Action aimed at favouring access by members of certain categories of people, in this particular case, women, to rights which they are guaranteed, to the same extent as members of other categories, in this particular case, men.

See also: temporary special measures; specific action

Additional notes and information

In some cases, the reason that discrimination is found to occur is due to the fact that the same rule is applied to everyone without consideration of relevant differences. In order to remedy and prevent this kind of situation, governments, employers and service providers must ensure that they take steps to adjust their rules and practices to take such differences into consideration – that is, they must do something to adjust current policies and measures.

The concept of positive measures is generally referred to in international law as ‘special measures’. Such measures are described with different terms, which may also have different meaning and interpretation given to them in different national contexts and areas of their applicability. The most widely known terms are: affirmative action or affirmative measures; positive action; preferential treatment; special measures; specific action; reverse discrimination; and positive discrimination.


(1) Final report of the Group of Specialists on positive action: Positive action in the field of equality between women and men EG-SPA (2000)7; (2) ECHR, Thlimmenos v. Greece [GC] (No. 34369/97), 6 April 2000, para. 44. Similarly, ECHR, Pretty v. UK (No. 2346/02), 29 April 2002, para. 88.