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What are equality bodies?

April 16th 2013


Equality bodies are independent organisations assisting victims of discrimination, monitoring and reporting on discrimination issues, and promoting equality. They are legally required to promote equality and combat discrimination in relation to one, some, or all of the grounds of discrimination covered by European Union (EU) law – gender, race and ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief and disability.

The EU equal treatment legislation requires Member States to set up an equality body. Most Member States have implemented the Racial Equality Directive (2000/43/EC) and the Gender Equal Treatment Directives (the 2010/41 on self-employed persons, the 2006/54 Recast directive, and the 2004/113 Goods and services directive) either by designating some existing institution or by setting up a new institution to carry out the competences assigned by the new legislation.

However, there are no specific guidelines to Member States on how these bodies should operate. Now, more than ten years after the implementation date of the Racial Equality Directive and the Gender Equal Treatment Directives, a wide variety of practices concerning equality bodies are flourishing in the EU Member States. So far, European anti-discrimination law only requires that equality bodies are set up in the fields of race and ethnic origin and gender. However, many countries have bodies that deal with other grounds of discrimination as well.
Equality bodies are required to provide independent assistance to victims of discrimination. This assistance can involve a range of activities including:

  • providing information about the existence of anti-discrimination laws and about the possibility to take legal action to seek remedy or compensation for an act of discrimination,
  • directing people who experience discrimination to an organisation/institution that could help them;
  • helping people who experience discrimination to come to an amicable settlement/mutual agreement (mediation) with the discriminators and
  • giving legal advice and representation to people who have been discriminated

Equality bodies can also

  • conduct independent surveys on discrimination,
  • publish independent reports and make recommendations on any issue relating to discrimination.

Most equality bodies also promote equal treatment through information campaigns aimed at the general public and by providing support to employers and service providers on good equality practice.
For more information, read the brochure Equality bodies and Equinet promoting equality in Europe.
Click here to contact or read more about an equality body in your country.
If you believe you are a victim of discrimination or unfair treatment, please click here.