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Discrimination is a sociological term referring to the treatment taken toward or against a person of a certain group that is taken in consideration based on class or category. The United Nations explains: "Discriminatory behaviors take many forms, but they all involve some form of exclusion or rejection." Discriminatory laws such as redlining have existed in many countries. In some countries, controversial attempts such as racial quotas have been used to redress negative effects of discrimination.

Race discrimination

Racial discrimination differentiates between individuals on the basis of real and perceived racial differences, and has been official government policy in several countries, such as South Africa in the apartheid era, and the USA. However, it does not appear to be entirely dead, yet, as evidenced by a rather recent news article on a website called concerning alleged YMCA discrimination and a Federal Court Case in Texas. (See
In the United Statesmarker, racial profiling of minorities by law enforcement officials has been called racial discrimination. As early as 1865, the Civil Rights Act provided a remedy for intentional race discrimination in employment by private employers and state and local public employers. The Civil Rights Act of 1871 applies to public employment or employment involving state action prohibiting deprivation of rights secured by the federal constitution or federal laws through action under color of law. Title VII is the principal federal statute with regard to employment discrimination prohibiting unlawful employment discrimination by public and private employers, labor organizations, training programs and employment agencies based on race or color, religion, gender, and national origin.

Title VII also prohibits retaliation against any person for opposing any practice forbidden by statute, or for making a charge, testifying, assisting, or participating in a proceeding under the statute. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 expanded the damages available in Title VII cases and granted Title VII plaintiffs the right to a jury trial. Title VII also provides that race and color discrimination against every race and color is prohibited.

In the UK the inquiry following the murder of Stephen Lawrence accused the police of institutional racism.
  • Weaver v NATFHE (now part of the UCU) Race/sex discrimination case. An Industrial (Employment) Tribunal in the UK in 1987 decided that a trade union was justified in not assisting a Black woman member, complaining of racist/sexist harassment, regardless of the merits of the case, because the accused male would lose his job. The Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the decision, which still stands today as the definitive legal precedent in this field. Also known as the Bournville Collegemarker Racial Harassment issue.
  • Gingerism is a form of discrimination which is sometimes considered to be racism.

Within the criminal justice system in some Western countries, minorities are convicted and imprisoned disproportionately when compared with whites. In 1998, nearly one out of three black men between the ages of 20-29 were in prison or jail, on probation or parole on any given day in the United Statesmarker. First Nations make up about 2% of Canadamarker's population, but account for 18% of the federal prison population as of 2000. According to the Australian government's June 2006 publication of prison statistics, indigenous peoples make up 24% of the overall prison population in Australia. ("Indigenous" meaning those identifying themselves as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin) In 2004, Maori made up just 15% of the total population of New Zealandmarker but 49.5% of prisoners. Maori were entering prison at 8 times the rate of non-Maori.

Age discrimination

Age discrimination is discrimination on the grounds of age. Although theoretically the word can refer to the discrimination against any age group, age discrimination usually comes in one of three forms: discrimination against youth (also called adultism), discrimination against those 40 years old or older, and discrimination against elderly people.

In the United States, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits employment discrimination nationwide based on age with respect to employees 40 years of age or older. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act also addresses the difficulty older workers face in obtaining new employment after being displaced from their jobs, arbitrary age limits.

In many countries, companies more or less openly refuse to hire people above a certain age despite the increasing lifespans and average age of the population. The reasons for this range from vague feelings younger people are more "dynamic" and create a positive image for the company, to more concrete concerns about regulations granting older employees higher salaries or other benefits without these expenses being fully justified by an older employees' greater experience.

Some people consider that teenagers and youth (around 15–25 years old) are victims of adultism, age discrimination framed as a paternalistic form of protection. In seeking social justice, they feel that it is necessary to remove the use of a false moral agenda in order to achieve agency and empowerment.

This perspective is based on the grounds that youth should be treated more respectfully by adults and not as second-class citizens. Some suggest that social stratification in age groups causes outsiders to incorrectly stereotype and generalize the group, for instance that all adolescents are equally immature, violent or rebellious, listen to rock tunes, and do drug. Some have organized groups against age discrimination.

Ageism is the causal effect of a continuum of fears related to age. This continuum includes:

Related terms include:

  • Adultism: Also called adultarchy, adult privilege, and adultcentrism/adultocentrism, this is the wielding of authority over young people and the preference of adults before children and youth.
  • Jeunism: Also called "youthism" is the holding of beliefs or actions taken that preference 'younger' people before adults.

Gender discrimination

Though gender discrimination and sexism refers to beliefs and attitudes in relation to the gender of a person, such beliefs and attitudes are of a social nature and do not, normally, carry any legal consequences. Sex discrimination, on the other hand, may have legal consequences.

Though what constitutes sex discrimination varies between countries, the essence is that it is an adverse action taken by one person against another person that would not have occurred had the person been of another sex. Discrimination of that nature in certain enumerated circumstances is illegal in many countries.

Currently, discrimination based on sex is defined as adverse action against another person, that would not have occurred had the person been of another sex. This is considered a form of prejudice and is illegal in certain enumerated circumstances in most countries.

Sexual discrimination can arise in different contexts. For instance an employee may be discriminated against by being asked discriminatory questions during a job interview, or because an employer did not hire, promote or wrongfully terminated an employee based on his or her gender, or employers pay unequally based on gender.

In an educational setting there could be claims that a student was excluded from an educational institution, program, opportunity, loan, student group, or scholarship due to his or her gender. In the housing setting there could be claims that a person was refused negotiations on seeking a house, contracting/leasing a house or getting a loan based on his or her gender. Another setting where there have been claims of gender discrimination is banking; for example if one is refused credit or is offered unequal loan terms based on one’s gender.

Another setting where there is usually gender discrimination is when one is refused to extend his or her credit, refused approval of credit/loan process, and if there is a burden of unequal loan terms based on one’s gender.

Socially, sexual differences have been used to justify different roles for men and women, in some cases giving rise to claims of primary and secondary roles.

While there are alleged non-physical differences between men and women, major reviews of the academic literature on gender difference find only a tiny minority of characteristics where there are consistent psychological differences between men and women, and these relate directly to experiences grounded in biological difference. However, there are also some psychological differences in regard to how problems are dealt with and emotional perceptions and reactions which may relate to hormones and the successful characteristics of each gender during longstanding roles in past primitive lifestyles.

Unfair discrimination usually follows the gender stereotyping held by a society.

The United Nations had concluded that women often experience a "glass ceiling" and that there are no societies in which women enjoy the same opportunities as men. The term "glass ceiling" is used to describe a perceived barrier to advancement in employment based on discrimination, especially sex discrimination.

In the United Statesmarker, the Glass Ceiling Commission, a government-funded group, stated: "Over half of all Master’s degrees are now awarded to women, yet 95% of senior-level managers, of the top Fortune 1000 industrial and 500 service companies are men. Of them, 97% are white." In its report, it recommended affirmative action, which is the consideration of an employee's gender and race in hiring and promotion decisions, as a means to end this form of discrimination.

Transgender individuals, both male to female and female to male, often experience problems which often lead to dismissals, underachievement, difficulty in finding a job, social isolation, and, occasionally, violent attacks against them. Nevertheless, the problem of gender discrimination does not stop at trandgender individuals nor with women. Men are often the victim in certain areas of employment as the traditional "male" job-field opens to women, the influx of millions of illegal aliens take many jobs in construction, highway work, etc., and men begin to seek work in office and childcare settings traditionally perceived as "women's jobs". One such situation seems to be evident in a recent news article, mentioned above, on a website called concerning alleged YMCA discrimination and a Federal Court Case in Texas. (See The case actually involves alleged discrimination against both men and blacks in childcare, even when they pass the same strict background tests and other standards of employment. It is currently being contended in federal court, as of fall 2009, and sheds light on how a workplace dominated by a majority (- women in this case) sometimes will seemingly "justify" whatever they wish to do, regardless of the Law. This may be done as an effort at self-protection, to uphold traditional societal roles, or some other faulty, unethical or illegal prejudicial reasoning.


Hong Kongmarker
  • Sex Discrimination Ordinance (1996)
United Kingdommarker
  • Equal Pay Act 1970 - provides for equal pay for comparable work
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1975 - makes discrimination against women or men, including discrimination on the grounds of marital status, illegal in the workplace except when it pertains to a "white man" and a "black woman."
  • Human Rights Act 1998 - provides more scope for redressing all forms of discriminatory imbalances
United Statesmarker

Caste discrimination

According to UNICEF and Human Rights Watch, caste discrimination affects an estimated 250 million people worldwide. The Hindu population of South Asia comprises about 2,000 castes.

Currently, there are an estimated 160 million Dalits or "untouchables" in India. The majority of Dalits live in segregation and experience violence, murder, rape and other atrocities to the scale of 110,000 registered cases a year, according to 2005 statistics. An estimated 40 million people in Indiamarker, most of them Dalits, are bonded workers, many working to pay off debts that were incurred generations ago. According to Indian government statistics, an estimated one million Dalits or "untouchables" are manual scavengers, cleaning latrines and sewers by hand and clearing away dead animals. The majority of human scavengers suffer from respiratory diseases, with 23% suffering trachoma, leading to blindness.

Employment discrimination

The American federal laws that protect against:

Most other western nations have similar laws protecting these groups.

Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender variant people

See: Heterosexism, Heteronormativity, and Homophobia

In 2009, ILGA published a report based on research carried out by Daniel Ottosson at Södertörn University College, Stockholm, Sweden. This research found that of the 80 countries around the world that continue to consider homosexuality illegal, five carry the death penalty for homosexual activity, and two do in some regions of the country. In the report, this is described as "State sponsored homophobia" This happens in Islamic states, or in two cases regions under Islamic authority.

On February 5th, 2005 the IRIN issued a reported titled "Iraq: Male homosexuality still a taboo." The article stated, among other things that honor killings by Iraqis against a gay family member are common and given some legal protection. In August 2009 Human Rights Watch published an extensive report detailing torture of men accused of being gay in Iraq, including the blocking of men's anuses with glue and then giving the men laxatives.

South Africa has one of the world's most progressive constitutions, but same-sex unions are often decried as "un-African." Research shows 86% of black lesbians from the Western Cape live in fear of sexual assault.

Language discrimination

Diversity of language is protected and respected by most nations who value cultural diversity. However, people are sometimes subjected to different treatment because their preferred language is associated with a particular group, class or category. Commonly, the preferred language is just another attribute of separate ethnic groups. Discrimination exists if there is prejudicial treatment against a person or a group of people who speak a particular language or dialect.Language discrimination is suggested to be labeled Linguacism or logocism. Anti-discriminatory and inclusive efforts to accomodate persons who speak different languages or cannot have fluency in the country's predominant or "official" lanugage, is bilingualism such as official documents in two languages, and multiculturalism in more than two languages.

Reverse discrimination

Some attempts at antidiscrimination have been criticized as reverse discrimination. In particular, minority quotas (e.g. affirmative action) can be said to discriminate against members of a dominant or majority group. In its opposition to race preferences, the American Civil Rights Institute's Ward Connerly stated, "There is nothing positive, affirmative, or equal about 'affirmative action' programs that give preference to some groups based on race." On the other hand, it is argued that critics of antidiscriminatory steps often rely on misconceptions, that policy should take into account the negative effects of discrimination on minorities to reduce existing inequalities.

Disability discrimination

The belef that disabled individuals are inferior to non-disabled individuals is called ableism or disablism. Individual Disabled ca be shunned for their disabilities.

In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act provides guidelines for providing wheelchair access for public institutions.



Social theories such as Egalitarianism claim that social equality should prevail. In some societies, including most developed countries, each individual's civil rights include the right to be free from government sponsored social discrimination.Due to a belief in the capacity to perceive pain and/or suffering shared by all animals, 'abolitionist' or 'vegan' egalitarianism maintains that every individual, regardless their species, have the same right to be free of government sponsored discrimination. See also speciesism.

Conservative and Anarcho-Capitalist

In contrast, conservative writer and law professor Matthias Storme has claimed that the freedom of discrimination in human societies is a fundamental human right, or more precisely, the basis of all fundamental freedoms and therefore the most fundamental freedom. Author Hans-Hermann Hoppe, in an essay about his book Democracy: The God That Failed, asserts that a natural social order is characterized by increased discrimination.

Labeling theory

Discrimination, in labeling theory, takes form as mental categorisation of minorities and the use of stereotype. This theory describes difference as deviance from the norm, which results in internal devaluation and social stigma that may be seen as discrimination. It is started by describing a 'natural' social order. It is distinguished between the fundamental principle of fascism and social democracy. Both the Nazis in 1930's-era Germany, the pre-1990 Apartheid government of South Africa and other countries in the present day used racial discriminatory agendas for their political means.

See also


  1. How is the Criminal Justice System Racist?
  2. Blacks Hardest Hit by Incarceration Policy. Human Rights Watch. June 5, 2008.
  3. Race and the Criminal Justice System
  4. New Zealand's Prison Population
  5. Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 - ADEA - 29 U.S. Code Chapter 14 | find US law
  6. Wilson, F. (2003) Organizational Behaviour and Gender (2nd Edition), Aldershot: Ashgate.
  7. Ridley-Duff, R. J. (2008) "Gendering, Courtship and Pay Equity: Developing Attraction Theory to Understand Work-Life Balance and Entrepreneurial Behaviour", paper to the 31st ISBE Conference, 5th-7th November, Belfast
  8. Hyde, J. S. (2005) “The Gender Similarities Hypothesis”, American Psychologist, 60(6): 581 592.
  9. Discrimination, UNICEF
  10. Global Caste Discrimination
  11. Caste - The Facts
  12. " India – Caste". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  13. " The Caste System". NPR: National Public Radio.
  14. " UN report slams India for caste discrimination". CBC News. March 2, 2007.
  15. " The Untouchables". CBC Radio.
  16. " Broken People: Caste Violence Against India's "Untouchables"". UNHCR | Refworld.
  17. " Caste Discrimination against India's "Untouchables"". Human Rights Watch.
  18. " New Benefits for Same-Sex Couples May Be Hard to Implement Abroad". ABC News. June 22, 2009.
  19. ILGA: 2009 Report on State Sponsored Homophobia (2009)
  20. ILGA:7 countries still put people to death for same-sex acts
  21. Homosexuality and Islam - ReligionFacts
  22. IRIN Middle East | Middle East | Iraq | IRAQ: Male homosexuality still a taboo | Human Rights |Feature
  23. " They Want Us Exterminated". Human Rights Watch. August 16, 2009.
  24. " South African gangs use rape to "cure" lesbians". Reuters. March 13, 2009.
  25. " Raped and killed for being a lesbian: South Africa ignores 'corrective' attacks". The Guardian. March 12, 2009.
  26. American Civil Rights Institute | Press Release
  27. Ten Myths About Affirmative Action
  28. bbb;
  29. [1]

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