Equal Treatment Act

The principle of equal treatment is based on the idea that all people are equal in their rights. The right to equal protection of the law is a fundamental human right and it is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia. The requirement for equal treatment has been established to end the restriction of the rights of historically marginalised groups and to ensure equal rights and opportunities for all, regardless of their identity or origin.

Section 12 of the Constitution states the following: ‘Everyone is equal before the law. No one may be discriminated against on the basis of nationality, race, colour, sex, language, origin, religion, political or other views, property or social status, or on other grounds.’ The features or characteristics listed can be considered as the grounds of discrimination. In particular, a person is protected against discrimination related to such characteristics, as these are the most connected to discrimination in many societies.

In addition to the Constitution, Estonian laws and international human rights treaties determine the features or characteristics, in relation of which a person must not be at a disadvantage. Some of these characteristics are issues that a person cannot change, such as gender, national origin or disability. However, some issues may change over a lifetime, such as beliefs or religion.

The Equal Treatment Act protects a person from unequal treatment based on his or her nationality, skin colour, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion or beliefs.

Legislative protection in case of various characteristics is different. While discrimination based on the gender of a person is prohibited in all fields of life, the Equal Treatment Act, for example, protects a person against unequal treatment only in the area of employment and education.

Therefore, it is important to understand that equal treatment laws do not protect a person from any inequality and injustice in life.