Zero Discrimination Day is an annual day celebrated annually on 1 March by the UN and other international organisations. The day aims to promote equality before the law and in practice throughout all of the member countries of the UN.
Discrimination refers to the practice of treating somebody more or less favourably based on the group, class, or category to which the person is perceived to belong rather than on individual attributes and merits. This includes treatment of an individual or group, based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or social category, “in a way that is worse than the way people are usually treated”. It involves the group’s initial reaction or interaction going on to influence the individual’s actual behavior towards the group leader or the group, restricting members of one group from opportunities or privileges that are available to another group, leading to the exclusion of the individual or entities based on logical or irrational decision making.
Discriminatory traditions, policies, ideas, practices and laws exist in many countries and institutions in every part of the world, including in territories where discrimination is generally looked down upon. In some places, controversial attempts such as quotas have been used to benefit those who are believed to be current or past victims of discrimination—but they have sometimes been called reverse discrimination. In the US, a government policy known as affirmative action was instituted to encourage employers and universities to seek out and accept groups such as African Americans and women, who have been subject to discrimination for a long time.
The day was first celebrated on March 1, 2014, and was launched by UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé on 27 February of that year with a major event in Beijing. In 2015, Armenian Americans in California held a ‘die-in’ on Zero Discrimination Day to remember the victims of the Armenian Genocide. In February 2017, UNAIDS called on people to ‘make some noise around zero discrimination, to speak up and prevent discrimination from standing in the way of achieving ambitions, goals and dreams.’
The day is particularly noted by organisations like UNAIDS that combat discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. “HIV related stigma and discrimination is pervasive and exists in almost every part of the world including our Liberia”, according to Dr. Ivan F. Camanor, Chairman of the National AIDS Commission of Liberia. The UNDP also paid tribute in 2017 to LGBTI people with HIV/AIDS who face discrimination. Campaigners in India have used the occasion to speak out against laws that make discrimination against the LGBTI community more likely, especially Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises homosexuality.