C.22 - Eradicate discrimination towards the elderly

C.22 - Eradicate discrimination towards the elderly
Eradicate the multiple forms of discrimination that affect older persons, including all forms of violence against older women and men, taking into account the obligations of States with respect to ageing with dignity and rights.
Priority measure number


The goals and indicators must consider the particular situation of indigenous and Afro-descendent boys, girls, adolescents and young people, pursuant to priority measure 89 (which refers to combating violence, in the chapter on indigenous peoples) and priority measure 93 (referring to the need to take into account overlapping dimensions of racial, gender and generational inequalities, in the chapter on Afro-descendent persons).

The Inter-American Convention on protecting the human rights of older persons provides a definition of “multiple discrimination” and “age discrimination in old age”. The former is understood as “Any distinction, exclusion, or restriction toward an older person, based on two or more discrimination factors”, and the latter as “Any distinction, exclusion, or restriction based on age, the purpose or effect of which is to annul or restrict recognition, enjoyment, or exercise, on an equal basis, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, cultural, economic, social, or any other sphere of public and private life.”

The indicator of the perception of older persons as a group suffering discrimination was included in the Mexico City Survey on Discrimination (EDISCdMx 2013), carried out in June 2013 in all the city’s municipalities. Similarly, questions were included about the perceptions of European citizens with regard to job security and labour mobility in the Eurobarometer Survey and the perception of mistreatment of older persons in Latinobarómetro. In Colombia, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection included several questions on perception in the Health, Well-being and Ageing (SABE) Survey of 2013 (for example: perception of support, security and well-being, quality of care, and so forth).

Possible lines of action

1. Pass legislation eliminating formal and substantive discrimination on the basis of age and assign the corresponding obligations to public and private players. 2. Review laws regularly, and amend them if necessary, to ensure that they do not discriminate, either formally or substantively, against older persons in the exercise of their human rights. 3. Draw up action plans to combat formal and substantive discrimination against older persons in the exercise of their human rights. 4. Educate and train public officials to combat discrimination, including judges and candidates for positions in the justice system. 5. Adopt suitable measures —legislative, administrative or other— to guarantee differential and preferential treatment for older persons in all spheres. 6. Employ incentives or penalties to encourage public and private players to change their attitude and their behaviour towards older persons. 7. Create programmes to boost awareness about the systemic discrimination that older persons suffer in the exercise of their human rights. 8. Establish accessible mechanisms in the courts, the administrative authorities, national human rights institutions or public defenders’ offices to handle complaints of discrimination against older persons. 9. Repeal laws that discriminate against widows with respect to their inheritance rights and protect them from dispossession of their lands.

Related instruments, forums and mechanisms

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in its general comment No. 20, established that: “Age is a prohibited ground of discrimination in several contexts. The Committee has highlighted the need to address discrimination against unemployed older persons in finding work, or accessing professional training or re-training and against older persons living in poverty with unequal access to universal old age pensions due to their place of residence” (Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, general comment No. 20 “Non-discrimination in economic, social and cultural rights”, (E/C.12/GC/20), 2 July 2009).

The Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing has as a central theme the need to ensure “the full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, and civil and political rights of persons and the elimination of all forms of violence and discrimination against older persons”, and its recommendations on labour and health include various provisions relating to non-discrimination on the basis of age or other factors (see [online] http://undesadspd.org/Portals/0/ageing/documents/Fulltext-E.pdf).

This measure is also related to the Sustainable Development Goals and their targets, in particular target 5.2 (“Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation”), target 10.2 (“By 2030 empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religious or economic or other status”), target 10.3 (“Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including through eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and actions in this regard”), and target 16.1 (“Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere”).

 Article 5 on Equality and non-discrimination of the Inter-American Convention on protecting the human rights of older persons prohibits discrimination based on the age of older persons. Article 9 on the Right to safety and a life free of violence of any kind establishes that, “Older persons have the right to safety and a life without violence of any kind, to be treated with dignity, and to be respected and appreciated regardless of their race, color, sex, language, culture, religion, political or other opinions, social origin, nationality, ethnicity, indigenous and cultural identity, socio-economic status, disability, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, economic contribution, or any other condition.” Article 10 on the Right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, establishes that “Older persons have the right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.” In all cases the obligations of the States are identified in regard to the protection of rights.

C. Ageing and social protection