The KIF Committees opinion: New law would weaken gender equality efforts

The Norwegian Government has recommended consolidating the Gender Equality Act and three anti-discrimination laws into a joint anti-discrimination act. According to the KIF Committee, there are several reasons why this is not an ideal proposal.

Positive preferential treatment of women in research may be difficult with a gender-neutral law. (Illustration: iStockphoto)

“There’s a tendency to talk as if the situation is the same for women and men, and it’s not. It’s easy to make a mistake about what should be corrected if you don’t keep in mind that there actually are huge differences between women and men, as well as major differences between minorities and the general population.”

This is what Ingrid Guldvik, Dean and Vice Chair of the Committee for Gender Balance and Diversity in Research (the KIF Committee) said in the news article Sceptical about a joint anti-discrimination act.

The KIF Committee recently submitted its input on this issue to the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion.

Employer’s reporting duty is important

The committee does not support several of the recommendations, and made the following comments in its input:

  • Gender should be a common dimension throughout the legislation.
  • There is concern that dismantling the Gender Equality Act and switching to gender-neutral wording could make it more difficult to apply positive differential treatment to women’s careers in research.
  • The employer’s duty to report on the status of gender equality and measures should be continued.
  • There is concern that discontinuing the employer’s reporting duty could limit the opportunities to implement targeted measures arising from the employer’s activity duty.
  • It is important that the legislation makes provisions for sexual harassment victims to file a complaint without fear of reprisal.
  • The term “ethnicity” and the groups encompassed by this term should be defined as clearly as possible in the new law.

“Discontinuing the employer’s reporting duty weakens gender equality efforts. At a workplace you need to document the situation and assess the causes of imbalance or discrimination. Only then can you implement measures and document those. What remains in the proposed legislation is not especially binding when employers no longer need to account for their measures in annual reports, for example.”, said Guldvik to Kifinfo when we asked her about the new proposed law before Christmas.

However, the KIF Committee does support some of the Government’s recommendations:

  • Specification of what the employer’s activity duty entails.
  • Better protection for pregnant women and people with caregiving responsibilities.

In its input on the proposal, the committee also writes that it is difficult to assess how extensive the impact of the changes will be, since it is still unclear how enforcement and guidance will be organized for the new law. A change in the Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombudsman’s enforcement role has been made a separate matter that is not subject to public consultation and is not explained further in the proposal circulated for review.

Input from the KIF Committee on the proposed joint gender equality and anti-discrimination law (in Norwegian only).

Translated by Connie Stultz.

About the proposal

The Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion have proposed creating a joint gender equality and anti-discrimination act. The proposal was circulated for review in autumn 2015 with a response deadline of 22 January 2016.

The four laws to be consolidated under the proposal are:

  • Act relating to gender equality (Gender Equality Act)
  • Act relating to a prohibition against discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion and belief (Ethnicity Anti-Discrimination Act)
  • Act relating to a prohibition against discrimination on the basis of disability (Anti-discrimination and Accessibility Act)
  • Act relating to a prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender Identity and gender expression (Sexual Orientation Anti-Discrimination Act)