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Can different NGOs based on gender, colour, nationality or religion be considered unequal for people who are not allowed to belong to them?

Various NGOs, support groups and other groups uniting people with similar interests exist everywhere – on Facebook, in schools and even in the Riigikogu. These are often designed to connect people of the same nationality, religion, gender, skin colour or age. For example, there are support groups for men and women, groups for the elderly, etc. You can usually join a group or an association under certain conditions. What happens if a person who doesn’t meet these conditions wants to join the group?

The existence and non-existence of such associations and groups may seem unequal and unfair to many of those not able to belong to those associations and groups, but in reality the leader of each group and the group itself have the full right to decide who is admitted and on what basis (clause 5 (2) (3) of the Gender Equality Act). For example, if men want to join a women’s support group but the leader of the group does not approve it, this does not automatically constitute gender discrimination. The person who is left out has the right to justify their wish and to negotiate, but in most cases, accusing someone of unequal treatment in such a situation is unfounded.

Equal opportunities mean, above all, equal opportunities for education, employment, self-fulfilment and access to services, but free organisations, support groups and other associations are usually excluded from this definition.

This explanation does not constitute legal aid in a specific case. Therefore, if you feel that you have been treated unequally, but you did not find a solution to your problem in this article, or if you have a question, please contact the Equality Commissioner by e-mail at avaldus@volinik.ee or telephone +372 626 9059. The anonymity of the person is guaranteed when contacting the Commissioner.