Bodies for the promotion of equal treatment (Article 13 Directive 2000/43)

AuthorLappalainen, Paul
a) Body/bodies design ated for the prom otion of equal treatment irrespective of
racial/ethnic origin according to Article 13 of the Racial Equality Di rective
In Sweden, the specialised body d esignated for the promotion of equal treatment
irrespective of racial/ethnic origin, in accordance with Article 13 of the Racial Equality
Directive, is the Equality Omb udsman (DO). The DO has a broad anti -discrimination and
equality promotion mandate established by law (the Equality Ombudsman Act). The
grounds covered by the DO’s mandate are sex, transgender identity or expression,
ethnicity, religion and other beli ef, disability, sexual orientation, and age. The DO’s scope
of action includes, but is not limited to, working life, education, labour mark et policy
activities and employment services, starting or running a business and professional
recognition, membership of certain organisations, goods, services and housing, health and
medical care and social services, national milit ary service and civilian service and, to a
limited extent, public sector employment.
The head of the DO is appointed by the Government. All responsibility for the agency lies
with the head of the agency. There is no governing board.
b) Political, economic and social context of the designated body
In 2009 and 2010, there was extensive p ublic criticism of the Equality Ombudsman (DO).
Much of this had its beginnings in a case taken to court concerning discrimination against
a Muslim man. His labour market subsidy was withdrawn for failing to shake hands in an
interview for an apprentice position with a potential employer who was a woman. The DO
won the case in February 2010.246 This resulted in massive and almost unanimous criticism
of the DO in editorials. Feminists and politicians were especially critica l. Few seemed to
have read the actual judgment, and it was the DO that was criticised, but in general there
was little criticism of the court. On top of the media criticism of the DO, there were also
problems concerning the administrative management of the DO. In February 2011, the
head of the office was removed. News reports at the time stated that the Government
acted, among other things, due to a slowness of decision-makin g.247
Although it can be asserted that there is broad political support for the Equality
Ombudsman, this seems to be dependent on the DO being relatively u ncontroversial and
unchallenging. It appears to the author o f this report that victims of discrimination have
had less and less t rust in the DO, at least since 2011. The DO asserts th at it has become
more strategic. At the same time, according to a former Gender Equality Ombudsman, who
also has a PhD in equality law , the DO has moved from trying to use the law t o promote
equality through taking on cases and assisting victims, to merely pro viding information
concerning discrimination.248 Agreement with this criticism can be found among NGOs and
various experts in the field.249
246 Stockholm District Court, case T 7324-08, Equality Ombudsman v Arbetsförmedlingen (8.2.2010) available
247 See, for example, Expressen (2011), ‘Regeringen sparkar DO Katri Linna’ (The Government fires DO Katri
Linna), 1 February 2011, available at:
248 Svenaeus, L. (2018) ‘Amnesti råder för brott mot diskrimineringslagen’ (There is an ongoing amnesty for
violations of the Discrimination Act) 30.02.2018, at:
249 Some examples: ‘Kritik mot DO: ”Lagen har urholkats”’ (Criticism of the DO: the law has been hollowed
out), interview with the union for journalists at
urholkats. ‘DO får hård kritik för ”tandlöshet” och ”slarv’ (DO subject of hard criticism due to toothless and
careless work), a disability think tank, Independent Living Institute presents an analysis of the DO’s work
for a year on active measures at
och-slarv/. Also see in particular the criticism from the former Gender Equality Ombudsman, Lena Svenaeus

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