Article 2:
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.


In the 1935 case of Minority Schools in Albania, the Permanent Court of International Justice defined "equality" as follows:

1. equality in law: precludes discrimination of any kind;
2. equality in fact: may involve the necessity of different treatment in order to attain a different result which establishes an equilibrium between different situations. (Henkin, Human Rights, at 1030)

Not all distinctions on grounds such as race, gender and religion necessarily violate the prohibition on discrimination. If a distinction has an objective and reasonable justification, legitimate aim and a reasonable relationship of proportionality between the means employed and the aim sought to be realized, it may not constitute discrimination (see Belgian Linguistics Case, 6 Eur. Ct. H.R. (ser. A) 34, 1 E.H.R.R 252 (1968) in Henkin, Human Rights, at 1027).

The Human Rights Committee has also noted in its General Comment No. 18 of 1989 that:

Not every differentiation of treatment will constitute discrimination, if the criteria of such differentiation are reasonable and objective and if the aim is to achieve a purpose which is legitimate under the Covenant. (General Comment No. 18, para. 13 (1989) in Henkin, Human Rights, at 1027).

Peter Danchin, Columbia University