General Comment No. 20

UN Economic and Social Council


Non-discrimination in economic, social and cultural rights (art. 2, para. 2, of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights)


  1. Non-discrimination and equality are fundamental components of international human rights law and essential to the exercise and enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. Article 2, paragraph 2, of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the Covenant) obliges each State party “to guarantee that the rights enunciated in the present Covenant will be exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”.
  2. The principles of non-discrimination and equality are recognized throughout the Covenant. The preamble stresses the “equal and inalienable rights of all” and the Covenant expressly recognizes the rights of “everyone” to the various Covenant rights such as, inter alia, the right to work, just and favourable conditions of work, trade union freedoms, social security, an adequate standard of living, health and education and participation in cultural life.


A. Express grounds

Sexual orientation and gender identity

  1. “Other status” as recognized in article 2, paragraph 2, includes sexual orientation.24 States parties should ensure that a person’s sexual orientation is not a barrier to realizing Covenant rights, for example, in accessing survivor’s pension rights. In addition, gender identity is recognized as among the prohibited grounds of discrimination; for example, persons who are transgender, transsexual or intersex often face serious human rights violations, such as harassment in schools or in the workplace.25


24 See CESCR general comments Nos. 14 and 15.
25 For definitions, see the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

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Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Forty-second session
Geneva, 4-22 May 2009
Agenda item 3