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Statue of Equality, Paris. Allegory of equality

Equality before the law, also known as equality under the law, equality in the eyes of the law, or legal equality, is the principle under which all people are subject to the same laws of justice (due process).[1] Law also raises important and complex issues concerning equality, fairness, and justice. There is an old saying that 'All are equal before the law.'. The author Anatole France said in 1894, "In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread."[2] The belief in equality before the law is called legal egalitarianism.

Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law."[1]

According to the United Nations, this principle is particularly important to the minorities and to the poor.[1]

Thus, the law and the judges must treat everyone equally before the law regardless of their race, gender, gender identity, national origin, color, ethnicity, religion, disability, or other characteristics, without privilege, discrimination, or bias.

Equality before the law is one of the basic principles of liberalism.[3][4]


In his famous funeral oration of 431 BC, the Athenian leader Pericles discussed this concept. This may be the first known instance.

"If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences; if no social standing, advancement in public life falls to reputation for capacity, class considerations not being allowed to interfere with merit; nor again does poverty bar the way"[5]

Classical liberalism[edit]

Classical liberalism calls for equality before the law, not for equality of outcome.[3] Classical liberalism opposes pursuing group rights at the expense of individual rights.[4]


Feminists call for equality before the law regardless of gender.[6]

Still in 1988 the later supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote: "Generalizations about the way women or men are ... cannot guide me reliably in making decisions about particular individuals".[7] In an ACLU's s Women's Rights Project in the 1970s Ginsburg challenged the laws that gave health service benefits to wives of servicemen but not to husbands of servicewomen and prohibited women from certain businesses including running a bar alone.[6]

However, some radical feminists have opposed equality before the law, because they think that it maintains the weak position of the weak.[8]


The phrase "Equality before the law" is the motto of the State of Nebraska and appears on its state seal.

Parricide law[edit]

Article 200 of the Criminal Code of Japan, the penalty regarding parricide, was declared unconstitutional for violating the equality under the law by the Supreme Court of Japan in 1973, as a result of the trial of the Tochigi patricide case.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c 7., description of the UN declaration article 7, the United Nations
  2. ^ (France, The Red Lily, Chapter VII).
  3. ^ a b Chandran Kukathas, "Ethical Pluralism from a Classical Liberal Perspective," in The Many and the One: Religious and Secular Perspectives on Ethical Pluralism in the Modern World, ed. Richard Madsen and Tracy B. Strong, Ethikon Series in Comparative Ethics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 61 (ISBN 0-691-09993-6).
  4. ^ a b Mark Evans, ed., Edinburgh Companion to Contemporary Liberalism: Evidence and Experience (London: Routledge, 2001), 55 (ISBN 1-57958-339-3).
  5. ^ Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War, Written 431 B.C.E, Translated by Richard Crawley (1874), retrieved via Project Gutenberg.
  6. ^ a b Feminist Jurisprudence: Equal Rights or Neo-Paternalism?, Michael Weiss and Cathy Young, Policy Analysis No. 256, Cato Institute, June 19, 1996, pages 1-2
  7. ^ Jeff Rosen, "The Book of Ruth," New Republic, August 2, 1993, p. 19.
  8. ^ Martha Chamallas, "Feminist Constructions of Objectivity: Multiple Perspectives in Sexual and Racial Harassment Litigation," Texas Journal of Women and the Law 1 (1992): 95, 131, 125.
  9. ^ Dean, Meryll (2002). Japanese legal system. Routledge via Google Books. p. 535

Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]

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219 news items

Florida Times-Union

Florida Times-Union
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 15:14:31 -0700

“This was a wonderful example of equality before the law that U.S. guarantees to its every citizen irrespective of the religion,” Khan wrote for his Pakistani audience. That Friday evening, I took Khan and Roghay to Back-to-School Shabbat and services ...
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 11:11:15 -0700

It is in the interests of all South Africans that we have a free and fair criminal justice system based on the Constitutional principle of equality before the law. This is the principle the DA is prepared to defend until the very end, on behalf of the ...


Thu, 21 Aug 2014 23:45:00 -0700

Report defined that, Legal aid is the provision of assistance to people who are unable to afford legal representation and access to court. It is regarded as central in providing access to justice by insuring equality before the law, rights to counsel ...
Buffalo News
Wed, 20 Aug 2014 21:07:30 -0700

The basic rights and freedoms to which all human beings are entitled include equality before the law. Our constitution was designed with the protection of everyone in mind, not just Christian heterosexuals. Everyone should have the right to happiness ...
Korea JoongAng Daily
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 11:00:00 -0700

Lawmakers are entitled to protection from apprehension and given exceptions to the constitutional principle of equality before the law for the continuity and independence of legislative activities. But abuse of that privilege raises the question of ...
The New American
Thu, 21 Aug 2014 14:07:03 -0700

... court ruling requiring legal status for same-sex marriage was issued by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, ruling in 2003 that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violates the requirement of equality before the law in the state's ...
Wed, 20 Aug 2014 23:56:15 -0700

Rent-seeking – the use of political power to confer private advantages – is a real problem. Any citizen who takes the idea of equality before the law seriously ought to resist when they see rich and powerful interests trying to rig the political ...
Mmegi Online
Thu, 21 Aug 2014 22:03:45 -0700

“We need not lecture to the State about the principle of equality before the law. It is clear that the State, instead of treating Moroka like any other suspect in a manslaughter case, has resorted to affording him royal treatment unknown in our ...

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