Zero Discrimination Day is an annual day celebrated by the UN and other international organisations. The day aims to promote equality before the law and in practice throughout all of the member countries of the UN. The day was first celebrated on March 1, 2014, and was launched by UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé on 27 February of that year with a major event in Beijing.
On Zero Discrimination Day this year, UNAIDS is highlighting the urgent need to take action against discriminatory laws.
In many countries, laws result in people being treated differently, excluded from essential services or being subject to undue restrictions on how they live their lives, simply because of who they are. Such laws are discriminatory—they deny human rights and fundamental freedoms.
States have a moral and legal obligation—under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights treaties, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other international obligations—to remove discriminatory laws and to enact laws that protect people from discrimination.
Ending discrimination and changing laws is the responsibility of us all. Everyone can play a part in ending discrimination and can try to make a difference, in ways both big and small. The Zero Discrimination Day 2019 campaign challenges people to act against laws that discriminate in their country.
Read full press release of the UNAIDS here.
Article 22 of the belarusian Constitution proclaims the equality of everyone under the law and the right of everyone, without any discrimination, for equal protection of rights and legitimate interests. However, human rights activists believe, that the country still needs to overcome some barriers on the way to an equal society free from discrimination.
Discrimination reveals itself in many spheres of our life. In fact, in Belarus, a man cannot go on maternity leave, if his wife does not have an official job, women's domestic work is not taken into account in the calculation of pensions, and people with complex diseases generally find it difficult to be in society and feel equal with other it's members. Unfortunately, our society can be characterized by a rather low level of tolerance to HIV-positive people. In some local clinics till recently, HIV-positive people could donate blood only at a separate time, and according to the Resolution of the Council of Ministers, people with HIV-positive status are not allowed to work in 12 specialties.
The adoption of comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation would help to fulfil international obligations and strengthen the country's image.Our country demonstrates its readiness to be at the forefront of the Sustainable development goals' implementation. One of themain motts of the SDGs is - "Leave no one behind". But its implementation is impossible without a special law on equality.
Today there is no general antidiscrimination legislation in the Republic of Belarus. However, it is the primary mechanism for proving discrimination. Its importance lies in the legal regulation of such aspects as the definition and signs of discrimination, the principle of presumption of discrimination, mechanisms of protection against it, control over the implementation of legislation in this area and responsibility for its non-implementation.
In the absence of antidiscrimination legislation, there is a strong difference between the rights, guarantees for vulnerable minorities and their practical implementation, and such a gap between the de jure provisions and the de facto situation becomes systematical.
To facilitate the implementation, further development and adoption of such a law, several Belarusian non-governmental organizations signed a Memorandum on combating discrimination in Belarus.
It should be noted that in Belarus, however, there are a number of antidicramination measures being implemented. There is even an "antidiscrimination" award - for organizations and people who have made the greatest contribution to combating discrimination in the country.
In any society, the issue of discrimination is acute, the problem is that we often simply do not notice it or try to keep silent, because we are already accustomed to certain foundations. But everyone can make it's contribution to make their own society free from prejudices and human rights violations.
In its brochure on the Zero discrimination day, UNAIDS offers individuals 5 actions to change discriminating laws:
1. Highlight discriminatory laws, so we can all advocate for change—post your initiatives for zero discrimination on social media.
2. Be an ally, call out discrimination when you see it.
3. Demand change from your parliamentarian, ombudsperson or human rights organization.
4. Start a petition to change the law.
5. Donate time, money or expertise to an organization that is working for law reform, or start one yourself.
Download the campaign brochure to find out more and learn what individuals, civil society and governments can do to change laws that discriminate.