In a just and fair society, person-related factors such as disability, sexual orientation or skin colour, should not impact a person’s access to education or services, or their job prospects. Fundamental rights belong to everyone.
Equality means that all people are equal, irrespective of their age, ethnic or national origin, nationality, language, religion or belief, opinion, disability, health, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression or other personal characteristics.
In the Constitution of Finland, the principle of equality refers to both the prohibition of discrimination and equality of individuals before the law. The Non-Discrimination Act, Criminal Code, Act on Equality between Women and Men, and labour legislation contain more detailed provisions on the prohibition of discrimination in different areas of life.
Achieving substantive equality requires active efforts
People have different starting points and opportunities in society. Treating everybody the same does not always guarantee equality. In fact, achieving substantive equality requires active efforts to eliminate inequality based on discrimination, and this can be done by taking measures to promote equality, such as positive action. Achieving substantive equality also requires tackling indirect discrimination. Even if all people were treated the same, such treatment may indirectly discriminate against certain individuals. Thus, treating everybody in the same manner does not guarantee equality or non-discrimination.
Achieving substantive equality may therefore require positive action or for people with disabilities reasonable accommodations. The aim of the obligation imposed on certain actors in the Non-Discrimination Act to promote equality is also to achieve substantive equality.