Equinet’s latest publication “Equality Bodies working on cases without an identifiable victim: Actio popularis” gives an overview of the legal standing of Equality Bodies across Europe and by sharing cases in which Equality Bodies used actio popularis, explains why this is a power that needs to be given to all Equality Bodies in Europe.
Equality Bodies are equality watchdogs. They ensure that the principle of equality is respected through, among other things, providing assistance to victims of discrimination and restoring justice. However, it is vital that Equality Bodies defend equality beyond bringing individual cases of discrimination to courts and regardless of whether or not there is a victim coming forward. The current individually-centred discrimination legal model would be completed by providing Equality Bodies with the power of acting on collective complaints, such as actio popularis.
Collective redress reinforces and complements the individual redress system, ensuring access to justice for all victims of discrimination. There are many barriers to individual claims of discrimination, namely the costs of litigation, the complexity of procedures, and time constraints. In some cases, no victim can be identified, such as for discrimination caused by artificial intelligence, equal pay, or for discriminatory public speech affecting a large group of people, and actio popularis then becomes fundamental to restoring justice. Moreover, actio popularis helps address structural and collective discrimination, as oftentimes discriminatory behaviours affect entire communities and society as a whole. It allows Equality Bodies to protect right-holders before they become victims.
However, the legal standing of Equality Bodies varies greatly across Europe and the power to start an actio popularis is still not widely given to Equality Bodies.
This reports maps the variety of legal standing of Equality Bodies, reports examples of Equinet Members using actio popularis to tackle discrimination in their country, and explains the usefulness of this power to achieve equality.