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This book focuses on anti-discrimination law in order to identify commonalities and best practices across nations. Almost every nation in the world embraces the principle of equality and non-discrimination, in theory if not in practice. As the authors' expert contributions establish, the sources of the principle vary considerably, from international treaties to religious law, traditions and more. There are many approaches to methods of enforcement and other variables, but the principle is nearly universal. What does a comparison of the laws and approaches across different lands reveal?

Readers may explore the enforcement and effectiveness of anti-discrimination law from 25 nations, across six continents. Esteemed authors examine national, regional and international systems looking for common and best practices, identifying innovative approaches to long-standing problems. The many ways that anti-discrimination law is enforced are brought to light, from criminal or civil prosecution through to community resolution processes, amongst others. Through comparing the approaches of different lands, the authors consider which methods of enforcement are effective.

These enriching national and international perspectives highlight the need for more creative, concrete and coordinated means of enforcement to ensure the effectiveness of anti-discrimination law, regardless of the legal tradition concerned, but in light of these traditions. Readers will find each nation remarkable, and learn something new and interesting from each report.



Introduction and General Report


Enforcement and Effectiveness of Antidiscrimination Law: Global Commonalities and Practices

Almost every nation in the world embraces the principle of equality and non-discrimination, in theory if not in practice. The bases that find protection are broader in some countries, narrower in others. The sources of the principle vary considerably. The methods of enforcement and remedies available cover a panoply of approaches. And the effectiveness of enforcement ranges broadly. But the principle is nearly universal. How then, do we define, limit, and enforce the antidiscrimination principle. What works, where, and what doesn’t? Is there a universal answer to a universal principle? This report explores the enforcement and effectiveness of antidiscrimination law from 23 nations, found on 6 continents, and 3 international or regional bodies. In French and English, from legal scholars and scholar/practitioners, we examine national, regional and international systems looking for common practices, and innovative approaches to long-standing problems.
Marie Mercat-Bruns, David B. Oppenheimer, Cady Sartorius

National Reports



In Australia, laws prohibiting discrimination have been passed by both the federal government and by the governments in the six states and two territories, as listed below. These two schemes operate in parallel to one another and are somewhat similar.
Australia has a federal system with laws against discrimination at both state and commonwealth level. The laws are generally quite wide in the attributes and the scope of activities covered, but they are weak in enforcement. This is because the laws (except for the federal Fair Work Act) do not provide any assistance with proving the basis of discrimination, and enforcement is only by people affected. Equality commissions in each jurisdiction conduct conciliation of complaints and can intervene in litigation, but do not have any direct enforcement powers. As a result, enforcement is inadequate and reform is needed.
Ursula Cristina Basset, Alejandra Rodriguez Galán, Alfredo M. Vítolo


In Australia, laws prohibiting discrimination have been passed by both the federal government and by the governments in the six states and two territories, as listed below. These two schemes operate in parallel to one another and are somewhat similar.
Beth Gaze, Dominique Allen


Belgium has been a part of the European Union (EU) from the very beginning of the European Communities. From the outset, antidiscrimination has been a key element of a European integration relying on free movement and eager to avoid distortions of competition between Member States. At the end of the 1990s, the emerging concept of EU citizenship and the EU’s need for more popular legitimacy fostered broader equal opportunities policies and new legislative powers “to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.” This, in turn, had a profound impact on Belgian antidiscrimination law. On the ground however, the scope of discriminatory practices in employment, housing, education is large and major structural instances of discrimination remain unsolved.
Emmanuelle Bribosia, Isabelle Rorive

Brésil (Brazil)

A partir de diverses dispositions constitutionnelles, les Pouvoirs législatif, exécutif et judiciaire tentent d'affirmer et d'appliquer progressivement les droits fondamentaux au Brésil, comptant à la fois sur l'aide des institutions publiques indépendantes (telles que le Ministère Public et la Défense Publique/Defensoria pública) et des organismes sociaux non gouvernementaux. Toutefois, en ce qui concerne la voie de la protection des droits fondamentaux et de la mise en oeuvre des politiques publiques antidiscriminatoires, le Brésil doit encore surmonter de grandes barrières socio-culturelles, politiques et économiques qui entravent la réalisation de l'égalité substantielle et le droit à la diversité. Ce rapport est donc limité à dépeindre avec l'objectivité et la concision nécessaires quelques-unes des données les plus importantes concernant la concrétisation du droit antidiscriminatoire au Brésil.
Elton Venturi


Legal protections against discrimination began to emerge in the post-World War II era in Canada, with specific legislative enactments prohibiting exclusions based on race, sex, national or ethnic origin and religion in employment, housing and access to public services. More expansive and comprehensive statutory protections were introduced in the 1960s and 1970s in provinces and territories across Canada and at the federal level. Constitutional protections for equality and non-discrimination were entrenched in the 1980s and the Supreme Court of Canada has repeatedly affirmed a substantive approach to equality in its constitutional rulings. In addition, Canada has ratified numerous international human rights conventions. Thus, the most pressing challenge today is ensuring a broad and robust interpretation of these legal protections, and securing their effective enforcement.
Colleen Sheppard


Au Canada, la réalité juridique est complexe : organisation constitutionnelle, structure fédérale, législation quasi-constitutionnelle; en outre, à la tradition anglo-saxonne de common law s’ajoute, dans la province de Québec, le droit civil (pour le droit privé). Toutes ces ramifications doivent être prises en considération dans l’étude au pays du droit à l’égalité sans discrimination, créant ainsi un schème juridique à la fois intéressant et riche pour fins comparatives. Dans le cadre des réponses aux questions sur les lois et la jurisprudence relatives à la mise en œuvre, l’exécution et l’efficacité du droit à la non-discrimination, l’auteur donne plusieurs exemples contemporains de cas difficiles, s’agissant des valeurs d’égalité : programmes d’accès à l’égalité, accommodements raisonnables (rapport Bouchard-Taylor), problèmes d’application extraterritoriale des droits, de même que la mal nommée Charte des valeurs québécoises, un épisode sombre (quoique bref) dans l’histoire récente de la province. Ceci étant, il est clair que le Canada est résolument engagé dans la lutte à la discrimination, une problématique abordée non pas formellement, mais plutôt de façon réelle et substantielle, à l’aide notamment de programmes et d’institutions nécessaires à la mise en œuvre du droit à l’égalité.
Stéphane Beaulac


The development of a special antidiscrimination legal framework in Croatia began as a consequence of alignment of Croatian legislation with the acquis communautaire pursuant to duty set in Article 69 of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between Croatia and the EU. Harmonization with key EU Antidiscrimination Directives (Racial Equality Directive 2000/43/EC; Framework Directive 2000/78/EC; Gender Goods and Services Directive 2004/113/EC; and Gender Equality Directive 2006/54/EC) resulted in the adoption of the Antidiscrimination Act (ADA) in 2008, the Gender Equality Act (GEA) in 2003, and a new GEA in 2008. Besides in the ADA as lex generalis and in the GEA as lex specialis, antidiscrimination provisions can be found scattered in numerous statutes of both public and private law, such as the Constitutional Act on the Rights of National Minorities, Same-Sex Communities Act, Same-Sex Persons Life Partnership Act, Labour Act, Act on Professional Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities, People’s Ombudsman Act, Act on Protection from Domestic Violence, Criminal Code, etc. Beyond that, protection against discrimination and guarantee of equal treatment is entrenched in the Croatian legal system and forms part of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia and of numerous international agreements ratified by it, such as the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) and its Protocols. Being an EU Member State, Croatia adopts the Union’s goals and values of combating discrimination and promoting equality.
Emilia Mišćenić, Dijana Kesonja

Czech Republic

The Czech Constitutional Court in its decision from 6 June 2006, file no. Pl. ÚS 42/04, rules that the constitutional principle of equality in rights belongs to those fundamental human rights that constitute a system of values of modern democratic societies. The principle of equality is a legally philosophical postulate at the level of positive law guaranteed by prohibition of discrimination. Equality is not a changeless category as far as it goes through development especially in the area of political and social rights. Also, the international documents about human rights and numerous decisions of international control bodies emanate from the fact that not every unequal treatment with different subjects can be qualified as violation of the principle of equality, or accordingly, as illicit discrimination of ones in comparison with others. Violation of this principle requires several conditions be met: different subjects being in the same or comparable situation are treated in a different manner unless there are any objective and reasonable reasons for applying a different approach. Herein it can be added that the European Court of Human Rights similarly states that difference in treatment among persons being in analogical or comparable situations is discriminatory unless it has any objective and reasonable justification.
Markéta Selucká, Martina Grochová, Jana Komendová


Antidiscrimination law in Denmark does not consist of one single piece of legislation. It is rather a combination of many acts that have been introduced or amended when EU-legislation, public debate, or the ratification of international obligations have focused on a specific field of application or a specific group. Hence, protection against discrimination is ensured by a web of civil and criminal legislation ranging from the Constitution to specific acts covering areas inside and outside the labor market. The fact that there are different antidiscrimination laws in various areas with different levels of protection makes it a challenge to explain the legal situation. The public and the ordinary citizen therefore also have difficulties understanding the legal situation when it comes to antidiscrimination and equality.
Pia Justesen

France: le jeu des acteurs

En France, le droit de la non-discrimination et le droit de l’égalité sont distincts. Le droit de l’égalité propose une théorie juridique fondée sur une conception universaliste, qui structure les fondements du droit public et de l’action administrative. Considérant son antériorité et sa pré-éminence dans le système juridique français, et en présence d’un régime juridique fondé sur la faute, imposant la charge de la prevue sur le demandeur, et ce sans procédure d’accès à la preuve en matière civile, la mise en oeuvre du droit de la non-discrimination a dû surmonter de nombreux obstacles conceptuels et procéduraux avant de devenir un recours effectif. Au surplus, en France, la réclamation des droits, symbole du pouvoir politique, n’a pas historiquement été le fruit de batailles devant les tribunaux et la société civile n’a pas de tradition d’activisme judiciaire. Le droit de la non-discrimination n’a donc pas été immédiatement perçu comme un outil légitime pour faire advancer l’égalité des droits. C’est dans ce contexte que, depuis quinze ans, le droit européen et la création de l’autorité publique de lutte contre les discriminations ont servi de levier pour soutenir le développement du cadre juridique de la lutte contre les discriminations et la construction d’une jurisprudence qui, aujourd’hui, donne son plein et entier effet à une nouvelle approche du droit à l’égalité, aux côtés de la théorie française de l’égalité.
Sophie Latraverse

Discrimination Et Matiere Penale En France

En droit français, le concept de non-discrimination se traduit volontiers par le terme de lutte contre les discriminations. Si le législateur français, sous l’influence européenne et internationale, a consacré un véritable droit de la non-discrimination, le « droit pénal de la non-discrimination » apparaît sous deux facettes. La première théorique si ce n’est symbolique se traduit par une place importante qui lui est réservée au sein du code pénal comme des législations pénales. La seconde plus pragmatique met en exergue une réelle difficulté du droit pénal à s’imposer dans la lutte contre les discriminations. Une réelle évolution du droit de la non-discrimination en droit pénal passe par une nécessité de le repenser en termes de rupture d’égalité plutôt que sur le seul fondement de l’atteinte à la dignité. De même cette évolution devra aussi se matérialiser dans une véritable prise de conscience que la sanction pénale par les objectifs répressifs mais aussi pédagogiques qu’elle permet comme par exemple les stages de citoyenneté est une voie à développer. Le droit pénal apparaîtra ainsi comme une voie à part entière et complémentaire à l’ensemble des instruments de lutte contre les discriminations, prospective qui s’inscrivent dans les défis de la justice du XXI éme siècle.
Dominique Viriot-Barrial

France and the Netherlands: Toward Convergence?

In a twenty-first century characterized by distrust, questioning resistance to implementation of non-discrimination law involves analyzing contemporary expressions of one of the main conceptual principles of liberal democracy: political and legal equality.
Réjane Sénac, Janie Pélabay, Lisa Ammon


German antidiscrimination law is not a sealed system: provisions prohibiting discrimination as well as legislative measures aiming at prevention of discrimination can be found all over the legal system.
Malte Kramme


The financial crisis in Greece has dramatic consequences on citizens’ lives as well as the state’s function. Delayed pension payments, abrogation of social benefits, and unbearable tax burdens constitute examples of the acute problems that citizens face. Under these extraordinary conditions, the life of vulnerable social groups worsens while citizens’ rights are violated. The increased risk of women’s dismissals (particularly during the period of maternity), the acute tension at schools between students of different race or origin, the deterioration in the conditions of life of the disabled, are some of the examples that show that mediation on various levels is sought by the Greek society in order to cast off its strong feeling of insecurity.
Antonia Papadelli


The right to equality and non-discrimination is being spoken about increasingly at a global level. At the same time, social stratification in one form or the other has existed in all societies. In this paper, the researchers seek to examine the Indian framework on antidiscrimination laws.
Maithili Pai, Nupur Raut


As in many other countries, in Israel there are disadvantaged groups that are discriminated against in various walks of life, both public and private. Similarly to many other countries, in Israel the law seeks to protect, to varying degrees, the interests of disadvantaged groups, which are defined based on gender, religion, race, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, health status, and more.
Tamar Kricheli Katz, Donna Zamir


The paper describes the Italian antidiscrimination legislation and its enforcement mechanisms, analysing them in the framework of the European multilevel legal order. The paper assesses strengths and weaknesses of the system and argues that enforcement mechanisms are more effective when used in a targeted, appropriate, tenacious way by actors determined to employ the law as an instrument of social change and re-establishment of justice.
Marzia Barbera, Alberto Guariso


This article aims to show how issues of discrimination have been dealt with in Japan and to explore the problems and prospects of Japanese antidiscrimination law by focusing particularly on the aspect of enforcement of antidiscrimination law.
Akiko Ejima

Republic of Korea

With the exception of the Equal Employment Act of 1987, antidiscrimination laws did not begin appearing in South Korea until the start of the new millennium. The Equal Employment Act was enacted following the 1987 June Struggle, driven by Korea’s working class, and which would become a milestone in Korea’s democratization process. Korea’s Constitution, which restricts presidency to single 5-year terms and establishes the Constitutional Court system, was amended as a result of this historic event.
Jean Ahn

Liban (Lebanon)

La règle juridique est une règle sociologique. Ubis Jus, Ubis societatis. Pour comprendre le droit libanais, il faut comprendre la société libanaise. Le Liban est une société multiconfessionnelle. Dix-neuf communautés religieuses sont reconnues par la Constitution.
Maan S. Bou Saber


Portugal has a long tradition of contact with other cultures and peoples. Due to sixteenth century maritime discoveries and the experience of Portuguese emigration to Brazil and Latin America in general, as well as to other countries in Europe, such as France and Germany in the 1960s, the Portuguese are used to tolerating difference, at least in terms of ethnic origin, race and religion. In addition, the accession to the European Communities, in 1986, has increased the national awareness concerning equality and non discrimination’s issues. However, given our financial and economic weakness, the implementation and enforcement of anti-discrimination law is sometimes rather difficult.
Ana Maria Guerra Martins


The numerous conflicts that occurred in the course of history and which, unfortunately, were not kept as mere conflicts of ideas, came out from or were based on discrimination. These conflicts were caused by restriction or exclusion on reasons of discrimination based on race, colour, gender or sexual orientation, descent, ethnic, linguistic origins, religious beliefs, culture, intelligence, physical affiliation, civil or social status, political convictions, or any other situation of the kind. Such conflicts reflect the total or partial, direct or indirect failure to acknowledge the equal position of certain persons in enjoying or exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the international law.
Irina Moroianu Zlătescu, Petru Emanuel Zlătescu

South Africa

Colonial rule and apartheid policy underpin the systemic discrimination, uneven human development and high levels of income inequality still experienced in modern-day democratic South Africa. While a comprehensive and laudable antidiscrimination law framework is in place; its gains have been modest and unevenly distributed. At a systemic level, deep and pervasive inequality remains the lived experienced for many South Africans.
Debbie Collier


In the last 40 years, antidiscrimination law has become one of the most important pillars of social policies in Spain. Public and private bodies collaborate in extending antidiscrimination law in different manners, although public and private companies have developed practical criteria to enforce antidiscrimination law, especially in the workplace, where the impact has been extensively studied from a legal, economic, and social point of view.
María José Gómez-Millán Herencia


In developing Turkish antidiscrimination law, Turkey has been influenced both by its own legal tradition as a civil law country and its relationship with the European Union. National political and social forces and domestic law have influenced Turkey’s legal framework, but also by EU law and human rights obligations specified in international treaties to which Turkey is a party.
Nurhan Süral

United Kingdom

Yes. United Kingdom antidiscrimination law is enforced—albeit primarily by means of private individuals bringing tort-style claims against alleged discriminators under the relevant provisions of the UK’s antidiscrimination legislation rather than by enforcement action initiated by NGOs or public bodies such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
Colm O’Cinneide

The United States

The history of antidiscrimination law in the United States is a study in contradictions. The principle of equality was enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and interpreted to prohibit discrimination. Yet, enforcing constitutional and statutory nondiscrimination norms through litigation has engendered a range of conflicts and challenges that inhibit the achievement of real equality.
Julie C. Suk, Fred L. Morrison

Regional Reports


European Convention of Human Rights/Council of Europe

This chapter describes and assesses the enforcement of anti-discrimination law at the level of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) where Article 14 constitutes the central provision prohibiting discrimination and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is the main interpreter. Enforcement of the ECtHR judgments is done—somewhat problematically—by a political body, the Committee of Ministers. More recently the ECtHR has become more involved in the enforcement process via a number of mechanisms and interpretations.
Mathias Möschel

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Antidiscrimination law has been part of the Inter-American Human Rights system from its beginnings: the 1948 American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man provided for the equal protection of the law of all persons and the right to enjoy the rights and duties of the Declaration “without distinction as to race, sex, language, creed or any other factor.” Now, the principle of non-discrimination is guaranteed in several other regional Human Rights instruments. In particular, the American Convention on Human Rights (hereafter the American Convention, adopted in 1968 and entered into force in 1978) is the most exhaustive human rights instrument of the region, and is enforced by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (hereafter the IACHR), along with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereafter the Commission).
Anne-Claire Gayet


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