Taking Bold Step Towards Equality for All
-NHRCK submits opinion to National Assembly about introduction of equality law-
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (Chairperson Young-ae Choir) submitted an opinion calling on the National Assembly to promptly enact a law on equality and non-discrimination based on the draft bill submitted by the Commission.
Anti-discrimination bills have been proposed several times since the Commission made a recommendation of its introduction to the government in 2006, but have not been enacted into law yet. The principle of equality is the fundamental principle of the Constitution relating to the protection of basic rights. As a party to multiple international human rights treaties, the Republic of Korea has an obligation to promote domestic application of international human rights norms. Equality law has already been enacted in most OCED members except Korea and Japan. Korea, which serves as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, needs to heed the call from the international community for the adoption of equality law.
A broad consensus has now been formed on the need to enact equality law. A survey of public attitudes towards discrimination, conducted by the Commission in April 2020, revealed that the vast majority of Korean citizens (nine out of ten) believed that the rights of others should be respected as much as their own rights and recognized the need for stronger action against discrimination given the fact that no one is free from discrimination and anyone, including themselves and their families, may be subjected to discrimination. It is also noteworthy that there has been a growing public consensus over the enactment of equality law. In the survey, 88.5% of the respondents agreed with the need to pass equality law to ensure the protection of the right to equality, about 15 percent higher than the figure from the same survey conducted last year (72.9%).
Although there are separate laws that regulate each ground for discrimination such as disability, gender, age and employment status, these laws have limited effectiveness in resolving various forms of discrimination. A person’s identity is formed by multiple characteristics, including gender, disability and age, and these different aspects of one’s identity combine and relate to one another in reality. Therefore, to accurately understand incidents of discrimination, we need to adopt a law that interprets any forms of discrimination from a comprehensive perspective. A general equality law that encompasses all forms of discrimination in society should help ensure application of consistent and uniform standards. Moreover, it is practically impossible to enact separate laws that address every ground for discrimination.
The Commission calls on the National Assembly, the representative of citizens and the legislature of a state, to make an all-out effort to introduce equality law. This should be one of the key bills to be considered by the 21st National Assembly. The Commission has put forth a draft bill that provides the direction and contents of the new law.
We can no longer afford to delay the passage of equality law. As affirmed by humanity in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 70 years ago, human dignity can never be waived for any reason. The Commission hopes that the National Assembly will take this opportunity and lead the efforts to achieve equality for all. The Commission, for its part, will do its utmost to ensure the passage of equality law.