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Gender equality, equality treatment and opportunities, non-discrimination

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This impact area refers to gender equality, equality treatment and opportunities and more general on non-discrimination.
Non-discrimination refers to the fairness in treating others without prejudice independent of their racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation (direct discrimination). Indirect discrimination moreover refers to neutral law or practice which is applied equally to everyone but the result of which favors one groups over a more disadvantaged group. Since its creation, the European Union (EU) has regarded the fight against discrimination as one of its most pressing missions. Although discrimination, whether direct or indirect, is considered a crime under European law, individuals throughout Europe are prevented on a daily basis from living their social or professional life to the full. (
Apart from anti-discrimination in general, the EU pays special attention to realize equality between women and men and equal opportunities for people with disabilities:
Equality between women and men is one of the fundamental principles of Community law. The European Union‘s (EU) objectives on gender equality are to ensure equal opportunities and equal treatment for men and women and to combat any form of discrimination on the grounds of gender (
Moreover, individuals who are suffering from a handicap are not equal in terms of living and working conditions. Disability is a multifaceted reality. It affects some individuals throughout their existence and others only at the end of their life. At European level, the Institutions help the Member States to create a society that is equally accessible to all (
Policy options need to be assessed with regard to their effect on different societal groups. Policy options should not result in direct or indirect discriminiation and should contribute to a society with gives equal opportunities to all independent of their racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.

This impact area is further specified by the taxonomy terms: Discrimination of Social Groups, Impacts on Gender, Gender Equality.

Relevant Policies

The European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights sets out the whole range of civil, political, economic and social rights of European citizens and all persons resident in the EU.
Since 2000, in addition to Directives covering the equal treatment of men and women, EU antidiscrimination legislation has been in place to ensure minimum levels of equal treatment and protection irrespective of racial or ethnic origin, religion and belief, disability, sexual orientation and age.
Equality between women and men:
A large body of European legislative texts is dedicated to equality between women and men, including access to and equal treatment in employment, equal pay, protection of health and safety of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding, parental leave, social security, burden of proof in case of discrimination, self-employed workers and their assisting spouses, access to and supply of goods and services.
People with disabilities:
The EU promotes the active inclusion and full participation of people with disabilities in society, in line with the EU human rights approach to disability issues and the UN Convention on the rights of people with disabilities (to which the EC is signatory).

Legal Basis for the Commission to Act

  • Treaty establishing the European Community: Art. 13 EU (non-discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation)
  • Treaty establishing the European Community: Art. 2, 3, 137, 141 EU (gender equality)

Web Resources

European Commission, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion:
European Commission, DG Justice:
Agency for Fundamental Rights:
European Institute for Gender Equality:
European Network of Legal Experts in the Non-Discrimination Field:


Please link to relevant Directorate General Contact Details.

Related Terms

Discrimination of Social Groups

Impacts on Gender

Gender Equality.

Publications and applications

Content for this term

Title Type Updated date
Gender Equality, Equality Treatment and Opportunities Impact Area 2013-11-01 14:47
Mari Jüssi Expert 2014-03-17 12:26
Peterson, Kaja Expert 2014-03-05 09:38