Protecting Minority Rights: A Practical Guide to Developing Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Legislation

A regional presentation of the Practical Guide to Developing Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Legislation was organised on 16 April. The Guide is the result of three years of work by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) together with the Equal Rights Trust.

From the foreword to the Guide:

Comprehensive anti-discrimination laws translate international legal commitments to equality into actionable and enforceable rights under national law. They provide the national legal framework necessary to define the various forms of discrimination; set out the personal and material scope of the rights to equality and non-discrimination; provide guidance on effective remedy; and establish the procedural safeguards required to secure justice for victims. They also establish in law positive duties to eliminate discrimination, to combat prejudice, stereotypes and stigma, and to advance equality.

The law fulfils many roles, beyond simply setting out the rules and specifying what happens when rights are transgressed. The law also expresses our values; it articulates our norms and expectations. A propitious legal framework shapes our world for the better. Bad law, by contrast, or law that leaves gaps in protection, can shape societies for ill.

Comprehensive anti-discrimination laws have the potential to be transformative. At the simplest level, these laws can foster positive change by increasing understanding of discrimination, stimulating action to prevent it, and ultimately fostering a commitment to eliminate it. Those exposed to discrimination gain the tools to challenge the treatment that they have experienced and to secure remedy for the harms that they have suffered. Duty bearers are held to account and respond by putting in place procedures to prevent discriminatory acts,
policies and practices. Over time, these changes have the potential to increase the representation and visibility of marginalized groups and so contribute to changed behaviour and ultimately shifts in social norms.

Comprehensive anti-discrimination laws also mandate and provide a framework for positive measures to foster equality. Pursuant to these laws, public and private actors throughout the world have taken a wide range of positive measures. Authorities have worked to render the common spaces of society accessible to persons with physical, mobility or sensory impairments. Employers have identified disparities in their workforce and have established programmes to increase participation by national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minority
communities and other groups exposed to discrimination. Governments have adopted public education programmes to combat prejudice, stereotypes and stigma. This list could go on.

Discussions of the value to the legal order of comprehensive anti-discrimination laws – and of the obligation to adopt them – pose a range of questions. Some of these questions are technical, some are conceptual, some are practical. The guide is an attempt – working in collaboration with recognized experts from across the globe – to answer the questions most often raised by government officials, parliamentarians, members of national human rights institutions, human rights defenders and grass-roots community activists as to how
best to translate the essential elements of the rights to non-discrimination and equality into their national law.

The United Nations, national human rights institutions, and civil society organizations, such as the Equal Rights Trust, are often called upon to assist and advise governments, legislators and policymakers in the process of developing these comprehensive laws. To date, no clear, comprehensive and authoritative guidance has existed to respond to such requests. The present guide fills that gap. Based on an exhaustive analysis of international law and extensive consultations with experts from across the globe, it provides clear, unequivocal
guidance on the laws which States must adopt in order to fulfil their obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the rights to equality and non-discrimination.

Much remains to be done. The adoption of comprehensive anti-discrimination laws is a necessary, but not sufficient, step in the journey towards the elimination of discrimination. The adoption of these laws is most effective when elaborated in comprehensive and adequately resourced national and regional action plans, in close collaboration with affected individuals, their organizations and movements. The guide provides a floor, not a ceiling.

In Our Common Agenda, a vision of the future for global cooperation through an inclusive, networked, and effective multilateralism, the Secretary-General noted:

“Racism, intolerance and discrimination continue to exist in all societies, as seen during the pandemic with scapegoating of groups blamed for the virus. As a start, the adoption of comprehensive laws against discrimination, including based on race or ethnicity, age, gender, religion, disability, and sexual orientation or gender identity, is long overdue.”

This guide provides instruction on how to develop and enact such laws and thus to provide the necessary framework and foundation for a world in which all are equal in dignity and rights.

The Guide is currently available in ArabicEnglishJapanese (Nihongo), Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Эта запись так же доступна на: Russian