AuthorLatraverse, Sophie
The national legal system
Laws are the main source of rights in France. They may be proposed by Government (bills)
or by Parliament (proposed laws), which is made up of two chambers, the National
Assembly and the Senate. Before a law is enacted by the President of France, the
Constitutional Council may, at the request of members of Parliament, verify its consistency
with the Constitution. The effective implementation of enacted legislation also depends on
the regulatory section of the Supreme Administrative Court (Conseil d’Etat) adopting
secondary legislation, such as decrees.
International conventions ratified by France can be directly invoked before the courts which
have the duty to monitor the conformity of national legislation.
The jurisdictional order is made up of two branches:
- administrative courts have jurisdiction over all administrative litigation ;
- judicial courts have jurisdiction over criminal and private law.
In private law, the general legal regime relating to discrimination is to be found in codified
law i.e. the Labour Code (LC), the Penal Code (PC), the Civil Code (CC) and Law No. 2008-
496 of 27 May 2008 on various provisions implementing Comm unity anti-discriminat ion
Administrative law, on the other hand, is mostly jurisprudential, and based on the
implementation of a formal theory of equali ty: rules are held to meet the requirement of
equality if they are the same for everyone. However, the Law of 27 May 2008 also applies
to public agents, social protection, access to education and public service.
The law grants uniform and impartial protection to all individuals, and to their beliefs and
allegiances, but th is applies solely to them a s individuals. For legal purposes, g roups
defined by such beliefs or all egiances simply do not exist. As a consequence, France has
systematically rejected clauses in international conventions or declarations that imply that
individuals should be granted rights on th e basis of their m embership of a minority, thus
constituting a legal category on the basis of origin.
Since the S econd World War, the long-standing abstract principle of equality h as been
enshrined in a range of instruments, including the Constitutions of 1946 and 1958, as well
as comprehensive criminal penalties for racism and xenophobia. The resultin g French
approach has developed along two complementary lines: the condemnation of racism and
the refusal to us e criteria of ‘origin’, ‘ethnicity’, ‘race’ or religion for policy and
administrative purposes.
The broader principle of non-discrimination as applicable to administrative, civil and labour
law, has been introduced more recently, and derives largely from EU law.
In France, since most of the legislation applies to all grounds of discrimin ation, cases are
referred to as precedents whether or not they discuss issues related to the same ground
of discrimination. Generally speaking, whether or not they apply EU law, they seldom refer
to the EU directives.
45 Law No. 2008-496 of 27 May 2008 Implementing Community Law in Relation to the Fight Against
Discrimination (Loi No. 2008-496 du 27 mai 2008 portant diverses dispositions d'adaptation au droit
communautaire dans le domaine de la lutte contre les discriminations), available at:

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