What is discrimination?

Discrimination describes the unequal or unfair treatment of a person on the basis of one or more defined characteristics. More specifically, discrimination occurs if this unequal or unfair treatment results in a direct or indirect disadvantage for the person discriminated against. This can take the form of disrespect, stigmatization, (sexualized) harassment or violence, and direct or indirect exclusion on the basis of one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Ethnic origin
  • Gender or gender identification
  • Physical / mental abilities or appearance (either being disregarded or devalued)
  • Sexual identity and/or orientation
  • Religion and beliefs
  • Age
  • Social and economic status

For an action to be classified as discrimination, what matters is not the agent's intention, but the effect of a behavior on its recipient. This is defined in German law under the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) (PDF, 177 KB).

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