The term ‘multiple discrimination’ is used as an overarching, neutral notion for all instances of discrimination on several discriminatory grounds. It refers to any combination of forms of discrimination against persons on the grounds of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristics, and to discrimination suffered by those who have, or who are perceived to have, those characteristics.
This phenomenon can manifest itself in two ways. First, there is ‘additive discrimination’, where discrimination takes place on the basis of several grounds operating separately. Second, there is ‘intersectional discrimination’, where two or more grounds interact in such a way that they are inextricable.
Women belonging to certain disadvantaged groups are at higher risk of being subjected to unequal treatment, because they share a combination of characteristics that may trigger discrimination, and are affected by multiple discrimination in different ways or to different degrees than men belonging to the same groups (for example, the sterilisation of Roma women without their consent).
See also: intersectional discrimination
(1) European Commission (2009). Multiple Discrimination in EU Law: Opportunities for Legal Responses to Intersectional Gender Discrimination. European Network of Legal Experts in the Field of Gender Equality; (2) CEDAW Committee’s jurisprudence.