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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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184 news items

Jakarta Post
Mon, 14 Jul 2014 20:22:30 -0700

Among the proponents of the bill is the Democratic Party, whose chairman President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has always claimed to encourage equality before the law in the fight against corruption. In fairness, he has fulfilled that pledge, as he has ...

The Globalist

The Globalist
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 14:50:37 -0700

Given the egalitarian traditions of the Chinese revolution, achieving such equality before the law should be seen as being fully within the arc of historic achievements — rather than as something that militates against it. Any Westerner who has ...

Lancashire Evening Post

Lancashire Evening Post
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 03:17:41 -0700

The exit from violence requires a democratic means of dealing with conflict and that must be a single, secular state, equality before the law for all citizens and freedom of belief, association and worship. Needless to say, this is something the ...

New Era

New Era
Fri, 01 Aug 2014 04:47:11 -0700

... of fundamental rights consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the rights to life, personal liberty, freedom of speech and press, freedom of assembly and association, due process and equality before the law, protection ...
Wed, 30 Jul 2014 08:56:15 -0700

Ugandan activists began their fight on Wednesday at the constitutional court in Kampala to have the country's controversial anti-gay laws overturned. Besides the right to be free from discrimination, one of the key arguments of the petitioners is that ...
Jakarta Post
Wed, 30 Jul 2014 19:58:26 -0700

Furthermore, the KPK's deputy chairman, Busyro Muqoddas, argued that the amendments were not in line with the principle of “equality before the law”, as they implied that House members would seem to enjoy some sort of “immunity” from prosecution.

Taranaki Daily News

Taranaki Daily News
Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:02:51 -0700

"Equality before the law is an important principle. You can't brush it under the carpet because it's an uncomfortable topic." Despite the ACT Party's recent history Whyte was confident they would end up with four or five MPs in Parliament after the ...

Today's Zaman

Today's Zaman
Tue, 29 Jul 2014 05:33:45 -0700

The business group said investors would only feel safe if the principle of equality before the law, rule of law and independence of judiciary are upheld in a country. They said investors consider those countries where the law doesn't work and where ...

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