Tuesday

9th Mar 2021

Anti-discrimination bill approved by civil liberties committee

A bill banning discrimination against people on the basis of age, disability, sexual orientation, belief or religion in the areas of education, social security, health care and goods and services including housing has been approved by the European Parliament's civil liberties committee.

In a 34-to-seven vote, with four abstentions, the law, a directive proposed by the European Commission last July, was endorsed by the MEPs.

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  • Gay people in Poland cannot be refused an appartment, if the bill passes (Photo: Stockholm Pride, Kari Lind)

Since 2000, the European Union has prohibited these forms of discrimination at work, but legal protection in the realms of public services, buying products or making use of commercial services was not covered.

The new legislation brings bans on these forms of discrimination in line with existing laws against racial or ethnic prejudice and on assuring equal treatment of men and women.

The deputies underlined that the bill covers both health care and transport, but agreed that transactions between private individuals that are not commercial or professional are to be excluded from anti-discrimination protection.

The bill will not affect national legislation on marriage or family law and the deputies insisted that the EU member states remain responsible for educational content.

The directive will have no affect on domestic legislation on the "secular character of the state" - a reference to French laws banning religious attire, including headscarves, from schools.

The changes also do not prevent governments from offering positive discrimination or beneficial quotas to groups in society that have historically been marginalised.

For handicapped individuals, enterprises and other organisations are expected to provide reasonable accomodation to their needs. Any measures however should not result in disproportionate costs - a key worry of small businesses - or fundamentally modify the nature of the goods or services in question.

Handicaps and age can still be taken into account by insurance companies or banks, as this is not considered discrimination, but a requirement of the determination of risk.

The bill also will not be a bonanza for youngsters who might have thought guns, beer and cars will now be as much at their disposal as they are for grown-ups. Age restrictions for such products are to remain acceptable.

They can console themselves in the knowledge that youth cards - and their retiree equivalents - for museums, swimming pools, buses and the like will still be permitted.

A vote of the full sitting of the parliament is expected on 1 or 2 April.

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