Article | Last updated: 31/10/2019 | Ministry of Culture
The Norwegian Government is focused on promoting equality and improving anti-discrimination safeguards for all persons. A non-discriminatory society is a pre-requisite for equality and equal opportunities. Robust, clear legislation is needed which prevents discrimination on the basis of gender and provides effective legal protection.
The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 18 December 1979, entered into force on 3 September 1981 and has been ratified by 189 states. Norway ratified the convention on 21 May 1981.
The Optional Protocol to CEDAW was adopted on 6 October 1999 and ratified by Norway on 5 March 2002. CEDAW became part of Norwegian law when the former Gender Equality Act was passed. On 19 June 2009, the convention was incorporated into the Human Rights Act and has thus been given precedence over other Norwegian legislation.
The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act
The right not to be discriminated against on the basis of gender is a human right which is enshrined in a number of conventions. Anti-discrimination legislation is the most important means of protecting this right. The Act relating to equality and a prohibition against discrimination (the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act) entered into force on 1 January 2018, replacing four former acts containing prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act provides protection against discrimination on the basis of gender, pregnancy, leave in connection with birth or adoption and care responsibilities. The Act's purpose is to promote gender equality. Women and men are to be given equal opportunities in education and work, and in their cultural and professional development. Both women and men benefit from the protection afforded by the act, although the preparatory works to the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act make it clear that the act aims particularly at improving the position of women; see section 1. The act requires employers, the social partners and public authorities to engage actively in equality efforts.
Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud Act
A new Act relating to the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud and the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal (the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud Act) entered into force on 1 January 2018. The act strengthened the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud’s role as a promoter of equality, and strengthened enforcement of anti-discrimination legislation through the establishment of the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal.
The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud is mandated to promote equality and prevent discrimination on the basis of gender in all sectors of society. Anyone may contact the Ombud for guidance on equality and anti-discrimination legislation. The Ombud monitors the authorities’ compliance with UN conventions on basic human rights. The Anti-Discrimination Tribunal hears complaints against legal breaches. The Tribunal is authorised to order redress in employment cases, and to award compensation in certain types of cases.
A new statutory amendment, effective as of 1 January 2020, authorises the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal to hear cases concerning sexual harassment, which have previously been heard by the courts. The statutory amendment will also strengthen the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud guidance and assistance service for persons who have suffered sexual harassment.
Equality in practice – equal opportunities for women and men
The white paper deals with equality between women and men. The Government’s equality policy seeks to eliminate barriers which prevent women and men from exercising their freedom of choice. Women and men must have equal opportunities and rights, and society must enable girls and boys, women and men to make the most of their opportunities. The white paper discusses equality challenges in key areas such as childhood and education, employment, protection against violence and assault, business and health, as well as Norway’s international equality efforts.
The Minister of Culture and Equality makes an annual statement to the Storting on the status of efforts to promote equality and diversity in all sectors.
Integration of equality
A key equality policy strategy is to integrate the equality perspective into all policy development at central, regional and local level. Efforts at the central level are additionally influenced by the strategy of sectoral responsibility for equality, which makes each ministry responsible for equality in its field. The Ministry of Culture is additionally responsible for coordinating equality policy.
Key instruments for the integration of equality include the activity and reporting duties set out in equality and anti-discrimination legislation and the Instructions for Official Studies and Reports.
Activity and reporting duties
A new statutory provision which strengthens activity and reporting duties will take effect on 1 January 2020.
As at present, public authorities will have a duty to engage actively in efforts to promote equality in all sectors of society. In addition, public authorities will become subject to a duty to provide reasons in connection with the exercise of official powers and their role as a service provider.
Employers will continue to have a duty to make active, targeted efforts to promote equality in their operations. Public undertakings and private-sector undertakings with more than 50 employees will be required to adopt a concrete methodology (a specified activity duty). The same applies to private undertakings with between 20 and 50 employees, if demanded by a social partner. As of 1 January 2020, these employers will also have a duty to conduct pay surveys by gender, as well as a duty to survey the use of involuntary part-time work. These activities must be undertaken in consultation with employees. Employers who are subject to a specified activity duty also have a duty to issue statements on their equality efforts. Employers must describe the actual status of equality within their undertaking and what they are doing to fulfil the activity duty. The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act also imposes a duty on the social partners to promote equality actively in their areas of activity.
The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act contains a separate provision setting out rules on an activity duty relating to harassment and sexual harassment. Employers, organisations and educational institutions are required to make efforts to prevent harassment and sexual harassment in their areas of responsibility.