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What is discrimination?

Discrimination is the phenomenon of behaviour that results in a person being treated differently (unfavourably, harmfully) from others in a comparable situation.

The Constitution of the Republic of Poland states in Article 32 that everyone is equal before the law and everyone has the right to equal treatment by public authorities (para. 1). No one may be discriminated against in political, social or economic life for any reason (para. 2). It should also be taken into account that the legislator has specifically addressed the issue of gender equality, stating in Article 33 of the Constitution that a woman and a man in the Republic of Poland have equal rights in family, political, social and economic life.

Discrimination is a form of unjustified and non-objective, stereotype-based marginalisation of representatives of certain social groups on the basis of characteristics such as:

  • gender,
  • age,
  • disability,
  • sexual orientation and identity,
  • skin colour,
  • national or ethnic origin,
  • religion, belief or world-view.

Discriminatory behaviour occurs in various areas of our lives, such as in education or at work. In turn, each of us can become a victim or witness to it, or even an unwitting perpetrator. This is because discrimination takes different forms, ranging from jokes and small gestures, to unthinking or intentional beliefs or copied rituals and customs, to manifestly unjust behaviour.

It is not discrimination to treat people differently if the reason for this is related to a genuine occupational requirement.

It is also not discrimination to treat people differently in order to equalise opportunities.


Discrimination vs. stereotypes and prejudices

Discrimination results from the preceding negative beliefs (over-generalised judgements, stereotypes) about a group of people and from the resulting prejudices, i.e. attitudes, negative emotions felt towards the stereotyped people.
Stereotype (judgment), Prejudice (emotional attitude), Discrimination (behavior)
A stereotype is a set of judgements about members of some group (e.g. a stereotype of femininity includes beliefs that women are submissive, passive and caring), prejudice is an emotional attitude, an opinion (e.g. a dislike of women), whereas discrimination is a behaviour (e.g. overlooking women for promotion).