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Gender equality

We wish to promote equality and put in place better protection against discrimination for everyone. A society free from discrimination is a prerequisite for equality and equal opportunities. We therefore need a robust and transparent statutory framework that prevents gender-based discrimination, and safeguards legal protection.

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 18 December 1979, and came into force on 3 September 1981. A total of 189 states have acceded to the Convention and it was ratified by Norway on 21 May 1981.

The optional protocol to CEDAW was adopted on 6 October 1999, and Norway ratified it on 5 March 2002. The Convention was incorporated into Norwegian law through the previous Gender Equality Act, and was incorporated into the Human Rights Act of 19 June 2009, thus taking precedence over other Norwegian law.

Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act

The right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of gender is a human right set out in a number of conventions. Anti-discrimination legislation is the most important instrument in upholding this right.   

The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act entered into force on 1 January 2018. The Act replaced four earlier statutes that gave protection against discrimination on the grounds of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and sexual expression. The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act gives protection against discrimination on the grounds of gender, pregnancy, leave in connection with childbirth or adoption, and care responsibilities. The purpose of the Act is to promote gender equality. Women and men shall have equal opportunities in education, employment, and cultural and professional development. The Act has the particular objective of improving the position of women. 

The provisions of the Act shall ensure the protection of individuals against discrimination, harassment and sexual harassment. The provisions also include the duty to implement efforts to prevent discrimination and to work actively to promote equality. Examples include rules on affirmative action, the duty to prevent and preclude sexual harassment, rules on the gender balance of official committees, and requirements for teaching and teaching aids to reflect the purpose of the Act.

The Act also states that employers, social partners and public authorities must make active, targeted and systematic efforts to promote equality and prevent discrimination.

The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud Act

On 1 January 2018, a new Act relating to the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud and the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal (Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud Act) came into force. This Act strengthens the powers of the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud to promote equality, while establishment of the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal ensures more effective enforcement of anti-discrimination legislation.

The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud shall make efforts to promote equality and prevent discrimination based on gender in all areas of society. Anyone can contact the Ombud for guidance on equality and anti-discrimination legislation. The Ombud may also submit cases to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal.

The Ombud oversees the duty to actively promote equality and the duty to provide information on the actual status of gender equality in accordance with the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act, as well as the duty to report on equality and non-discrimination. The Ombud also monitors the compliance of the public authorities with UN conventions on basic human rights.

The Anti-Discrimination Tribunal deals with complaints about breaches of the law, and has the authority to impose penalties. These may include stopping, correcting or introducing other measures necessary to ensure that the discriminatory action, harassment, instruction or retaliation ends, and is not repeated.

The Tribunal can also make decisions concerning redress in the field of employment relations as well as decisions on compensation in individual cases.

Mainstreaming equality

Mainstreaming equality into all policy-making is a key strategy centrally, regionally and locally. This is now enacted in the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act in respect of the public authorities’ duty to perform activities and provide information on the status of equality. This means that each ministry is responsible for equality in its own field. However, the Ministry of Culture and Gender Equality is responsible for the coordination of equality policies.

The key instruments in efforts to ensure the mainstreaming of equality are the duties to perform activities and to report as set out in the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act.  

Duty to work actively and the duty to provide information

Public authorities have a duty to work actively to promote equality in all areas of society. This means, inter alia, that public authorities must prevent harassment, sexual harassment and gender-based violence and make efforts to prevent stereotyping. As of 1 January 2020, public authorities also have a duty to provide information on the actual status of gender equality. The information shall be provided in the annual report or another document available to the general public.

Employers must make active, targeted and systematic efforts to promote equality in their own activities and to prevent harassment, sexual harassment and gender-based violence. Their efforts shall encompass the areas of recruitment, pay and working conditions, promotion, development opportunities, workplace adaptation, and the opportunity to combine work with family life.  

Employers in public undertakings, and employers in private undertakings with more than 50 employees have a specified duty to perform activities that promote equality and prevent discrimination. This also applies to private undertakings with between 20 and 50 employees if requested by one of the social partners. These employers are also required to provide a gender-based breakdown of employees’ pay, and to chart the use of involuntary part-time work. This must be done in cooperation with employee representatives.

Employers with a specified duty to work actively to promote equality must also report on their efforts to do so. The employer must report on the actual status of gender equality in the undertaking, and what they are doing to comply with their duty. The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act also requires the social partners to work actively to achieve equality in their own field of work. In addition, the Act contains a separate provision requiring employers and managers of organisations and educational institutions to prevent and deter harassment and sexual harassment.