Discrimination: understanding the phenomenon to improve intercultural harmony

Any discrimination based on race or ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, religion or beliefs, disability, age or nationality is prohibited. The national, European and international legal frameworks leave no space for ambiguity. But the stereotypes on which discrimination is based are sometimes deeply rooted in our societies. Luxembourg is determined to meet these challenges head-on by defending rights and promoting diversity.

Types of discrimination

In order to assert your rights if you think you have been the target of discrimination, or to report a case of discrimination that you have witnessed, here are some basic concepts established in law, gathered by the Centre for Equal Treatment.

Discrimination can be based on any of seven grounds:

  • membership or non-membership, actual or supposed, of a race or ethnic group;
  • sex;
  • sexual orientation;
  • religion or beliefs;
  • disability;
  • age;
  • nationality.

Discrimination can be direct or indirect:

  • Discrimination is direct when a person is treated less favourably than another person for one of the reasons indicated above.
  • Indirect discrimination occurs when a seemingly neutral measure or practice may result in a particular disadvantage for people on the basis of their race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or beliefs, disability, age or nationality, unless the measure or practice has a legitimate and justifiable objective.

Harassment is also considered as a form of discrimination. Harassment occurs when undesirable behaviour linked to one of the reasons for discrimination has the aim or effect of compromising a person's dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

The legal framework in Luxembourg

There is an extensive legal framework in Luxembourg. The Act of 28 November 2006 concerns equal treatment in a general sense and applies to workplaces, homes, schools and public spaces. The legislation is supplemented by other specific laws, for example on gender equality, disabled people or LGTBIQ+ people. There are also several action plans at national and government level. 

Organisations involved in preventing and tackling discrimination

The Centre for Equal Treatment (CET) is the body that was established by the Act of 28 November 2006 on Equal Treatment to promote, analyse and monitor equal treatment among all people. The centre deals with all the areas covered by the Act except for discrimination based on nationality.

In the exercise of its mission, it publishes reports and issues opinions and recommendations, and it offers assistance to people who believe that they have been the target of discrimination. To this end, it provides an advice and guidance service to inform people about their rights and how to exercise them.

Contact the Centre for Equal Treatment

By post: 65, route d'Arlon, L-1140 Luxembourg

Telephone: (+352) 28 37 36 35

Email: info@cet.lu

There are also other organisations and associations that provide information and support to help tackle all types of discrimination or specific areas. Don't hesitate to contact them if you experience or witness discrimination!

The partner ministries in this field are the Ministry of Family Affairs, Integration and the Greater Region and the Ministry of Equality between Women and Men (see in particular the section on organisations and associations).

Discrimination remains deeply rooted in our society

Although diversity is a cornerstone of contemporary Luxembourg society, many stereotypes and prejudices – both conscious and unconscious – continue to lead to situations of discrimination.

The 2022 CET annual report, published in spring 2023, shows that discrimination related to race or ethnicity represents 20% of the cases dealt with by the CET. 16% of cases are linked to disability and 13% to sex.

The 2022 study on Racism and ethno-racial discrimination in Luxembourg shows that although ideological racism is rare in Luxembourg (just 4.3% of the population believe that any one race is worth more than another), unconscious stereotypes, clichés and prejudices are well rooted in society. The study also shows how the nature of racism has changed. Racism today often takes the form of behaviour based on conscious or unconscious bias towards certain racialised people, perceived as microaggressions by these minorities.

The Islamophobia Observatory recently published its third Report on Islamophobia covering the years 2020 and 2021. More than 70% of the study's participants believe that Muslims are well integrated socially in Luxembourg. Actual discrimination against Muslims does occur, but it is falling (16% of those surveyed in 2021, compared with 25% in 2020). More women report being targeted by discrimination than men, especially if they wear a religious symbol.

Discrimination occurs most in work (job hunting or workplace atmosphere), housing, social media, teaching and public spaces. The reports cited also highlight the fact that in most cases, discrimination is not reported.

Measures to tackle discrimination and promote diversity

The main organisations and experts in the field recommend a variety of measures to tackle discrimination. These include facilitating the process of reporting discrimination or introducing harsher sanctions, for example, and also helping improve community relations and raising awareness and understanding of discrimination for more effective action.

The Draft law on 'Intercultural Living Together' was submitted in February 2023. The text aims to replace the current 'integration'-based approach with a broader and more open approach to 'intercultural living together'. It was drafted after a large-scale public consultation. Tackling racism and all forms of discrimination at local level is a key cross-cutting feature in all the measures and organisations introduced by the legislation.

Sexism - Council of Europe

The 'Stop sexism. See it. Name it. Stop it' campaign aims to tackle discrimination on the basis of sex, which mainly affects women and girls. Sexism occurs in all areas of life, including language and communication, media, the workplace, justice, education, sport and the private sphere. The campaign website proposes measures to tackle stereotypes and a list of contacts that can offer help.

This campaign led by the Ministry of Equality between Women and Men comes within the broader framework of the Council of Europe Recommendation on preventing and combating sexism.

The Diversity Charter Lëtzebuerg is another instrument that links public and private partners. It is a declaration of national commitment that is available to organisations wishing to commit to promoting and managing diversity by means of specific measures that go beyond legal obligations. The challenge of diversity involves making sure that everyone has employment and career possibilities in line with their skills and ambitions and that their individual characteristics are respected (sex, race, age, ethnic and social origins, beliefs, etc.). The Charter was introduced more than a decade ago and it now has over 250 signatories. Partners' best practices can be consulted on the website.