General legal framework

AuthorLatraverse, Sophie
Constitutional provisions on protection against discrimination and the promotion
of equality
The Constitution of France includes the following articles dealing with non -discrimination.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 26 August 1789 states in Article
I: ‘Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions can have no other
basis than common utility’.51
The Preamble to the Constitution of 1946 states: ‘In the morrow of the victory achieved
by the fr ee peoples over the regimes that had sought to enslave and degrade humanity,
the people of France proclaim anew that each human being, without distin ction of race,
religion or creed, p ossesses sacred and inalienable rights... France s hall form with its
overseas peoples a Union founded upon equal rights and duties, without distinction of race
or religion’, and adds: ‘Each person has the duty to work and the right to employment. No
person may suffer prejudice in his wo rk or employment by virtue of his origins, opinions
or beliefs’.52
Article 1 of the Constitution of 1958 states that: [France] shall ensure the equality of all
citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all
In addition, Article 10 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen states: No
one may be disturbed on account of his opinions, even religious ones, as long a s the
manifestation of such opinions does not interfere with the established Law a nd Order’.54
The material scope of t he constitutional protection is br oader than that of the directives.
The constitutional provisions cover race, origin, religion, opinions and sex. The
Constitutional Council h as held that the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the
Constitution is an open one. It has not recognised a constitutional principle protecting equal
treatment on the ground of age or sexual orientation, but has recognised the constitutional
protection of the principle of equality in relation to disability.55
These provisions are directly applicable.
51 Declaration Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 26 August 1789 (Déclaration des droits de
l’homme et du citoyen de 1798), available at:
francais/Constitution/Declaration-des-Droits-de-l-Homme-et-du-Citoyen-de-1789. Article 1: ‘Les hommes
naissent et demeurent libres et égaux en droits/ Les distinctions sociales ne peuvent être fondées que sur
l'utilité commune’.
52 Preamble to the Constitution of 1946 (Préambule de la Constitution de 1946), available at:
octobre-1958/preambule-de-la-constitution-du-27-octobre-1946/5077/html. ‘Au lendemain de la victoire
remportée par les peuples libres sur les régimes qui ont tenté d'asservir et de dégrader la personne
humaine, le peuple français proclame à nouveau que tout être humain, sans distinction de race, de religion
ni de croyance, possède des droits inaliénables et sacrés/ Il réaffirme solennellement les droits et libertés de
l'homme et du citoyen consacrés par la Déclaration des droits de 1789 et les principes fondamentaux
reconnus par les lois de la République’.
53 Constitution of 1958 (Constitution de 1958), available at: http://www/conseil-constitutionnel/fr/conseil-
du-4-octobre-1958-en-vigueur/5074/html#preambule. Article 1: ‘Elle [La France] assure l'égalité devant la
loi de tous les citoyens sans distinction d'origine, de race ou de religion/ Elle respecte toutes les croyances.’
54 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 26 August 1789 (Déclaration des droits de l’homme et
du citoyen de 1789), available at:
des-Droits-de-l-Homme-et-du-Citoyen-de-1789. Article 10: ‘Nul ne doit être inquiété pour ses opinions,
même religieuses, pourvu que leur manifestation ne trouble pas l'ordre public établi par la Loi’.
55 On sexual orientation, Constitutional Council QPC No. 2010-39, 6 October 2010, available at:; on disability No. 2011-639 DC,
289/07/2011, available at:

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