Internet platform for studying Xenophobia, Radicalism and Problems of Intercultural communication.

Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Anti-Discrimination Legislation The French Constitution of 1791.

France is the birthplace of human rights, and as such it has one of the most advanced anti-discrimination and anti-racism legislations. Constitutional acts in France acknowledge equality regarding the law, equality between men and women, equality regardless of race and nationality, equal rights for labour regardless of background, views and beliefs, equal rights to education, culture, learning a profession. These rights are based on the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, to which the country’s modern Constitution is linked and which in its preamble states that "the French nation boldly proclaims its allegiance to human rights... as they were defined by the Declaration of 1789 and the Constitution of 1946”. Article 1 of the French constitution states that France “must provide for equality of all citizens before the law, regardless of origin, race or religions and respect all faiths”.

In 1994, a new Penal Code came into force in France. It made penalties for any forms of racial discrimination more severe. According to it obvious notions of racism and xenophobia are to be penalized, as well as promoting racial discrimination. Criminal liability is also foreseen for "incitement of hatred and violence towards a person or group of people on the basis of their ethnical, religious or racial background». Public slander and offence based on racial and religious background are also crimes. Committing a crime on the basis of racial or ethnical background, nationality, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity is considered as an aggravating circumstance. Apart from that the Penal code foresees separate qualifications for murders, torture, rape, violence and threat of violence based on the mentioned reasons. However not included are cases of committing crimes on the basis of disability, belonging to a migrant community or the victims’ social status.

French Penal code even forbids gathering information about a person’s ethnical and religious background.

All in all, France as the majority of EU countries follows EU directives. On the 29th of June 2000 the EU Council passed directive 2000/43 «Providing implementation of the equality principle between persons regardless of their racial or ethnical background». By 2003 all countries belonging to the EU at that moment including France adapted their national legislations according to the norms of this Directive. On the 3rd of February 2003 France passed an Act about "Intensification of punishments foreseen for crimes of racial, anti-Semitic and xenophobic character".

Six months after implementing the Directive, on the 4th of November 2000, the European Council offered to sign the 12th Protocol to The European Convention on Human Rights, significantly increasing the possibilities of Section 14 of the Convention regarding non-discrimination.

Passing these two instruments opened a way for a historic possibility to improve anti-racist and anti-discriminatory legislative standards in Europe. No less important is the fact that they also make way for creating effective structures with sufficient judicial power and resources to guarantee upholding the passed laws. These main EU documents were prepared based on the existing legislative practices and on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

An important moment in European anti-racist legislation is that Article 5 of the Directive, Protocol № 12 to The European Convention on Human Rights, Article 1(4) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination makes countries implement positive actions by "doing certain things to prevent or compensate for damages connected to racial or ethnical background".

In order to more strictly prevent any forms of racism and anti-Semitism a French legislator added such aggravating circumstances as threats, thefts and extortion to crimes committed on the basis of hatred and increased the “legal expiry dates” for actions of racial or anti-Semitic behavior connected to publications in the press (the so called Law of “Perben the 2nd” of the 9th of March, 2004 about adding corrections to the justice system in the light of new tendencies in the crime sphere).

Legislation adopted on November 13, 2014, includes xenophobic statements in the term “abuse of freedom of expression”. However, it does not take into account whether such statements incite to violence or not .

For many years France has hosted laws regarding Genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity with written sanctions attached to them. However, only the law regarding «denial of the Holocaust» received a practical implementation. It foresees a prison sentence of one year and a fine for the amount of 45'000 Euros.

On December 8, France signed an agreement with the United States about the payment of 60 million dollars to French Jews who were deported during the Holocaust . Chapter Two of the Sports Code deals with security issues and includes provisions on the prosecution of racist acts. In particular, Article L332-6 condemns any incitement to racial hatred or violence against a judge or his assistants, a player or any other person or group of individuals. The sanctions envisaged are one year of imprisonment and a fine of 15,000 euros. Similar penalties are provided for hanging xenophobic banners, or symbols (article L332-7).

French law allows the dissolution (or suspension for a period not exceeding twelve months) of any association or group of fans whose members are engaged in incitement to racial hatred or discrimination. The sanctions envisaged are one year of imprisonment and a fine of 15,000 euros. Involvement in the activities of such organizations and an attempt to continue their activities after the ban leads to a doubling of fines. The fine is increased threefold if hatred is related to the origin of the victim, sexual orientation or identity, sex, belonging (real or perceived) to a particular ethnic group, nation, race or religion (L332-11, L332-13 and L332-16).

It is important that European (and therefore French ) legislation for combating discrimination includes such terms as "direct" and "indirect" discrimination in the boundaries of the so called forbidden action (Article 2 of the Directive). In the EU Directive goals "direct discrimination" is defined as a situation in which "one person is treated worse than another in a similar situation based on racial or ethnical background" (Article 2(2)a of the Directive), meanwhile "indirect discrimination” according to Article 2(2)b of the Directive takes place ”if a visibly neutral circumstance, criteria or practice places a person of a certain racial or ethnical background into an inconvenient situation compared to other persons, but only if this circumstance, criteria or practice aren’t objectively justified by a legal goal and the actions required to reach this goal aren’t adequate and necessary”.

French anti-discrimination legislation practically allows the government to apply certain measures in order to reach an adequate level of representation of ethnical, religious and other minorities in various spheres of social and community life. Such measures can affect employment for members of groups, that historically did not have access to equal participation, as well as an active identification and employment of such persons in the civil service sphere including but not limited to police, the public prosecution office and courts.

European anti-discriminatory legislation also includes the prohibition of “orders” to discriminate and indulge discrimination based on prohibited grounds (Article 2(4) of the Directive and Article 4(a) and (c) CEDAW). Notably, the legislation is implemented "in both public and private sectors, including state institutions" (Article 3 (1) of the Directive). In such a way the legislation defines that discrimination committed by an independent entrepreneur or a restaurant owner is forbidden in the same way as discrimination committed by a policeman or social service employee.

According to the mentioned legislation discrimination is prohibited in the following areas (but not limited to them): terms of access to employment (Article 3 (1) (a) of the EU Directive); assistance in the choice of profession, coaching and retraining courses (Article 3(1)(b) of the EU Directive); employment and terms for work, including issues regarding employment termination and salary (Article 3 (1) (c) of the Directive); social security (Article 3 (1) (e) of the Directive); healthcare (Article 3 (1) (е) of the Directive); social benefits (Article 3 (1) (f) of the Directive); education (Article 3 (1) (g) of the Directive); access to goods and delivery of goods and services available to the public (Article 3 (1) (h) of the Directive); residence (Article 3 (1) (h) of the Directive); provision of justice including guarantee of a person’s safety (Article 5(a) and (b)of the CEDAW and Article 6, 13, 14 of the ECHR); political activity including the right to vote and be employed in civil service (Article 5(c) of the CEDAW and Article 14 of the ECHR and article 3 of the № 1 Protocol to ECHR).

In 2002 the following principal changes and additions were inserted into EU Directive 76/207 by the Council and European Parliament Directive of the 23rd of October 2002:

  • definitions of direct and indirect discrimination became fixed as to Directive 2000/43/ EU and Directive 2000/78/EU;
  • rules of compensating damages to a person who suffered from discrimination were defined;
  • criteria for differentiation of employees based on gender were broadened and higher guarantees of providing gender equality were set, including possibilities to provide leave for family reasons for both genders;
  • means of protection circle broadened, including the possibility for a discriminated person to turn to the according non-governmental institutions for help and the development of collaboration between member countries and such organizations;
  • state of sexual harassment added.

The legislation foresees protection from discrimination based on race in the sphere of education, access to goods and services, healthcare, social security and social benefits; protection from discrimination based on other ground, including sexual orientation, age, disability, religion or beliefs is limited by the job market.

In 2000, France adopted the law requiring municipalities with population over 5000 to establish campsites for nomads, with access to water and electricity.

In September 2012, Minister of Education issued three memos, reminding councils that municipalities must provide all children with education (including nomads, Roma and migrants), and appointing officials responsible for overseeing this.

On August 26, 2012, a memo was issued prohibiting evictions from informal settlements without the provision of alternative housing.

On March 24, France issued a moratorium on eviction from informal settlements between November 1 and March 31.

In 2012 the definition of protection from discrimination on the basis of “sexual identity”, which primarily concerned LGBT, were added to the Labour Code.

On the 12th of February 2013 members of the National Assembly of France by the majority of votes legalized same gender marriage and the right of such families to raise a child. 329 of 577 members voted «For», 299 - «Against» . On the 18th of May French President Francois Hollande signed this act .

On September 29, French Court of Cassation ruled that two married women have the right to parent a child by artificial insemination. Previously this was only allowed for opposite-sex couples .

On July 24, 2015, France passed the intelligence bill, which most notably, allows secret services to install so called black boxes at Internet service providers’ to monitor traffic and suspect behavioural patterns by analysing traffic meta-data in real time.

In 2015, France reformed its immigration legislation. Legislators obliged the migration authorities to consider asylum applications three times as fast – a maximum of 9 months instead of 24. After that, the person seeking asylum either acquired refugee status or was subject to deportation from the country. In addition, asylum-seekers have now been resettled throughout France (which unloaded the Paris region), under the threat of losing social assistance and other privileges, to special camps whose construction plan was submitted by the government in the same year. In addition, the parliament began to discuss a new bill on the status and rights of foreigners.

France has taken significant steps in combating xenophobia and hate crime in 2015, introducing the New National Plan of Action to Counter Racism and Anti-Semitism for the period until 2017. The plan was published on April 17, 2015 and contains the following elements: organisation of a public awareness campaign in support of national minorities; physical protection of Jewish and Islamic schools, places of worship, etc.; establishment of a national department to combat hate speech online, and others. However, more importantly, the plan proposes a prompt modification of the French criminal law to introduce racism and anti-Semitism as aggravating circumstances in all violations. On October 8, 2015, President Hollande instructed the Justice Minister to prepare a formal proposal of this bill by the end of the year .

On December 22, 2016, the Equality Act came into force in France. It defined racial hatred and hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation as aggravating circumstances in the commission of crimes. The Act provides also for the creation of a volunteer corps of civil service. The members would help schoolchildren from immigrant families in mastering the French language, the basics of French law, etc. The French legislator believes that this will help in the integration of foreigners.

On May 13, 2020, Parliament passed a new law known as "loi Avia", named after MP Laetitia Avia, who belongs to President Macron's "Republic on the March" party. This bill aims to combat various forms of hate speech on the Internet, terrorist speech and child pornography. According to it, Internet platforms must remove certain types of "clearly" illegal content within 24 hours after a user has complained about it. At the same time, the law provides for hefty fines if the platforms fail to comply with the law. The bill was similar in many ways to Germany's June 2017 law. NetzDG, which imposes significant fines on platforms if they fail to remove "clearly" illegal content within 24 hours of being reported by a user. Avia's bill has received strong support from anti-racist NGOs such as LICRA and SOS-Racisme, who are concerned about the increasing use of social media to spread conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, and Islamophobic content.

Still, others have denounced it as untimely and undesirable from a free speech perspective. Some objected to its timing, since on May 2 the French government extended the pandemic-induced "public health emergency" until July 24, and critics pointed out that there is something inherently authoritarian about passing a law to limit free speech during a state of emergency, when demonstrations are not allowed and debates in parliament are not as vibrant as during a normal period because very few members of parliament actually take the floor or attend meetings. Many critics also objected to the merits of the law. The conservative Les Republicains party described it as "an attack on freedom of speech. The chairman of the far-right National Marines Le Pen party called it "oppressive," as did Alexis Corbière, an MP from the radical leftist La France Insoumis party. Some human rights NGOs have opposed the law on the grounds that the destruction of hate-filled content is the sole responsibility of platforms, with a judge appearing in the process only after the content has been removed, and only for the purpose of prosecuting the author of that content under the French racial discrimination laws of 1972 and 1990. In practice, the law obliges the platform to remove content that has been called "monstrous" by users. It is up to platforms to decide what they owe for hatred on the Internet; the law makes it easier for people to report hate content; an Internet Hate Observatory is created under the direction of the Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel (CSA), which is the regulatory body for communications.

On July 30, 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron signed the Law "On the Prevention of Terrorism and Intelligence Collection". The new law permanently updates the measures of the 2017 law , which was due to expire on July 31, 2021 . These measures are:

  • The ability of local prefects to establish special protection perimeters around venues and/or events deemed particularly vulnerable to terrorist attacks, such as concerts or sporting events.
  • The right of prefects to close places of worship where terrorism, hatred or discrimination are promoted is confirmed.<.li>
  • The right of the executive branch to impose "individual surveillance and surveillance measures" on persons who pose a "particularly serious" terrorist threat.
  • The ability of local prefects, with a judge's permission, to order law enforcement officers to search any place when there is "serious reason to believe" that the place is frequented by a suspected terrorist.

This law also adds new additions to these measures, as well as making them permanent. In addition to the ability to close places of worship that promote terrorism, hatred or discrimination, the government will be able to close facilities associated with these places of worship. In addition, "judicial measures for rehabilitation and prevention of recidivism of terrorist activity" will be applied to those convicted of terrorism found to be especially dangerous. These measures, which will be decided separately by the court at the end of a prison sentence, may include an obligation to reside in a certain place, to attend questioning by a judge and to attend social, medical, educational or psychological support programs. These measures can only be imposed on persons sentenced to five years of imprisonment or more for acts related to terrorism. At the same time, a number of experts consider such measures as closing mosques unnecessary (because most radicalization of French Muslims occurs mainly in prisons and on the Internet) and discriminatory (because Muslim rights are infringed in this way).

Back to list

© 2017 Civic Nation
Created by – NBS-Media