Equality and non-discrimination

Man in Keynya

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has noted in its General Comment No. 19 that States parties are obligated to ensure that social protection measures encourage behaviour that advances equality. Thus, discrimination on the basis of race, colour, sex, age, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, physical or mental disability, health status, sexual orientation, and civil, political, social or other status, which has the intention or effect of nullifying or impairing the equal enjoyment or exercise of the right to social security is prohibited (para 29).

Social security programmes should address power imbalances and the multiple forms of discrimination that disadvantaged and vulnerable groups experience, as well as their specific needs throughout their lives: during adolescence, adulthood and old age.

In its preamble, ILO Recommendation 202 recognizes that social security is an important tool to prevent and reduce poverty, inequality, social exclusion and social insecurity; and to promote equal opportunity and gender and racial equality. It emphasizes States’ responsibility to apply the principle of equality in implementing the Recommendation (para 3d), as well as specifying the critical role of disaggregated data for the effective monitoring of the floors (paras 19 and 21). Moreover, several of the basic guarantees that national social protection floors should establish, such as basic income security for those unable to earn an income, adequate access to healthcare that is available accessible, acceptable, and adequate (para 5).


Photo credit: “Bright orange” by Kent Yoshimura (CCBY 2.0 via Flickr).


Expert Commentaries

Ageing and the Workplace: challenges and opportunities in social protection

Throughout the world, more people are working later in life. Between 2000 and 2017, the employment-to-population ratio at ages 60 to 64 increased 15 percentage points among the 36 mostly high-income nations that make up the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Employment rates for this age group increased 38 points in Germany, 30 […]

Leaving No One Behind: Social protection for children from ethnic and linguistic minorities

“I would like to go for walks more. Now mom and dad don’t allow it because others discriminate against us. This happens to us all the time. People say that we are dirty and discuss our clothes.” Girl, 14-16, Roma, from Montenegro What does it mean for a child or an adolescent belonging to an […]

Legal Instruments

Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. It replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act, making the law easier to understand and strengthening protection in some situations. It sets out the different ways in which it’s unlawful to treat someone. Link to Act

HIV/AIDS Policy of the Public Sector of Belize

The overall purpose of this policy is to promote the health, well-being and productivity of Public Officers by developing and implementing effective HIV/AIDS sustainable prevention, care and control programs; and eliminating stigma and discrimination on the basis of real and perceived HIV status. This Policy establishes a set of guidelines to protect the health and […]

National HIV/AIDS/STI/TB Policy

The Policy provides the framework for addressing the HIV/AIDS/STI/TB situation in Zambia, outlines the causes and factors that perpetuate transmissions, including the debilitating effect on the Zambian population. It also outlines the response and impact mitigation interventions that are already in place, while also stating the vision, measures, institutional and legal frameworks necessary for its […]

Equal Rights Act (No. 19)

This Act makes provisions for the enforcement of the principles enshrined in Article 29 of the Constitution of Guyana so as to secure equality for women and for matters connected therewith. Link to Act

Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act (No. 19)

Article 4.2 establishes an employee’s right to continuous employment in the event that the employee is absent from work due to taking annual, maternity or sick leave, or another type of leave. Article 8.1 states that the following reasons do not constitute good or sufficient cause for dismissal or for imposition of disciplinary action: (a) […]

Prevention of Discrimination Act, Chapter 99:09

This Act prohibits discrimination in employment, training, recruitment and membership in professional bodies, and promotes equal pay between men and women who perform work of equal value.  

Ley 7.142

Promueve y garantiza la igualdad de derechos entre hombres y mujeres en los campos político, económico, social y cultural. De manera específica, establece en el art. 9 que los padres laboralmente activos tendrán derecho a los servicios de apoyo de los centros infantiles. Los de escasos recursos económicos tendrán, además, el derecho a recibir un […]

Ley 1.361 por medio del cual se crea la Ley de Protección Integral de la Familia.

Establece que el Estado y la Sociedad deben garantizar a la familia el ejercicio pleno de, entre otros, el derecho a un trabajo digno e ingresos justos, a la salud plena y a la seguridad social, a la igualdad y a recibir protección y asistencia social cuando sus derechos sean vulnerados o amenazados.

Ley 19.670 por la cual se extiende, en determinados casos, el beneficio del fuero maternal a mujeres que adoptan un hijo en conformidad a la ley de adopción.

Introduce modificaciones en el articulado del Código de Trabajo en materia de subsidios por maternidad en casos de adopción.

Ley 20.255

Para las mujeres la reforma significa un avance respecto de las injusticias establecidas por el sistema anterior. La creación del bono por hijo, la separación por género del seguro de invalidez y sobrevivencia y la división del saldo acumulado en la cuenta individual en caso de divorcio o nulidad incrementan la cobertura previsional y a […]

Legal Cases

LGBTQI+ Right to Housing in the United States

The Law The United States’ Fair Housing Act (FHA) 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601–3619 Section 3604(b) states that “…it is unlawful [t]o discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of race, colour, religion, sex, […]

Gender-Transformative Divorce Legislation in India

Summary:  Shayara Bano was married for 15 years. In 2016, her husband divorced her through talaq–e-bidat (triple talaq). This is an Islamic practice that permits men to arbitrarily and unilaterally effect instant and irrevocable divorce by pronouncing the word “talaq” (Arabic for divorce) three times at once in oral, written or, more recently, electronic form. Ms Bano […]

Romani Women’s Right to Equal Treatment in Hungary

Summary:  In February 2016, a Romani woman gave birth a public hospital in Miskolc, north-eastern Hungary. During labour she cried out with pain and the midwife yelled at her “if you shout once more I will push the pillow into your face”. When the woman apologised, the doctor said to her “if you had shouted […]

Protection against Employment Discrimination in the Republic of Korea

Nature of the Case Upon consideration of a communication submitted before it, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination held the Republic of Korea accountable for multiple violations of rights under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, including the right to work, and access to an effective […]

Women’s Property and Inheritance Rights in Tanzania

Nature of the Case In views adopted under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women held the United Republic of Tanzania accountable for multiple violations of women’s rights, particularly as relates to their inheritance and property rights. Summary […]

Measures to ensure equality of treatment of migrant workers in case of work-related accident in Thailand

In previous observations on the application of the Equality of Treatment (Accident Compensation) Convention, No 19, the Committee of Experts had expressed deep concerns over the situation of more than 2 million migrants working in Thailand. In response to these concerns, the Thai Government argued that the Workmen’s Compensation Act B.E 2537 of 1994 (WCA) […]


Denied Work: An Audit On Job Discrimination On The Basis Of Gender Identity In South-East Asia

This report looks into employment discrimination faced by transgender people while seeking employment in four countries in South-East Asia– Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam. The findings from this study provide direct evidence of discrimination against trans people in job hiring practices in the region.

Ensuring Inclusion and Combatting Discrimination in Social Protection Programmes: The role of human rights standards  

Recent years have witnessed the significant expansion of social protection programmes around the world. Yet, a vast number of poor and vulnerable people, including children, women, ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities, remain uncovered, especially in lower-income countries. This article argues that a better understanding of the principle of equality and non-discrimination, as defined under […]

Cash transfers: what does the evidence say? A rigorous review of programme impact and of the role of design and implementation features

Cash transfers have been increasingly adopted by countries worldwide as central elements of their social protection and poverty reduction strategies. A growing number of studies provide rigorous evidence on the impact of cash transfers, and the role of specific cash transfer design and implementation features in shaping outcomes. This rigorous review of the impact of […]

Protecting Women’s Income Security in Old Age: Toward gender-responsive pension systems

This brief synthesizes research findings, analysis and policy recommendations on transforming pension systems to reduce gender gaps and protect women’s income security in old age. Ageing has a female face. Women not only live longer than men but are also less likely to enjoy income security and economic independence in old age. Because of a […]

Migration Governance and Migrant Rights in the Southern African Development Community (SADC): Attempts at Harmonization in a Disharmonious Region

This paper examines prospects for enhanced regional migration governance and protection of migrants’ rights in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Migration in this region is substantial in scale and diverse in nature, incorporating economic, political and mixed migration flows. In addition to movements between countries within the region, migrants also come from across the […]

Eliminating Discrimination and Inequalities in Access to Water and Sanitation

Patterns of marginalisation and exclusion are present all over the world, with stark and persisting inequalities in access to water and sanitation. Progress made in the water and sanitation sector does not always benefit those who are most in need of these services, in particular the poorest, people living in informal settlements and/or people marginalised […]

Public policies for equality: Towards universal social protection systems

Outcomes of the international seminar “Public Policies for Equality: Towards Universal Social Protection Systems”, which was held in Montevideo, Uruguay, on 4 and 5 December 2013. The objective of the seminar was to foster the debate on and the construction of universal social protection systems in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean; disseminate the good […]

Social Protection and Human Rights