The definition of discrimination

AuthorKamenska, Anhelita
Pages19-33
19
2 THE DEFINITION OF D ISCRIMINATION
2.1 Grounds of unlawful discrimination explicitly co vered
The following grounds of discrimination are explicitly prohibited in the main legislation
transposing the two EU anti-discrimination directives.
The grounds commonly referred to in Latvian legislation are: race, eth nicity, national
origin (understood in certain cases as ethnic origin and in other cases as citizenship),
gender, language, party memb ership, religious or political ‘or other’ opinions which
encompasses belief non-religious, p roperty or social status, position occupied and
origin, and sometimes also health condition,72 place of residence and occu pation.
The Labour Law, one of the laws tran sposing the directives and addres sing the issue of
discrimination systematically, lists ‘race, skin colour, age, disability, religious, political or
other conviction, national or social origin, property or marital status, sexual orientation73
or other circumstances’ (Articl e 7(2)).74
Article 78 of the Criminal Law protects against the instigation of national, ethnic, racial or
religious hatred, and Article 150 protects against the instigation of social hatred based on
a person’s gender, age, disab ility or any other features. Article 149.1 provides a more
general protection, making punishable discrimination on the basis of ethnic, national,
racial or religious origin, as well as violations of any prohibition of discrimination provided
for in other legal acts (thus depending on the existence of such acts).75
Since 2013, the Electronic Mass Media Law has prohibited incitement to hatred and
discrimination on the grounds of gender, age, religious, political and other belief, sexual
orientation, disability, race or ethnic origin, nationality and other circumstances in audio
and audiovisual commercial messages (Article 35).76
The Constitution prohibits any kind of discrimination, but it does not mention specific
grounds; moreover, it only applies directly in the public sector and generally does not
have horizontal effect, which means that there is no prohibition of discrimination in the
private sphere unless a speci fic law is in place. A nu mber of other laws contain the
principle of non-discrimination, but only the Labour Law and the Law on the Prohibition of
Discrimination of Natural Persons-Economic Operators specifically mention all of the
grounds covered by the two directives; moreover, some of these law s cover only
specified grounds without leaving the list open.
72 Latvia, Law on Education, 29.10.1998; Law on Protection of the Rights of the Child (Brna tiesbu
aizsardzbas likums), 19.06.1998, http://likumi.lv/doc.php?id=49096.
73 Sexual orientation has remained a controversial topic, which was demonstrated both at the time of the
adoption of the Labour Law in 2001the most advanced law in terms of outlawing discrimination and
when the first amendments to it were adopted i n 2004, with the aim of removing some of the remaining
deficiencies and bringing the Labour Law into complete compliance with the requireme nts of the directives.
Both times during the examination of the draft law by the responsible parliamentary committee, the express
reference to sexual orientation in the non-discrimination clause was deleted and ‘other circumstances’ was
added instead in order to leave the list open. The situation repeated itself in 2006: on 15 June, the
Parliament again chose to remove the express reference from the draft amendments; the Presid ent vetoed
the resulting law, however, stating that it did not comply with Latvia’s EU obligations. On the repeated vote
on the law on 21 September 2006, despite the upcoming parliamentary election and a political climate that
did not seem favourable, the law including a reference to sexual orientation was adopted by 46 vo tes for, 35
against and 3 abstentions, with 9 registered MPs failing to take part in the vote at all. Previously, on 15
December 2005, the Parliament had amended Article 110 of the Constitution to define marriage as a union
between a man and a woman, effectively banning same-sex marriage.
74 Ziemei District Court, Case No. C32242904047505, 25.05.2005. This judgment indicated that, at least until
that time, sexual orientation had been considered to come under such ‘other circumstances’ .
75 Latvia, Criminal Law, 17.06.1998, http://likumi.lv/doc.php?id=88966.
76 Latvia, Electronic Mass Media Law (Elektronisko plašsazias ldzeku likum s), 12.07.2010,
http://likumi.lv/doc.php?id=214039.

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