15th anniversary of the General Equal Treatment Act
Anti-Discrimination Agency calls for reforms
On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the German General Equal Treatment Act (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz, AGG), the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency acknowledges the progress made so far, but also calls for further reforms to improve protection against discrimination. “The AGG represents an important milestone on our path towards a fair and equal society,” stated Bernhard Franke, the acting head of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency, on Tuesday in Berlin. “More and more people know their own rights and are no longer willing to put up with discrimination. More and more employers actively protect their staff from discrimination. And the social debates in recent years, too, show that the high worth of fairness and equal treatment has taken root inside people’s minds.” Unfortunately, however, discrimination was still a part of daily life for far too many people, “We should all work together now to make sure that those who experience exclusion and discrimination do not get left by the wayside.”
At www.15jahre-agg.de, the Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, Christine Lambrecht, and a number of others committed to protection against discrimination offer their congratulations.
“Equal dignity and equal freedom for all people – the General Equal Treatment Act is a powerful instrument to transport this core principle of our free and constitutional state into our society,” Lambrecht stated.
“The AGG represented a milestone in the fight against discrimination and helped many people to assert their rights. In addition, the research conducted by the Anti-Discrimination Agency is essential for the nationwide anti-discrimination work,” said Romani Rose, Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma.
According to Barbara John, the long-time chairwoman of the advisory board of the Anti-Discrimination Agency,
“to be honest, this Act and Agency was, if you allow me to use a visual image here, somewhat of an unwanted child. But, as is often the case with such children, they ended up developing into truly stable and reliable institutions.”
Since its creation, the Anti-Discrimination Agency has responded to more than 50,000 requests from people experiencing discrimination. Over the past year, the number of requests soared by almost 80 percent. The aim now was to offer people across Germany the low-threshold and qualified advice they need by increasing the number of comprehensive consultation services provided by civil society, cities, municipalities and the Federal Laender.
The General Equal Treatment Act, which entered into force on 18°August 2006, for the first time guaranteed protection against discrimination on grounds of age, ethnic origin or on racist grounds, gender, disability, religion or belief as well as on grounds of sexual identity to all people in Germany. In the Juris database, approximately 1,950 judicial cases are documented to have been related to the General Equal Treatment Act. Those cases concern discrimination regarding access to a job on grounds of, for instance, a disability, discrimination in the workplace itself, for instance through sexual harassment or racism, or discrimination on the housing market or when trying to access clubs, hotels or restaurants.
“The AGG provides protection. But, unfortunately, not yet to a sufficient extent,” Franke said. Even in 2006, the AGG had been a hard-fought compromise. Now, the need for improvements has become increasingly clear, particularly regarding the legal enforcement of the AGG. The extension of the deadlines to assert discrimination claims from two to six months, which had been announced but not yet implemented by the current Coalition, was urgently needed. Other necessary reforms to improve the protection against discrimination in Germany, which, by European standards, was very weak, included giving associations the right to seek collective redress and the The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency the right to take legal action in individual cases.
The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency is an independent contact point for persons affected by discriminatio. It was established in 2006 when the General Act on Equal Treatment entered into force. The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency does public relations work and research on the topic of Discrimination and offers legal initial counselling for people who have been discriminated against on grounds of ethnic origin, religion, ideology, sexual identity, age, disability or gender.