6-468e-b05d-f71e8711eb12

Pordata, Disparidade salarial entre homens e mulheres, 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 2020 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 (2020): Annual Report for 2019. 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.

Some minority groups – including Roma – remain economically marginalized and are allegedly subject to police profiling. Moreover, the rise of populist movements, including Vox, led to stronger rhetoric on immigration and minority groups.

Spain is considered to be a pioneer in fighting discrimination against homosexuals and women. The main national agency tasked with monitoring equality and anti-discrimination efforts is the Institute for Women and Equal Opportunities. However, in 2018, ECRI called on Spain to “urgently” create an independent equality body specifically designed to tackle racism. At the beginning of 2021, the ECRI indicated that its recommendation had not been implemented. Spanish authorities informed ECRI that work is underway to improve the quality of a draft Act on Equality of Treatment and Against all Form of Discrimination. Moreover, some autonomous communities have increased the educational support provided to Roma people.
ECRI (2021), Fifth report on Spain – interim follow up conclusions.
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 very 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 even 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. Since 2019, same-sex marriage in Austria has been legal.

That apart, open and latent forms of discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons continue to be part of Austrian politics and society. Despite recent progress, women in Austria continue to face numerous forms of discrimination, particularly in leadership positions and in terms of salary. That said, overall, perceived discrimination against women in Austria is considerably lower than among any other groups singled out in a recent Eurobarometer survey on discrimination. In educational institutions and beyond, ethnicity-based discrimination accounted for nearly three-quarters of all reported cases in 2020. Across various levels, “being Roma” is by far the most difficult status for a person living in Austria in terms of active and passive forms of discrimination.

According to Eurobarometer data, the overall reported level of perceived discrimination in Austria does not differ significantly from the EU average, though curiously both the share of respondents stating that anti-discrimination efforts were effective and not effective at all was higher than in other EU member states.

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. In this context, 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).
Political rights are protected by legislature and government bodies. However, in this realm, major failings can be seen, for example, in the case of the Mapuche 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. She presented a draft law that seeks the recognition of collective rights for the Mapuche community 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. Despite long debates in the National Congress, this draft law had not been approved as of the time of writing.

President Sebastián Piñera continued emphasizing the urgent need to create a proper ministry and secure constitutional recognition for indigenous peoples. However, he had made no progress on this issue by the end of the review period. The constitutional convention is expected to reach a consensus declaring Chile to be a plurinational estate.

With regard to gender, Chile was ranked 70th out of 156 countries in the 2021 Global Gender Gap Index; its parity-imparity score (ranging from 0.00 = imparity to 1.00 = parity) is 0.716, technically the same result as in previous years, but a considerable improvement compared to the initial such report in 2006.

As of the time of writing, only about 22.6% of Chile’s serving deputies (35 of 155) and 25.5% of the senators (11 of the current 43, as seven positions still needed to be elected by the end of the period under review) were women, a slightly better average than seen during the former legislative 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 obliges 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. Thanks to strong gender equity provisions, a constitutional convention composed of 78 men and 77 women was elected in 2021.

Same-sex marriage and the adoption of children by same-sex couples became legal in December 2021, when Law No. 21,400 was enacted. The law is scheduled to come into effect in March 2022.
On the creation of the Ministry for Indigenous affairs:
Library of the National Congress (Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional, BCN),, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

On same-sex marriage and same-sex couples’ adoption:
Library of the National Congress (Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional, BCN),, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

Interparlamentary Union, Situation as of 1. February 2019, classif.htm, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

Word Economic Forum, “Gender Gap Report 2021 for Chile”,, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

On Acuerdo Nacional por la Araucanía:
Gobierno de Chile,,y%20bienestar%20para%20las%20familias, last accessed: 13 January 2022.
Article 18 of the constitution guarantees equality and non-discrimination for all. It explicitly prohibits discrimination, while legislation aims to proactively protect the rights of minority groups. However, in practice, policies do not effectively meet existing challenges, and inequalities and discrimination persist.

Various laws adopted in line with EU directives on gender equality and against discrimination have not achieved significant progress. Instead of combating racism and other forms of discrimination, officials often adopt xenophobic narratives. Enforcing rules that protect the rights of persons with disabilities does not seem to be a priority. Persons needing assistance, including school children, have faced increased problems because of the COVID-19 crisis.

The Council of Europe’s ECRI (2019) stated that its 2016 recommendations are still valid. More is needed to enable the Office of the Ombudsman to act as an effective anti-discrimination authority. The response to the strong recommendation that the authorities “develop a new integration plan for non-nationals,” including various foreign groups, was rather negative. Policies are increasingly discriminate against non-native people, as indicated in a letter from the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights to the interior minister in March 2021.

In the Gender Equality Index for 2021, Cyprus scored 57 points, 11 points below the EU average (68).
1. Gender Equality Index 2021 – Cyprus,
2. CoE European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, Conclusions on the Implementation of Recommendations, Cyprus, June 2019,
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 and has helped to limit discrimination. Still, gender discrimination remains a relatively serious problem compared to other developed countries. The gap between the average wages of women and men has decreased slightly, to 18.9%, but this remains one of the highest rates in the European Union. The representation of women in national-level political bodies increased slightly in 2021 when the highest number of women (25%) entered the parliament (31.6% of candidates were women). However, women’s representation in other decision-making positions has also remained comparatively weak. The World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report ranked Czechia 78th out of 156 countries, primarily due to the challenges facing women in the areas of economic participation and opportunity, and political empowerment (World Economic Forum 2021).

Another issue is the discrimination against Roma people. Approximately half of the Roma population (estimated at 250,000 individuals or 1.93% of the population) live in poverty, indebtedness, and suffer from forms of discrimination in employment and housing provision. According to government records, the risk of poverty for Roma is six times higher than for the general population. The Czech majority continues to hold a negative perception of the Roma minority. Public opinion surveys report that Roma are perceived as being the second-most unsympathetic Czech minority, after Arabs. The main obstacles to participating in the labor market faced by Roma are societal prejudices and discrimination, and low average educational attainment and skills levels. Participation is key to the emancipation of the Roma, but voter turnout among the Roma is traditionally low. At present, there are no Roma members of parliament, and their representation in regional and municipal councils is insignificant. To address these issues, the government, in spring 2021, adopted an update of its 2015 Roma integration strategy (Czech Government 2021). The update was drafted in close collaboration with the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs and with representatives of the Romani community.

Discrimination of LGBTQ+ people exists, but is limited compared to other East-Central European countries (Guasti/ Buštíková 2020). While the Catholic Church has intensified its pro-life and anti-LGBTQ+ activism, some Protestant churches have started to cooperate with LGBTQ+ advocacy groups. Public opinion regarding the adoption of children by same-sex couples has become more positive.
Czech Government (2021): Strategie rovnosti, začlenění a participace Romů
(Strategie romské integrace) 2021–2030. Prague (

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 (2021): The Global Gender Gap Report 2021. Geneva (
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 marry legally, 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
Défenseur des droits: Discriminations et origines: l’urgence d’agir, Paris, 22 June 2020
Iceland’s constitution states that every person shall 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 illegal. 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 UNHRC, which ruled in 2007 that the management system of Iceland’s fisheries was discriminatory, signals a less-than-full commitment to non-discrimination.

The UN 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 2021, 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.
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. Since 1994, a General Law on Equal Treatment (Algemene Wet Gelijke Behandeling) has prohibited distinctions to be drawn between people on the basis of race or nationality. The law applies to all housing, healthcare, cultural and educational institutions. Thus, in hiring and firing decisions, race and nationality may not be taken into account, for example. The Dutch penal code also contains articles that prohibit insulting minorities and engaging in hate-mongering.

In sum, there is a high degree of formal protection. A recent expert report criticized Dutch anti-discrimination sanctions as “ineffective,” and as neither “dissuasive” nor “proportionate.” There are signals that discrimination is practiced by Dutch police, in the labor and housing markets, in the medical world, in the media, and in public and political debate. PVV-leader Geert Wilders was convicted of discriminating against the group of Moroccans; but the trial took three years, and although he was deemed guilty, he was not punished.

In 2018, more than a quarter of the Dutch population reported being subject to some form of discrimination in a survey by the Social Cultural Planning Bureau (SCP). Dutch of Moroccan, Turkish, Antillean and Surinamese descent experience discrimination with particular frequency; 30% of these respondents reported being surveilled as a matter of policy, where the average for the entire population is 3%.

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 the pressures created by significant (international) events (e.g., Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, terrorist attacks and public debates about #MeToo and after the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the United States, discussions about Dutch colonialism/slavery), an increase can be seen in visible discriminatory actions, internet-based threats and insults targeting Jews, Muslims, Afro-Dutch citizens and women. Especially worrisome is the broad-based and well above the European average negative climate of opinion and stereotyping of Muslims. 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.
B. van der Ent, 2019. Discriminiatie op de arbeidsmarkt, in Sociologie, 4,1:25-57

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

Volkskrant, Frijters, 21 May 2021. Discriminatie in Nederland: veel bewustzijn, stigens aantal strafzaken

SCP, 2019. Perceived discrimination in the NL

De Correspondent, Mulder and Bol, 10 June 2020. Institutioneel racosme in Nederland: wat het is, waar het zit, en wat je eraan kunt doen

B. van der Ent, 2019. Discriminiatie op de arbeidsmarkt, in Sociologie, 4,1:25-57
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. 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. In April 2021, in a case in which life partners Mladen Kožić and Ivo Šegota sought to adopt a child, the Administrative Court of Croatia ruled that they could be adoptive parents. The court ruled that there should be no discrimination in the right to adopt children. This was the first such decision made in Croatia.
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.

Progress was achieved in recent years regarding women’s and gay rights. For example, 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. Some advances have also been made in protecting the rights of disabled persons.

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.
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,
Women still face considerable discrimination, particularly in the labor market. Japan’s gender wage gap is the third-largest among OECD countries at 22.5% (2020 data), which is well above the OECD average of 12.5%. Women make up barely 10% of all parliamentarians in the more powerful lower house, placing Japan among the 30 worst-performing countries worldwide in this regard. Former Prime Minister Abe called women “Japan’s most underused resource,” but had only two women in his cabinet formed in September 2019. In 2021, the new Kishida government added one more female minister.

The government has designated “womenomics” as a key pillar of its reform program. Programs implemented under this rubric include childcare support and similar measures. However, given the persistent undercurrent of sexism in Japanese society, de facto workplace discrimination will be hard to overcome. This is underscored by the passage of the new anti-workplace-sexual-harassment (powa hara) law in 2021 that imposes no penalty for employer non-compliance.

The three 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.

There are no legal protections against racial, ethnic, religious or gender-identity-based discrimination in Japan. The country ranks below the OECD average with regard to discrimination against LBGTQ+ 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 rarely granted – only 47 asylum-seekers saw their applications approved in 2020, against a total of 3,936 applications lodged that year. In 2019, a hunger strike protesting harsh conditions occurred in one of the country’s immigrant detainee centers.

Japan is also criticized for its human-rights abuses of foreign workers, particularly its foreign technical intern program, including low-wage, forced overtime work, and dangerous and unsanitary working conditions. The Justice Ministry announced 759 cases of suspected abuse in 2019. There were 171 trainees’ deaths between 2012 and 2017. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation worse.
Inter-Parliamentary Union, Statistical Archive: Women in National Parliaments, (accessed 16 February 2022)

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

Japan Accepts 47 Refugees in 2020 as Applicants Fall by 60% Due to Pandemic,, 30 April 2021,

Sakari Mesimaki, The Quiet Desperation of Refugees in Japan, The Diplomat, 23 August 2019,

COVID-19 Made Life Even Worse for Japan’s Foreign Trainees, The Diplomat, 15 October 2021,
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. 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. A bill on the issue of equality was presented to parliament in 2018, but many of its clauses proved to be highly controversial and strong opposition from many quarters has delayed many of the bill’s provisions. This act will give legal protection to victims of discrimination, and harmonize equality and non-discrimination laws. Government policies are mainly non-discriminatory, but the 1989 reform of the public service did not incorporate all the recommended changes of the board. This has created loopholes that could be utilized and result in discrimination. Discrimination on grounds of political affiliation remains a problem. Since 2013, the government has strengthened the rights of several minorities, including women, the LGBTQ+ community and disabled persons. A new mechanism will come into play during the 2022 general election, which will increase the number of women in Malta’s parliament. According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, Malta increased its score to 65 points from 63.4 in comparison to the GEI 2020 edition and improved its ranking to 13th from 14th. Malta also registered the second highest progress on gender equality (an increase of 10.6 points) since 2010. Nonetheless, women remain disadvantaged when it comes to earnings and pensions, although budgetary measures have led to some improvement on the latter issue. Women are still under-represented in parliament, on state boards and in the workforce compared to women in most EU member states. Malta also has a number of independent commissions to protect the rights of vulnerable groups, such as children and disabled people. The government increased the fine for employers who discriminate against disabled people. The 2020 annual ombudsman report stated that the accelerated promotion of four armed forces officers after the 2013 election was illegal. In 2018, the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality highlighted the discrimination faced by sub-Saharan migrants in accessing employment, in employment itself, in accessing housing and when contacting school authorities as parents. There have been allegations of racial profiling by police and of a lack of racial insensitivity reflected in comments made by members of government. This is still an area that lags seriously behind.
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 Independent 15/01/18 Discrimination affecting large number of ethnic minorities
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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 the gender quotas for parties and elections that were included in the 2014 constitutional reform. Women now hold 50% of seats in Congress. In this respect, Mexico is a leading country in the OECD and the world. Claudia Sheinbaum (MORENA) is the first woman to govern the city of Mexico. Sheinbaum has also declared her intention to run for president as the successor of President López Obrador.
A crucial problem in gender discrimination are femicides. Between 2015 and June 2019, more than 3,000 women were murdered in Mexico. An average of 10.5 women are killed every day, with a total of 1,932 such victims in 2019. In the last four years, femicides have risen by 111%. The courts are increasingly assertive in taking up cases of gender equality and LGBTQ+ and transgender rights. In the 2021 midterm elections, the first transgender person was been elected to Congress. Additionally, in several states, abortion rights have been liberalized after court rulings.

However, while there is increasing awareness of gender and LGBTQ+ rights, the attention paid to indigenous rights and other forms of social stigmatization is more limited, although there is a history of autonomy for indigenous communities. 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, (
Romania continues to struggle with non-discrimination and protection of marginalized persons within the law. In 2020, the country adopted Law 671/2019, banning all educational institutions from “propagating theories and opinions on gender identity according to which gender is a separate concept from biological sex.” This comes just two years after a referendum limiting the definition of family to exclude LGBTQ+ couples narrowly failed after it did not meet the required voter turnout threshold. In 2020, Romania ranked 38th out of 49 European countries for LGBTQ+ equality laws and policies by the International Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association European region.

In addition, Romania lacks a policy to encourage female participation in politics and women continue to be underrepresented in the parliament. Following the 2020 parliamentary elections, women held just 18.5% of lower-house seats and 18.4% of Senate seats, with only one female minister appointed in the new government. Members of the Roma minority also continue to face health and political disparities with few legal protections.

In January 2021, the Law on measures for Preventing and Combating Anti-Gypsyism entered into force. This is an important development for the protection of the Roma ethnic minority. According to the law, “anti-gypsyism” means both the perception of Roma expressed as hatred against them, as well as verbal or physical manifestations motivated by hatred against Roma, their property, institutions, traditions and language.
Reid, G. (2018): Cynical Romanian Referendum Tries to Redefine ‘Family’. Human Rights Watch, October 3 (

“Legea privind unele masuri pentru prevenirea si combaterea antițigănismului, promulgata” [Law on some measures to prevent and combat anti-gypsyism promulgated],, 4 January 2021, 021/01/04/legea-privind-unele-masur i-pentru-prevenirea-si-combaterea-a ntitiganismului-promulgata–637144
Slovakia has fairly sophisticated anti-discrimination legislation in place. However, the former Prime Minister Robert Fico and his coalition partner SNS openly nurtured open public discrimination of Roma, migrants and LGBTQ+ persons and contributed to a toxic climate in Slovak society. Just a few days before the 2020 elections, the parliament, upon the initiative of the the SNS, again rejected the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. The new center-right government has not continued these campaigns. In late 2021, it also approved a new Strategy for Roma Equality, Inclusion and Participation until 2030. In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the authorities targeted Roma settlements with disproportionate and discriminatory measures. The authorities tested residents of some Roma settlements for COVID-19 with the assistance of the army and ordered the mandatory quarantine of five Roma settlements on the grounds of public health. The legal basis for these mandatory quarantines, enforced by the police and army, was unclear, raising concerns of arbitrary detention. Moreover, parts of the governing coalition, most notably Sme-Rodina, have fought against gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights in the name of traditional family values.
South Korea
The Korean constitution states that “there shall be no discrimination in political, economic, social or cultural life on account of sex, religion or social status” (Art. 11). Unfortunately, Korea still lacks a comprehensive anti-discrimination law that would enforce these constitutional rights. In fact, discrimination remains a major problem in South Korea for groups as diverse as women, migrants, handicapped persons, LGBTQ+ people and North Korean defectors. Women are still underrepresented in the labor market, comprising only 43% of the labor force despite having an average education level similar to that of men. The Global Gender Gap Index for 2021 ranks South Korea at 102nd place out of 156 countries evaluated. The gender pay gap remains the largest in the OECD, and the COVID-19 shock disproportionately affected female workers, as they outnumber men in the service sector and in irregular jobs, the areas most affected by the pandemic. In terms of leadership positions, the proportion of women in managerial positions in state-funded and large private companies was 19.8% in 2019, while 19% of National Assembly seats are held by women, both rates below the global average. Having promised to improve gender equality, President Moon appointed women to comprise about one-third of the cabinet – a considerably higher share than in any previous Korean cabinet.

Discrimination against irregular workers, North Korean defectors and ethnic Koreans from other countries (principally China) remains widespread. 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. Discrimination against migrants intensified during COVID-19, as migrants were excluded from disaster relief payments and services (e.g., provision of subsidized masks) that the government provided to all Korean nationals. While courts have strengthened some rights for the LGBT community, the government has failed to take decisive actions to reduce discrimination. The Constitutional Court is reviewing (for the fourth time) the constitutionality of Article 92-6 of the Military Penal Code, which criminalizes sexual relations between members of the same sex within the armed forces.

For the 11th time since 2007, the National Assembly is considering passage of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law that would prohibit discrimination based on gender, disability, medical history, age, origin, ethnicity, race, skin color, physical condition, marital status, sexual orientation and gender identity. Despite widespread public support for such a law and presidential backing, the National Assembly Legislation and Judiciary Committee did not complete its review by the original November 2021 deadline. It extended the review period to May 2024.
Amnesty International Report 2019,
Human Rights Watch. 2020. “South Korea: Events of 2019.” Retrieved from
Human Rights Watch. 2021. “South Korea: Events of 2020.” Retrieved from
Human Rights Watch. 2022. “South Korea: Events of 2021.” Retrieved from
Im, Esther S. “How Multiculturalism Has Fared in South Korea amid the Pandemic – the Case for South Korean Soft Power.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, December 15, 2020.
“Joint Letter to South Korea’s National Assembly Calling for the Immediate Passage of a Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Law.” Human Rights Watch, December 20, 2021.
Ko, Jun-tae. “[Us and Them] Migrant Workers’ Struggles in Korea Continue despite Better Awareness.” The Korea Herald, October 11, 2021.
Ko, Jun-tae. “Anti-Discrimination Law Again Discussed, Gains Momentum.” The Korea Herald, November 9, 2021.
Stangarone, Troy. “COVID-19 Has Widened South Korea’s Gender Gap.” The Diplomat, February 26, 2021.
World Economic Forum. “Global Gender Gap Report 2021,” March 2021.
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. 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 continued its campaigns against Muslims, refugees and the LGBTQ+ community. The ninth amendment of the Fundamental Law in December 2020 and concomitant legislation have made the constitutional definition of a family even more traditional, have fixed gender identity at birth and have made it impossible for same-sex couples to adopt children. A controversial 2021 law has banned the “promotion” of queer and homosexual content in schools. The government has also organized a manipulative “LGBTQ+ referendum” to be held together with the parliamentary elections on 2 April 2022. During the EURO 2020 football tournament, the government clashed with UEFA over visible LGBTQ+ support during football matches in Budapest.
A comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Act in line with EU directives has been in effect 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 initially established in 1987. This body’s effectiveness has suffered, as it has assumed more responsibilities without a corresponding increase in resources and indeed the government has even cut its budget. This is mostly due to the PiS’s resentment of the office. The anti-discrimination policy has not featured prominently on the agenda of the PiS government. 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. In October 2021, the five Polish regions that had declared themselves “LGBT-free” gave in to the European Commission’s demand to annul that declaration, because they did not want to lose recovery funds amounting to €126 million in post-COVID-19 aid. At the same time, however, a bill submitted by the Foundation for Life and Family, dubbed “stop LGBT,” discussed in the Sejm in October 2021, would further infringe on the rights of same-sex couples and trans-gender people.
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 Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey, which is in charge of applying anti-discrimination legislation, only finalized 43 decisions in 2020 out of 276 submitted. Moreover, Turkey has not signed Protocol 12 of the ECHR, which prohibits discrimination.

Hate crime legislation is not in line with international standards, and does not cover hate offenses based on sexual orientation. Turkey withdrew from the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, domestic violence, and gender-related violence despite widespread public reaction. Despite rising public awareness, the incidence of violence against women in Turkey has undergone a dramatic and rapid increase over the last decade. More specifically, while 80 women were killed in 2008, this number increased to 300 in 2020.
Hate speech and discrimination against LGBTQ+ communities, which do not have any legal protections, are major problems. During the 2021 Boğaziçi University protests over the appointment of a pro-government rector, President Erdoğan publicly denied the existence of LGBTQ+ individuals within Turkish society.

The use of Kurdish and some other languages in formal education contexts is gradually becoming more common. However, there are no anti-discrimination employment or social policy strategies or action plans in place.
European Commission. “Turkey Report 2021. Commission Staff Working Document.” October 19, 2021.

Habertürk. “2020’nin kadın cinayetleri raporu,” January 2, 2021.

Euronews. “Erdoğan: LGBT, yok öyle bir şey, bu ülke millidir, manevidir,” February 3, 2021.
The state does not offer effective protection against discrimination. Discrimination is widespread in the public sector and in society.
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