NHRCK Calls on 21st National Assembly to Promptly Enact Equality Law
- NHRCK statement marking the one-year anniversary of its opinion calling for enactment of equality law-
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea(NHRCK) issued a call for the 21st National Assembly to work together to adopt an equality law on June 30 2006, 14 years after the release of its recommendation for the enactment of anti-discrimination legislation in 2006, out of recognition that the passage of an equality law is an urgent issue that can no longer be delayed to realize the basic principles of human dignity, equality and democracy upheld by the Constitution.
On June 16, Representative Sang-min Lee of the Democratic Party of Korea and 23 other members of the National Assembly tabled the equality bill which is based upon the draft version presented by the NHRCK. The Commission fully welcomes and admires the steps taken towards passing the equality law and thank the 24 lawmakers on behalf of the people of the Republic of Korea for taking action for the passage of the equality law.
The international community, including UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies, has repeatedly called upon the Republic of Korea to enact an equality law(comprehensive anti-discrimination law). We learned from the roundtable meeting with ambassadors to Korea, organized by the NHRCK on June 11, that other countries also had to deal with concerns raised about unintended negative consequences of an equality law, but the enactment of the equality law proved to be a huge leap forward in building an inclusive society that respects the rights of and realizes the full potential of its members.
The meeting also was an occasion to highlight the critical importance of legislating a response to discrimination issues in protecting democracy and human rights in the Korean society and reaffirm the pledge of support and cooperation in this regard from the international community.
Over the past year, the NHRCK has listened to the views from the religious community and other sectors of our society with regards to an equality law. In addition, with a view to building a consensus on the enactment of an equality law and raise awareness about its importance among the public and members of the National Assembly, the NHRCK organized briefing sessions and thematic discussions and conducted a fact-finding survey. International conferences and meetings with ambassadors were also held to seek support from and collaboration with the international community. The NHRCK found from its survey on public attitudes towards discrimination that nine out of ten people recognized the need to enact a law to protect the right to equality. Moreover, more than 100,000 people signed an online petition on the enactment of anti-discrimination law(equality law). This reminds us that the enactment of an equality law is an urgent task that can no longer be ignored or delayed. It appears evident that the National Assembly cannot afford to remain silent on this issue citing the need for a public consensus.
With little progress being made in the debate on an equality law, we have seen a rise in hate and discrimination in the political, economic and social spheres and the tragic consequences of the absence of legal protections such as the death of the former transgender soldier Byun Hee-soo.
The NHRCK strongly urges the 21st National Assembly to work together for the enactment of an equality law. It is a serious call from the citizens who have waited over the past 15 years for the legislature to pass a law that bans discrimination in all spheres of life, provides effective remedies for victims of discrimination and prevents acts of discrimination to realize the human dignity and equality, and the National Assembly has a duty to promptly respond to this call. Accordingly, the NHRCK reiterates its call for the National Assembly to accelerate its efforts for the introduction of an equality law.
The NHRCK will continue to make every possible effort for the passage of an equality law which will help us realize equality for all.