lunes, 4 de abril de 2011

News: A Law to end Discrimination

The Government begins the proceedings for the Comprehensive Law of Equal Treatment. Leire Pajín: “It is about building a society that does not humiliate anyone.” Daniel Ayllón 08.01.2011
Yesterday the Government presented the latest social legislation to develop constitutional rights, the draft of the Comprehensive Law of Equal Treatment and Non-Discrimination. The initiative will facilitate the fight against discrimination on various grounds, will create a state agency which will bring together the functions and resources on this subject, and will include a new penalty system. Thus, discrimination against someone could incur fines from 150 Euros in the mildest cases up to 500,000 Euros in the most serious cases, according to Público Health sources.
The law, which is expected to come into effect in 2013, will not entail, in any case, a reform of the Penal Code. The draft which the Council of Ministers studied yesterday and which the Ministry of Health, Social Policy, and Equality will coordinate starts with three main objectives: expanding legal resources for those who are discriminated against, the identification and study of the causes of discrimination, and awareness of citizenship.
“It is about building a society which does not humiliate anyone and in which no one is humiliated: a society where they feel safe and protected by law,” argued Minister of Equality, Leire Pajín.
The initiative, an electoral promise of the PSOE, will develop Articles 9 and 14 of the Constitution, relating to the equality of all citizens and the obligation of the government to ensure its fulfillment. In addition to the discrimination “by place of birth, racial or ethnic origin, sex, religion, status, or opinion, now we will also speak about age, disability, sexual identity, and sickness,” said the Minister.
This struggle “is not based solely on belonging to a minority, but on traits which can affect all citizens,” assured the Minister, who, as examples of causes of discrimination close to all citizens, gave age, sickness, or disability.
In the same vein, the text will adapt the European legislation on discrimination, which will include, for the first time, all the definitions that exist in the European Union: by association, by mistake, multiple discrimination, discriminatory harassment, incitement or instruction, and retaliation.

Equating to the EU
With the new law, Spain joins the majority of EU member countrieswhich have approved similar legislation in recent years. The Government praises the policies developed by Germany, Holland, Austria, and Sweden to combat discrimination.
From an organizational point of view, the Government will bring together in a new agency the State Authority for Equal Treatment and Non-Discrimination, the entities currently working on these issues, such as the General Branch for Fair Employment and Non-discrimination, the Center on Racism and Xenophobia, and part of the Foundation for Pluralism and Coexistence, from the Directorate General of Disability and the Center for Education, among others.

“Exposing and making visible”
According to the government, the law attempts to “expose and make visible the problems of discrimination that exist in society.” In this sense, the creation of statistical reports will be very valuable, as much for the study of social needs as for awareness. It remains to be seen if the Government will draw up public statistics, for example, of accusations of racism, similar to the ones other EU countries have.
Among the claims that social organizations have moved into the government in recent years include the establishment of an office specializing in discrimination. Although the Executive has considered that possibility in his reports in recent months, yesterday it was finally excluded from the Minister´s public announcements.
Another controversial point of interest is the possibility of inverting the burden of proof in cases of discrimination, so that the accused is the party who must prove innocence rather than forcing the person who suffered discrimination to prove it took place. For the moment, the Government is not planting this as a possibility either.
But the draft still has a long road ahead and will suffer changes. After yesterday´s first reading, the text will go through advisory bodies, such as the Council of State, the Economic and Social Council, the General Council of the Judiciary, and the autonomous communities. Additionally, the government intends to discuss its content in diverse forums and social organizations.
One of the groups the government will sit down with over the next days to negotiate the law is the Partido Popular. Yesterday, their regional deputy from Murcia, Vicente Martínez Pujalte, launched the first attack, in reference to territorial inequalities. “The Government is promoting laws with little utility.They should lead by example and start working to consider all Spanish people equally in order to put an end to discrimination against Murcia next to other regions,” he complained.

Clarifying: The main points of the law
What functions will the State Authority have?
The State Authority for Equal Treatment and Non-Discrimination is an independent agency which will assist those affected and promote forms of mediation or conciliation between the parties. They will be able to investigate possible situations of discrimination and take legal action in defense of rights under equal treatment.
What objectives does it have?
To develop Articles 9 and 14 of the Constitution and adapt European legislation concerning discrimination. Specifically, it will concentrate on prevention and eradication of any type of discrimination, in addition to protecting and compensating victims.
How will discrimination be punished?
In addition to the consequences established by the current legal system, the new standard will include a new system of penalties, with fines ranging between 150 and 500,000 Euros.
What kinds of discrimination will it regulate?
The law will apply to cases of discrimination based on “birth, racial or ethnic origin, sex, religion, convictions or opinion, age, disability, sexual identity or orientation, sickness, or any other personal or social condition or circumstance.”
What innovations will it provide?
The new legislation incorporates for the first time in the Spanish legal system the definitions of discrimination by association; by mistake; multiple discrimination; discriminatory harassment; and incitement, order, or instruction to discriminate; and retaliation.

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