Protection against discrimination

Last updated: 28 9 2018

This material is from the book About Sweden.

Protection against discrimination is a human right. Discrimination means that certain people or groups are treated worse that other and this is a violation of human rights.

The Equality Ombudsman

The Equality Ombudsman is a central government authority that works for the equal rights and opportunities of all. The Equality Ombudsman has to ensure compliance with the Discrimination Act.

Pursuant to the Discrimination Act, it is forbidden for businesses and organisation to treat certain people worse than others because of their gender, gender identity or gender expression, religion or other belief, age, ethnic affiliation, disability or sexual orientation.

Workplaces and schools must have a plan to tackle discrimination. You can contact the Equality Ombudsman if you have been discriminated against.

There are various independent local and regional anti-discrimination bureaus in Sweden. Their work includes offering advice and support to people who find themselves subjected to discrimination.

The Rainbow flag (also known as the Pride flag) is a symbol of the LGBT movement. It symbolises the equal worth of all people and diversity among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Photo: Colourbox

Norms concerning gender and sexuality

All societies have norms about how people should lead their lives. Norms are ideas, conceptions and unwritten rules about what is regarded as right and wrong, what people should be like, look like and how they should behave. In most societies there are also norms, for example, that men and women should be different and have different roles. Norms also influence our view of sexuality and relationships. For example, the notion that all people are seen as heterosexual remains very strong.

In Sweden, everyone has the right to live with and marry whichever partner they choose, regardless of gender. The gender a person feels that they are is usually called gender identity. Gender identity is not associated with what the body looks like and how it functions, but rather with the gender a person feels that they belong to.

LGBT stands for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. Being transgender is about gender identity and expression, and has nothing to do with sexual orientation. The word 'trans' is a term for people who don't identify with the biological gender they were born with. 'Transgender people' is a broad term for people who identify as men, women or both man and woman at the same time. They can also choose not to identify their gender at all. The letter Q is often added to LGBT and stands for 'queer', which is an attitude that criticises society's heterosexual norm. Queer can also be used to describe an identity in which a person does not want to define their gender or sexual orientation within the traditional conceptions.

Everybody has the right to express their identity in the way they want to. Discrimination is when someone is treated worse than others because s/he is homosexual, bisexual or a transgender person, or uses expressions that challenge norms about how women and men should be.

Freedom of religion

Sweden has had freedom of religion since 1951. Freedom of religion means that everyone has a right to choose whichever religion or belief they want. Freedom of religion is considered one of the most important rights in the Swedish constitution. There is information about freedom of religion in many international agreements, for example the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The state must respect, protect and work to ensure freedom of religion.

  • All people must have the right to choose, change and leave their religion.
  • All people must have the right to practice their religion. This includes the right to start religious associations.
  • Everyone has the right to write and publish magazines and information.
  • Everyone has the write to teach a religion and celebrate religious festivals.
  • No one will be discriminated against because of their beliefs.
  • Parents have a right to give their child a religious upbringing in accordance with their beliefs.
  • Employers should demonstrate an openness to their employees' needs with regard to practising their beliefs in the workplace.

Ethnic affiliation

People from various parts of the world live in Sweden. Ethnic affiliation means that everyone has an origin in one or more cultures and ethnic group. All people have one or more ethnic affiliation. Being treated worse because of your ethnic affiliation is discrimination and a violation of your human rights.

Disability and accessibility

Many people have one or more functional impairments, such as difficulty seeing, speaking, hearing, moving or concentrating. Society has to be accessible to all. There must not be barriers that prevent people with impairments from taking part in community life. One example of the efforts to create a more accessible society is the adaptation of public buildings so that people with mobility difficulties can access them and use them.

Age

Being treated worse because someone else thinks you are too old or too young is discrimination. There are laws and rules that determine it is permitted to treat younger and older people differently in certain cases. For example, there are set age limits for when someone may obtain a driving licence or be served alcohol.