Committee proposes act forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation

Sweden should adopt legislation which forbids employers to discriminate against workers on grounds of their sexual orientation, according to a proposal presented on 1 December 1997 by an official committee.

At present, Sweden has no legislation expressly forbidding discrimination in working life on grounds of sexual orientation. At the beginning of 1997 the Government appointed a committee with the task of investigating if there was a need for such legislation.

The trade union confederations and employers' organisations took the standpoint that there is no such need. Nevertheless, on 1 December 1997 the committee proposed that an act against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation be adopted with effect from 1 January 1999 (SOU 1997:175). It argues that an extremely convincing case that there is no need for protective rules is required if the idea of protection with regard to sexual orientation is to be rejected: however, the surveys and other source materials that the committee has examined show the need for such legislation. Discrimination occurs, even if it is difficult to assess its extent. Besides, the issue of principle is more important than the extent of discrimination.

The proposed act would forbid employers from discriminating against job applicants and employees because of their sexual orientation, and also obliges employers to prevent harassment. The term sexual orientation comprises homosexual, bisexual and heterosexual orientation. The committee makes a distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behaviour, such as paedophilia and exhibitionism, which can be practised by heterosexual persons as well as by homosexual and bisexual persons. Sexual behaviour should thus not be covered by the protection.

The ban on discrimination would means that homosexual and bisexual persons should not be treated less favourably than heterosexual people in working life. If they were, they should be entitled to damages, even in cases where the employer did not intend to cause injury or detriment. The decisive factor would be if the employer in fact has allowed a person's sexual orientation to control its actions.

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