Executive summary

AuthorJustesen, Pia
1. Introduction
In the 1960s and 1970s, the Danish Parliament debated whether legislation on
discrimination in the labour market due to race, religion and other grounds should be
enacted. The social partners, i.e. employers´ organisations and employees´
organisations in the labour market rejected the proposal, arguing that Denmark had a
tradition of collective agreements rather than legislation in the labour market. A s no such
collective agreements on anti-discrimination were concluded, victims of discrimination on
grounds of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion were not protected until 1996,
when anti-discrimination legislation was finally enacted. A prohibition of discrimination
based on age and disability was adopted in 2004.
Up until the 1960s and 1970s the Danish population was relatively homogeneous, and
the majority were members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church by conviction, tradition
and/or culture. With new groups of migrant workers and the arrival of different groups of
refugees, this picture has changed. During the last 50 years, Denmark has become a
much more multicultural and multi-ethnic country.
The domestic debate on whether and to what extent international human rights
obligations should be followed can be qui te fierce. Many politicians are sceptical about
the limitations that international obligations impose on their legislativ e power.
In particular, there has been a growing emphasis on encouraging immigrants and
descendants from third countries to explicitl y sign up to basic Danish values. In
Denmark, the requirement to adapt and assimilate as understood by officials and the
general public is stronger than in some of its neighbouring countries.
In general, the various anti-discrimination act s do not app ly to the Faroe Islands and
2. Main legislation
Anti-discrimination legislation in Denmark does not consist of one single piece of
legislation. It is rather a combination of many acts, which have been introduced or
amended when public debate or when international and EU obligations have focused on a
specific field of application or a specific vulnerable group. Hence, protection against
discrimination is ensured by a web of ci vil and criminal legislation, ranging from the
Constitution to specific acts covering areas outside and inside the labour market, making
it a challenge to explain and for the public to understand.
The Danish Constitution provides that no Danish subject shall be deprived of his or her
liberty because of his or her political or religious convictions or because of his or her
descent. Moreover, no person shall be denied the right to full enjoyment of civil and
political rights by reason of their creed or descent, n or shall they for such reasons evade
any common civil duty. Further more, the Constitution provides that no one shall be liable
to make personal contributions to any denomination other than the one to which he
adheres. Finally, the Constitution provides that citizens shall be entitled to f orm
congregations for the worship of God in a manner consistent with their convictions,
provided that nothing at variance with good morals or public order shall be taught or
The Act on the Prohibition of Discrimination due to Race etc. makes it a criminal offence
to refuse, in connection with a commercial or non-profit business, to serve or allow

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