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Non Discrimination together with equality before the law and equal protection of the law constitute a basic and general principle relating to the protection of human rights. Discrimination is illegal whether based on Race, Ethnicity, Political opinion, Gender, or any other status. Discrimination, as prohibited by international human rights law, can be defined as an adverse distinction not found on objective criteria and without reasonable justification.

As none of the major general human rights treaties care to define what discrimination is, one must turn to the issue-specific treaties, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

CEDAW's Article 1:
For the purposes of the present Convention, the term "discrimination against women" shall mean any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.

CERD's Article 1(1) :

In this Convention, the term "racial discrimination" shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life
The UN Human Rights Committee has drawn on these to arrive at the following interpretation:
Any distinction, exclusion, restriction of preference which is based on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, and which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by all persons, on an equal footing, of all rights and freedoms.

F.J. Leon-Diaz, 2002
Javier Leon Diaz Human Rights Law Page
www.javier-leon-diaz.com

Discrimination issues