Discrimination is unequal treatment of equals and equal treatment of unequalsbased on their personal characteristics, which is resulting in a different, unfavourable consequencesto them.

In other words, discrimination exists when individuals or goups of people are inappropriately treated based on their personal caracteristics. They can be:

  • unequaly treated, excluded, brought in an unfavourable position even when in the same or similar situations (e.g. when a student with HIV is denied the right to enrol into school or to attend classes), or
  • equaly treated or being treated in a same way, even if they are in a significantly different, less favourable position (e.g. for enrloing children into school parents are obliged to submit a birth certificate which is unfavourable for Roma children who are in many cases not registered and therefore do not have this document).

With the abovementioned treatement, individuals or goups are directly or indirectlyput in an unfavourable position compared to other individuals, and the very source of their inequality is his/her personal characteristic.

Discrimination can be caused by the individual act, but also by the institutional act, institutional policy which is resulting in a different treatment of the members of a particular social groups or causing a harmful consequences to them. Furthermore, discrimination can also be a structural one, which is rearly recognized and coused by a seemingly neutral, identical social policy towards all society members/ social groups, regardless of differences that exist in society with respect to minority groups, that are in uny unequal status in relation to other groups, as a result of unequal relations in their roles, functions, rights and opportunities.

Discrimination is based on different personal charachteristics, whether real or supposed.Personal characteristics are, for example: sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, health conditions, disability, marital or family status, age, nationality, ethnic origin etc. Real personal characteristics acctualy exists and are part of the person’s identity or are characteristicsof a group of individuals (e.g. when and individual is a part of nation, is of a certain sex, age etc.). Assumes personal characteristic are the ones that a person or a group of individuals do not possess, but the discriminator presumes he/she/they do. For example, it often happens that a person who has friends of homosexual orientation is discriminated because the discriminator presumes that this person is of homosexual orientation too.

Discrimination is seen in all walks of life: in providing social or health services, work environment, employment etc. Anyone can be a discriminator and anyone can be a victim of discrimination, from government bodies and private legal entities, to individuals. Discriminator can be a judge, a police offices, a doctor, a professor, a colleague, neighbour, private employer, bank etc.The lack of intention to discriminate or lack of discriminating goal does not exclude discrimination.

Not every differential treatment of an individual or a group of people amounts automatically to discrimination, even though it may seem unjust. There are all sorts of legal and other country policy measures being used towards certain social groups that are acctualy disadvantaged, that is to say, in a subordinate position in the society,in order to achieve real equality (e.g. introduction of the electoral gender quota in Serbia, that every third candidate on a political party’s electoral list had to be a woman.).

Reacting in all individual cases of discrimination is very important, because that is how individual consequences of discrimination can be removed. However, discrimination cannot successfully be fought without tackeling and eliminating deeply rooted stereotypes and prejudices towards minority vulnerable groups and without coordinated actions of state institutions and civil society organizations through comprehensive measures and activities aimed at preventing and suppressing discrimination and achieving equality.