The 19 grounds of discrimination

There are 19 criteria 'protected' by anti-discrimination legislation (federal laws, decrees, orders). This means that any discrimination based on one of these criteria is forbidden and punishable.

Unia is competent for 17 of these criteria:

  • the five 'racial' criteria: presumed race, skin colour, nationality, ancestry (Jewish origin) and national or ethnic origin
  • disability
  • philosophical or religious beliefs
  • sexual orientation
  • age
  • wealth (in other words, financial resources)
  • civil status
  • political beliefs
  • trade union membership
  • state of health
  • physical of genetic characteristics
  • birth
  • social background

The 18th criterion is gender: Belgium has a specific body that deals with issues of equality between women and men and gender-based discrimination (including transgender people): Institute for the Equality of Women and Men.

The 19th criterion is language, for which no public body has a specific competence in this field.

The criteria are identical in all anti-discrimination legislation (federal laws, decrees, orders), except in two cases:

  • In Flanders, the text refers to ‘social position’ instead of ‘social background’, and discrimination by association is also protected (for instance: a parent is discriminated against when looking for a job because they require adapted hours in order to provide care for their handicapped son).
  • The French Community Commission doesn’t have an exhaustive list of criteria.

The Antidiscrimination Act provides for an evaluation of the Antiracism Act, Antidiscrimination Act and Gender Act. This evaluation, which also included scrutiny of the discrimination grounds, was carried out in 2016-2017. The expert committee evaluation report (Dutch and French) was submitted to the Belgian Chamber of Representatives and the State Secretary for Equal Opportunities in February 2017. Unia also drew up its own evaluation report