Discrimination “implies any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference which is based on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, and which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by all persons, on an equal footing, of all rights and freedoms” (Human Rights Committee General Comment 18: Para.7).

International law prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination:

  • Direct discrimination is when a person, on account of one or more of the prohibited grounds (see multiple discrimination), is treated less favourably than someone else in comparable circumstances.
  • Indirect discrimination is when a practice, rule, policy, or requirement is outwardly neutral but has a disproportional impact upon a particular group. For an example of indirect discrimination, see DH and others v Czech Republic.

For further information, see INTERIGHTS (2011) Non-Discrimination in International Law: A Handbook for Practitioners.