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File:Place de la République - Égalité.jpg

Statue of Equality, Paris. Allegory of equality

Equality before the law, also known as legal equality, is the principle under which all people are subject to the same laws of justice (due process).[1] All are equal before the law. It is one of the requirements for social equality and is a basic human right

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 everybody by the same laws regardless of their gender, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status etc, without privilege.

Equality before the law is one of the basic principles of classical liberalism.[2][3]


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"[4]

Classical liberalism[]

Classical liberalism calls for equality before the law, not for equality of outcome.[2] Classical liberalism opposes pursuing group rights at the expense of individual rights.[3]


Feminists call for equality before the law regardless of gender.[5]

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".[6] 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.[5]

However, some radical feminists have opposed equality before the law, because they think that it maintains the weak position of the weak.[7]


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

Parricide law[]

The Article 200 of the Criminal Code of Japan—the penalty regarding parricide—was claimed to be unconstitutional for violating the equality under the law, and, the Supreme Court of Japan judged the Article unconstitutional in 1973 as a result of the trial of the Tochigi patricide case.[8]

See also[]

  • All men are created equal
  • Equal justice under law
  • Equality of opportunity
  • Global justice
  • Isonomia
  • Meritocracy
  • Prerogative - the inverse of equality before the law
  • Rule according to higher law
  • Rule of law


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 7., description of the UN declaration article 7, the United Nations
  2. 2.0 2.1 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).
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mark Evans, ed., Edinburgh Companion to Contemporary Liberalism: Evidence and Experience (London: Routledge, 2001), 55 (ISBN 1-57958-339-3).
  4. Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War, Written 431 B.C.E, Translated by Richard Crawley (1874), retrieved via Project Gutenberg.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Feminist Jurisprudence: Equal Rights or Neo-Paternalism?, Michael Weiss and Cathy Young, Policy Analysis No. 256, Cato Institute, June 19, 1996, pages 1-2
  6. Jeff Rosen, "The Book of Ruth," New Republic, August 2, 1993, p. 19.
  7. 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.
  8. Dean, Meryll (2002). Japanese legal system. Routledge via Google Books. p. 535

See also[]

Template:Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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