Age discrimination and the European Court of Human Rights: is progress possible?

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Author: Elena Sorokina

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2023-2-3-16

Keywords: human rights; discrimination; age discrimination; European Convention on Human Rights; European Court of Human Rights


The number of human rights issues commanding and deserving attention throughout the world is undeniably growing. Age discrimination is one of these issues. If, and how, judicial authorities including the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) respond is one factor that could lead to real change on this issue. Age is not one of the protected grounds explicitly mentioned in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR). Age as a discriminatory distinction has been little discussed in the case law of the ECtHR. The prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of age has long played no role in its jurisprudence. It was only in 2010, in Schwizgebel v. Switzerland, that the Court recognized for the first time, at least indirectly, that age also falls within the category of “other status” within the meaning of Article 14 of the ECHR. Although the Court has issued few decisions in age discrimination cases, a certain approach has emerged. The Court gives rather broad scope to Member States to justify differential treatment on the basis of age, due to these States’ lack of a common approach or consensus on enacting measures in certain areas of legal regulation. Also, where age discrimination claims have been raised alongside or in combination with another ground of discrimination, such as sex, there is tendency for the Court to dismiss the age element of the claim in favor of resolving the case on the other, traditional ground. However, the adoption by the Court of an anti-stereotypical approach may encourage evolution and change in the treatment of age discrimination cases, so that applicants gradually will receive the necessary protection.

About the author: Elena Sorokina – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Research Fellow of the Human Rights Department, Institute of State and Law, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Sorokina E. (2023) Vozrastnaya diskriminatsiya i Evropeyskiy Sud po pravam cheloveka: budet li progress? [Age discrimination and the European Court of Human Rights: is progress possible?]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 3–16. (In Russian).


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