Comparative Equality Law
The right to equality is ubiquitous in human rights instruments in jurisdictions throughout the world. Yet the meaning of equality and non-discrimination are contested. Is equality formal or substantive, and if the latter, what does substantive equality entail? Which groups should be protected from discrimination and how do we decide? How do we capture conceptualisations of equality in legal terms and when should equality give way to other priorities, such as conflicting freedoms or cost? The aim of this course is to examine these and other key issues through the prism of comparative law. Given the growing exchange of ideas across different jurisdictions, the comparative technique is a valuable analytic tool to illuminate this field. At the same time, the course pays attention to the importance of social, legal and historical context to the development of legal concepts and their impact.
The first half of the course approaches the subject thematically, while the second half of the course addresses individual grounds, ending with a consideration of remedial structures. Theory is integrated throughout the course, and the relationship between grounds of discrimination and other human rights is explored. The course will be predominantly based on materials from the US, Canada, South Africa, India, the UK, EU, and ECHR, although some materials from other Commonwealth countries or individual European countries will be included. International human rights instruments are also examined. Employment related discrimination is generally dealt with in the International and European Employment Law course. The course does not require previous knowledge of equality or discrimination law. Students are encouraged to participate in the activities of the Oxford Human Rights Hub, which is directed by Professor Fredman. Guest seminars organised by the Oxford Human Rights Hub take place on alternative Tuesdays at lunchtime during term time. The Hub website features daily blogs on cutting edge new developments in human rights and equality law, and students on the course are encouraged both to read and to contribute to the blog. The Hub also produces webinars and podcasts on pressing current issues in comparative human rights and equality law.