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Welcome to the monthly update on the work of European equality bodies, sent by Equinet - the European Network of Equality Bodies
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Please note that the Equinet Secreatriat's offices will be closed from 23 December 2013 to 1 January 2014.
 
SPOTLIGHT ON EQUALITY BODIES
The Belgian Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism
 
presented its annual report "Exploitation and Human Trafficking 2012" (in French) in which it proposes ways to bring about positive changes for the victims. Patrick Charlier, Deputy Director of the Centre, said that by identifying and recognizing the victim helps to fight more effectively against the perpetrators. Continue reading (in French)

welcomes the decision of the Labour Court of Louvain to condemn the operator of a fitness centre who dismissed one of its managers because of the disability of his youngest child. That is the first "discrimination by association" conviction in Belgium. The dismissed manager had contacted the Centre with which they agreed to plead a breach of anti-discrimination law since terminating a contract because of the disability of a child is indeed a direct discrimination on the grounds of disability. Continue reading (in French)
Launch of the first national survey on homophobia, sexism and transphobia: the Secretary of Brussels-State for Equal Opportunities, Bruno De Lille, launched the first national study in Belgium in collaboration with the two Belgian equality bodies (the Centre of Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism and the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men) aiming at probing what people think of equality between women and men, gays, lesbians and transgender people. The survey is conducted by the University of Antwerp. Continue reading (in French)
The Croatian Office of the Ombudswoman

submitted its recommendation in relation to the prohibition of use of headscarfs on driving license photos. The regulation stated that photos with a headscarf or a cap were allowed only in exceptional cases and only for older persons and in accordance with customary practices as a part of their national traditional costume. The Ombudswoman argued that this provision was discriminatory both on the grounds of age and religion. Upon this recommendation, the Ministry of Interior changed the regulation so it now allows photos with a headscarf for religious or reasons connected to health status, independently of age;

successfully finished the implementation of a twinning project “Establishing a comprehensive system for anti-discrimination protection” in partnership with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Human Rights from Austria. It consisted of three components: trainings for all relevant stakeholders, development of a comprehensive database for collecting data on discrimination claims and court cases and enhancement of the visibility of the Ombudwoman's anti-discrimination mandate;

published a handbook for civil servants and employees of regional and local self government on recognizing discrimination aiming at informing them of their obligations as duty bearers and raising awareness on discrimination issues.
The Cypriot Office of the Commissioner for Administration (Ombudsman)

received official approval by the European Commission to their application for funding, within the framework of PROGRESS, of a campaign entitled “Zero Tolerance to Violence against Women and Girls [VAW] in Cyprus”. Its objective is to raise awareness and promote the message of zero tolerance to all forms of VAW and girls in Cyprus, by developing and implementing a coordinated and targeted national media campaign, organizing and delivering trainings to key professionals dealing with VAW as well as NGOs on women’s rights, and by training media professionals;

co-organized, along
with the umbrella organization on LGBT rights in Cyprus (
Accept Cyprus) a memorial event on the occasion of the “Transgender Day of Remembrance” (20 November);

supported a silent march organized by the Cyprus Women’s Lobby under the slogan “Until the violence stops” aiming to raise public awareness on the reality of acts of violence against women.
The German Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (FADA)

launched English translations of some of its main activities;

presented its first
joint report in consultation with the competent Commissioners of the Federal Government and the German Bundestag affected in their individual fields of responsibility pursuant to Section 27, sub-section 4 of the General Equal Treatment Act on the topic of "Multidimensional Discrimination".
The Hungarian Equal Treatment Authority

reached a decision in the “Doboz” case concerning a discotheque’s admission practice. The male complainant was requested to purchase a drink voucher prior to entering the discotheque, while women were admitted without having to make any payment. The discotheque claimed that the voucher-system was introduced as a positive measure for women who were otherwise pushed aside by men at the entrance. Establishing that the requirement to buy a voucher as a condition of entry constituted less favorable treatment for men, the Authority decided that the discotheque discriminated against the complainant on the ground of gender. The discotheque could not justify its practice and neither can the practice be considered positive action, because it does not satisfy the definition of positive action as set out in national law.
The Irish Equality Authority

complained that cuts in funding and staff have forced them into providing drastically reduced services. Continue reading

secured permission from the Supreme Court to make arguments in a landmark appeal concerning the rights of all those involved when children are born under surrogacy arrangements. This is the first time the Equality Authority has sought to be joined to a Supreme Court appeal as an amicus curiae – assistant to the court on legal issues.
Continue reading
The Italian National Office against Discrimination (UNAR)

presented the annual report on immigration together with the IDOS Study and Research Centre. The report offers a thorough analysis focused on various aspects of migration, with a large support of statistical data;
 
organised the 12th Career Forum Diversita lavoro, in Rome in the framework of the implementation of a specific strategy to bring together personnel selection managers of the most important companies in Italy and disabled persons, transgender / transexual people and foreign nationals.
The Lithuanian Office of Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson

commissioned a poll which reveals discriminatory attitudes towards different social groups in Lithuania, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. According to the poll, women, younger people and individuals with higher incomes and educational background are more tolerant towards LGBT persons.
The Maltese National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE)

initiated its plan of action which shall include research, internal and external training, as well as awareness raising on Human Rights Day (10th December). In partnership with two other equality bodies from UK (Northern Ireland) and Austria, together with other key national stakeholders is implemented as part of a new project ESF4.220 Developing a Culture of Rights through Capacity Building and aims at developing a culture of rights by targeting the critical mass within public administration, local councils, NGOs and social partners. Continue reading
The Portuguese Commission for Equality in Labour and Employment (CITE)

launched the national campaign "Time to have time" aiming at promoting work life balance. In a flyer, CITE provides instruments provided by the Labour Code and good practices for the reconciliation of professional and family time;

published an English version of its "Information guide for the prevention and fight against harassment at the workplace: a selfregulation support instrument".
The Swedish Equality Ombudsman

arranged a roundtable on combating racial discrimination and intolerance in Sweden in co-operation with the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). The event was a follow-up to ECRI’s fourth report on Sweden that was published in September 2012. The aim of the roundtable was to seek ways to ensure the implementation of ECRI's recommendations on Sweden in dialogue with the relevant actors in the country;

spoke at a hearing arranged by the European Council Sub-committee on Racism and Xenophobia to give her view on the reports about police records on Roma in Sweden. In her speech, Ms Agneta Broberg expressed her concern about the information that the Swedish police keep records of Roma based on ethnic grounds. The Equality Ombudsman has initiated a formal inquiry based on the Swedish Discrimination Act in order to investigate the police;

succeeded on appeal in a case where a disabled child and her mother were discriminated by an insurance company.  The company refused its services without performing an individual risk assessment claiming that the mother was entitled to a specific social benefit. As a rule, the insurance company never granted the insurance policy to parents with the subsidy in question as the group of entitled children as such presented a substantially higher risk for notably economic invalidity. The Ombudsman brought an initially unsuccessful action against the insurance company but on appeal the Svea Court of Appeal held the rule applied by the insurance company to be directly discriminatory as it automatically excluded children with disability (including children with serious illnesses). Importantly, the fact that the rule also causally excluded some sick children who would not qualify as disabled did not render the rule neutral with respect to disability. As the Ombudsman had consciously limited its action to only pertain to the lack of an individual risk assessment, the issue whether the child should have been granted the insurance was not tried in the case;
 
sued Statoil after petrol station workers turned down members of the Roma community who were looking to hire a car during a test carried out by a Swedish broadcaster.
Read more
The British Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

published a report aiming at reviewing the progress that authorities are making in following its inquiry recommendations on the level and breadth of disability-related harassment in the UK. The inquiry revealed that harassment is a commonplace experience for disabled people, but a culture of disbelief and systemic institutional failures is preventing it from being tackled effectively. The EHRC can report that public authorities are taking many positive steps to address harassment towards disabled people;

called for evidence as it shines a spotlight on the cleaning industry. It called evidence from commercial cleaning firms and cleaners as part of an in-depth examination into recruitment and employment practices in the industry. The two-year project will aim to raise awareness of human rights and equality responsibilities among businesses in the sector and identify practical and cost effective solutions to any problems uncovered;
 
welcomes court decision overturning abolition of Independent Living Fund by the UK government. The Court of Appeal found there was insufficient evidence of compliance with the public sector equality duty and that the 'very grave impact' on some of those affected was properly brought to the Minister's attention, despite officials having been clearly informed of the possible impacts not only by service users but also by local authorities. This means that until or unless the government revisits the decision more than 19,000 of the most severely disabled people in this country will continue to receive the support they are currently entitled to.
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland

set out in a new policy paper "Promoting Sexual Orientation Equality" three LGB equality priorities requiring strategic action: tackling prejudicial attitudes and behaviour; promoting positive attitudes towards LGB individuals and raising awareness of rights as responsibilities. Read more

organised a conference for strengthening the protection of children and young people against age discrimination. Chief Commissioner Michael Wardlow said: "This is part of our efforts to encourage the extension of the law so that people of all ages are protected against age discrimination when they are accessing goods, facilities or services". Read more

provided advice on revisions relating to equality to the Commissioner for Public Appointments for the updated version of the Code of Practice for Ministerial Public Appointments in Northern Ireland and supplied a range of information on anti-discrimination laws and guidance.

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