Discrimination law is a legal success story. It has put down roots in multiple legal systems, and its scope of application has expanded to cover multiple different grounds of discrimination and spheres of human activity. However, it still remains a source of controversy. Uncertainty persists as to its purpose and justification, as well as to how legal prohibitions on discrimination should be interpreted and applied. Attempts have been made to identify a single normative foundation for discrimination law, which could form the basis for a uniform interpretative approach to be applied across all elements of discrimination law. However, it is questionable whether such a uniform approach is feasible or desirable. Discrimination law can be viewed as a multi-faceted set of legal responses to different forms of unequal treatment. As a consequence, different elements of discrimination law can and should be interpreted in different ways, within certain limits – meaning that for example approaches to gender or race equality need not for example to automatically carried over to the context of age or religious discrimination.


About the Speaker

Professor Colm O’Cinneide is a Professor in Human Rights Law at University College London, specialising in human rights, comparative constitutional and anti-discrimination law. He is also currently General Rapporteur of the European Committee of Social Rights (having served as Vice-President of the Committee from 2008-12) and a member of the Blackstone Chambers Academic Panel.


This event is being co-hosted with the Oxford Human Rights Hub