Against Discrimination

José Zalaquett

José Zalaquett

Head of the Project at MOOC Chile
Lawyer, Universidad de Chile. Doctor Honoris Causa, by the Universities of Notre Dame and City University of New York.
José Zalaquett

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If we were allowed to choose only one norm as representative of the spirit of the human rights system, it would be, no doubt, the prohibition of all forms of discrimination on grounds based on traits a person may not change or it is not legitimate to demand that it be changed. Examples of such categories are race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, political or other opinion, social origin or any other such trait or preference. All major human rights international treaties guarantee the enjoyment of the rights they proclaim for all, without any such distinctions. The very notion of human rights is that every person is entitled to them without any distinction whatsoever.

The norms banning discrimination are applicable to all human rights, whether civil, political, economic, social, cultural or any other character. These norms are also absolute in that they may never be derogated from or suspended, nor do they yield to other rights or values. Historically the main grounds for discrimination have been race, religion and sex. Today’s older people remember a time when in social occasions or in shows by stand-up comedians in all it was common and considered acceptable to hear ethnic or homophobic jokes or quips which nowadays are deemed in bad taste. The fact is that although the fight against discrimination is centuries old, progress has accelerated in the last few decades.

Feminism has contributed to raise awareness about male-centered social attitudes. LGBTI movements, have fought various forms of discrimination against sexual minorities. International norms and organizations have also contributed to these advances.

One particular significant progress is that of ‘special measures’, first introduced in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), of 1979, according to which temporary measures designed to accelerate the de facto equality between men and women are not to be considered discriminatory.

As of late, norms which ban violence against women and sexual minorities have also been enacted in several countries. Sometimes, they have been prompted by a notorious case of violence against women or homophobic violence. Such is the case of the’ Zamudio law’ passed in 2012 in Chile. Daniel Zamudio, a young gay man was tortured and lethally injured by an allegedly neo-Nazi gang in Santiago.

Much as there has been progress, the guard may not be lowered. Our contribution to this end is the organization of the free online course on gender equality and sexual diversity we will launch next August 31st.

3 thoughts on “Against Discrimination

  1. Hola , me interesa tomar el curso, soy estudiante de Trabajo Social (octavo semestre) y comenzando mi tesis, por lo que el tema de igualdad genero esta completamente relacionado….tengo algunas dudas como cuantas horas son , si es en horas especificas o libres , ademas si se imparte en español.. bueno espero puedan contestar mis inquietudes


  2. Hello,
    Will like to know if there’s a provision for sending the lecture materials to one’s email.

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