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Discrimination is forbidden in the UN's Universal declaration on human rights. In short, discrimination is at hand when identical situations are handled differently. As we will show, there are different types of reprehensive behaviour.


The world of research has long been mostly a male world. The Discrimination Act establishes that men and women are equal and that all employers are obliged to pursue active, goal-oriented work toward equality. Furthermore, the law states that it is obligatory for universities/colleges to draw up plans for equality. Among other things, these plans are to state how the law's requirements (that working conditions be suited to both genders, that both men and women seek available positions and that sexual harassment is avoided) will be met. In 2011, a public inquiry suggested how equality could be strenghtened in universities (Svart på vitt).

Internationally, in a European parliament resolution of 21 May 2008 on women and science, the European Union has noted the importance of equality prevailing in the world of scientists. Equality is also established already in article 141 of the treaty establishing the European Community. See also The European Parliament resolution of 27 September 2007 on equality between women and men in the European Union - 2007. The Council of Europe has a declaration on equality of women and men. Through its Recommendation 1229 (1994), the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly has also expressed itself on equality between women and men. The United Nations has a Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against women. It has been ratified by Sweden, which through a supplementary protocol gives individual women the right to lodge a complaint to the UN if their country does not live up to the commitment it made under the convention to counteract discrimination and to promote equality.

A researcher can use Sex and Gender Questions from EASE to see if gender issues are adequately addressed in a manuscript.

Sexual harassment

According to the Discrimination Act, sexual harassment entails "conduct of a sexual nature that violates someone’s dignity". Regulations concerning sexual harassment can also be found in the higher education ordinance's chapters 1 & 10, förordningen för SLU (SFS 1993:221) (the ordinance for SLU), indirectly in the Work Environment Act's (SFS 1977:1160) 2 kap. 2 § och 3 kap. 2 § and in the laws on anställningsskydd (SFS 1982:80) (employment security) and the Public Employment Act (SFS 1994:260). See also Regeringsformens 1 kap. 2 § och 2 kap 16 § (the Constitution's Chapter 1, Par. 2 and Chapter 2, Par. 16).


Beginning 1 January 2009, a new Discrimination Act replaces the older Equal Opportunities Act and Anti-discrimination Laws. The new law addresses two new discrimination bases besides sexual preference, disability and ethnic affiliation, religion or other belief system: age and gender-crossing identity or expression. An individual who has been discriminated against will be entitled to compensation, which is intended to function both to compensate for the insulting treatment and to deter against further discrimination. A new authority, the Discrimination Ombudsman, will monitor whether the law is being followed. At the same time, the earlier Equal Opportunities Ombudsman, Ombudsman against Ethnic Discrimination, Handicap Ombudsman and Ombudsman against Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation will be phased out. The Discrimination Ombudsman will have the right to speak in court for an individual who believes he or she has been discriminated against.

Now a common framework in Sweden has been established for active work to promote equal rights and opportunities [Ett övergripande ramverk för aktiva åtgärder i syfte att främja lika rättigheter och möjligheter]. This entails an obligation that encompasses all discriminary bases mentioned in the discrimination act.

Concerning EC law, Directive 2000/43/EC implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin should be mentioned, as well as Directive 2000/78/EC establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation. Furthermore, the EU Council has decided to establish an action programme to combat discrimination (Council Decision 2000/750/EC). The Council of Europe has, in the 12th protocol in connection with the European Convention on human rights, generally forbidden discrimination. There is also a United Nations convention from 1965 on the abolition of all forms of race discrimination (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) as well as a 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the EU and thereby Sweden now have accepted.

In other areas, in its constitution the International Labour Organization (to which Sweden belongs) has spoken out against all discrimination. The organization also has a convention (no. 111) concerning discrimination with regard to employment and trade practice. A fundamental document for the work fighting discrimination against the handicapped are the UN's standard rules from 1993. Furthermore, Inclusion International has presented The Inclusion International Principles.

To report

Reports regarding discrimination in the college setting are to be submitted to the head of department or president, but can also be submitted to the national trade union or the Discrimination Ombudsman. It can be a matter of voluntary measures, or in other cases the ombudsman can forward the case to the Nämnden mot diskriminering [committee on discrimination], who can impose on the employer a conditional fine order, requiring the employer to bring about a change. The case can also be taken up by the Labour Court. A person who is represented by neither a trade union nor an ombudsman can take the case to district court, and further to the Labour Court. An appeal can in the college setting be made to the Överklagandenämnden för högskolan [Appeal board for colleges].


As opposed to abusive treatment such as harassment on the grounds of ethnic origin or gender, bullying does not fall under labour legislation but instead under the Work Environment Act (SFS 1977:1160). The Industrial Welfare Board issues regulations in this area. Reports of bullying, which is classified as occupational injury, are submitted to the employer, who is obliged to report the case to the regional social insurance office.

Last updated: 2019-09-12

Rules & guidelines

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