In human social affairs, discrimination is treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person based on the group, class, or category to which the person is perceived to belong rather than on individual attributes. This includes treatment of an individual or group, based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or social category, “in a way that is worse than the way people are usually treated”.

It involves the group’s initial reaction or interaction going on to influence the individual’s actual behavior towards the group leader or the group, restricting members of one group from opportunities or privileges that are available to another group, leading to the exclusion of the individual or entities based on logical or irrational decision making.

Discriminatory traditions, policies, ideas, practices and laws exist in many countries and institutions in every part of the world, including in territories where discrimination is generally looked down upon. In some places, controversial attempts such as quotas have been used to benefit those who are believed to be current or past victims of discrimination, but they have sometimes been called reverse discrimination.

In the US, a government policy known as affirmative action was instituted to encourage employers and universities to seek out and accept groups such as African Americans and women, who have been subject to discrimination for a long time.

Based on realistic-conflict theory and social-identity theory, there are three types of discrimination:

  • Realistic competition is driven by self-interest and is aimed at obtaining material resources (food, territory, customers) for the in-group (favoring an in-group in order to obtain more resources for its members, including the self).
  • Social competition is driven by the need for self-esteem and is aimed at achieving a positive social status for the in-group relative to comparable out-groups (favoring an in-group in order to make it better than an out-group).
  • Consensual discrimination is driven by the need for accuracy and reflects stable and legitimate intergroup status hierarchies (favoring a high-status in-group because it is high status).

The United Nations stance on discrimination includes the statement: “Discriminatory behaviors take many forms, but they all involve some form of exclusion or rejection.” International bodies United Nations Human Rights Council work towards helping ending discrimination around the world.

Everyone has the right to be treated fairly and respectfully. When someone is being discriminated against, it means they’re being treated badly or unfairly based on a personal characteristic.

Common reasons that people are discriminated against:

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  • their sex or gender
  • if they have any kind of disability
  • their race
  • their age
  • their sexual preferences.

Some examples of discrimination:

  • someone saying hurtful things or attacking you repeatedly
  • being made fun of
  • being excluded or left out
  • having a group of people gang up on you
  • being made to do hurtful or inappropriate things
  • being threatened
  • finding yourself having to defend who you are and what you believe
  • against stereotypes and untrue claims.

It’s against the law to be discriminated against in these areas of public life:

  • the workplace
  • school or university
  • accommodation
  • government services
  • accessing goods, services and facilities.

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