Politics and Society/Legal Framework

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[edit] Context

Efforts to anchor the principles of equality and equal treatment of human beings both into a legal and institutional framework go back to a long tradition. In 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Nowadays, not only most nation states have the equality principle incorporated into their constitutions but also human right organisations all over the world lobby for the full implementation of equality and non-discrimination.

[edit] The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The equality principle is part of various articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to Article 1, All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.. In Article 2, it is formulated that Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty. Moreover, Article 23 (2) explicitely refers to the right to equal pay: Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work. [1]

[edit] The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

All discrimination on the basis of nationality is banned by the European Union (EU) Treaties. The EU is also empowered by treaty to promote equality between men and women and to combat many other forms of discrimination. The most recent reinforcement of fundamental rights and non-discrimination in the EU came with the proclamation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union at the Nice European Council on 7 December 2000. Article 21 of the charter prohibits discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation and also discrimination on the grounds of nationality [2].

[edit] Equal Rights

The term "equal rights" refers to the equal treatment of legal subjects in a legal system. This concerns various fields such as the equal treatment of women, discrimination in general and fundamental rights.

In Germany, the right to equal treatment is fixed in the Basic Constitutional Law (Article 3) [3] . The article not only refers to the basic right of equal treatment of human beings in legal terms but also to the equal treatment of men and women as well as to the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of origin, race, language, religion or belief and disability.

[edit] Equal Opportunities

The European Union and its institutions apply the term of "equal opportunities" primarily on equality between men and women and it aims to incorporate equal opportunities for women and men into all Community policies and activities.

This approach is based on Article 2 of the Treaty establishing the European Communities (EC Treaty) which provides that promotion of equality between men and women is a task of the European Community. Article 3(2) provides that it should aim to eliminate inequalities, and to promote equality, between men and women in all its activities (also known as "gender mainstreaming").

In the draft EU constitution, equality between and men is explicitely mentioned as one of the basic values of the Union. Moreover, in Article II-83 it is formulated that Equality between women and men must be ensured in all areas, including employment, work and pay [4].

In the anglo-american context, "equal opportunities" approaches are usually applied in a broader sense, referring to all discrimination grounds, including age, disability, national and ethnic origin, race, religion and sexual orientation.

[edit] Equality at Work

The International Labour Organization (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work was adopted in 1998. It aims to ensure that social progress goes hand in hand with economic progress and development. The Declaration commits Member States to respect and promote principles and rights in four categories, whether or not they have ratified the relevant Conventions. These categories are:

  • freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining
  • the elimination of forced or compulsory labour
  • the abolition of child labour
  • the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation [5].

The follow-up procedure of the declaration includes an annual global report on the current situation of the principles and rights expressed in the Declaration [6].

[edit] References:

  1. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  2. Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union(en, pdf)
  3. Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland (The German Constitution,pdf,de)
  4. The proposed EU constitution
  5. ILO declaration and Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, June 1998
  6. Follow-up to the Declaration

[edit] Sources and external links:

[edit] See also:

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