Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 has two main purposes which are to harmonise discrimination law, and to strengthen the law to support progress on equality. Further information is available from the UK Equalities Office

The Act replaced previous equality legislation and introduced the public sector equality duty. This duty replaces the previous public sector equality duties - the Race Equality, the Disability Equality and the Gender Equality Duties. 

Public sector equality duty

The public sector equality duty came into force in April 2011 and requires Scottish public authorities to have `due regard` to the need to

  - eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Act
  - advance equality of opportunity between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and those who do not share it; and
  - foster good relations between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and those who do not share it.

These requirements apply across the `protected characteristics` of age; disability; gender reassignment; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion and belief; sex and sexual orientation and to a limited extent to marriage and civil partnership.

The general equality duty also applies to other organisation that exercises a public function including private bodies or voluntary organisations that carry out public functions on behalf of a public authority.

In addition to the general duties further specific Scottish duties are contained within regulations which came into force in May 2012. Their aim is to enable the better performance of the public sector equality duty, by those authorities listed in the regulations, in their performance of the general equality duty. These authorities are required to

  - report on mainstreaming the equality duty
  - publish equality outcomes and report progress
  - assess and review policies and practices
  - gather and use employee information
  - publish gender pay gap information
  - publish statements on equal pay
  - consider award criteria and conditions in relation to public procurement.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission in Scotland has produced a number of guides to the public sector equalities duty.

The Scottish Government published a report Equality Outcomes and Mainstreaming Report, April 2013, on how the public sector equality duty is being integrated across Scottish Government functions; it includes a set of equality outcomes.

Information on the previous gender equality duty

In July 2010, Scottish Ministers published reports giving an overview of progress made by listed public bodies in tackling violence against women and in tackling occupational segregation.

Equality and Human Rights Commission research report on `Responding to gender based violence in Scotland.  (pdf 636KB) The scope of the gender equality duty to drive cultural and practical change`.

Legal protection

Helpful websites regarding legislation on violence against women:

Scottish Government information about legislation which protects women and children

Scottish Women`s Aid rights and legal protection for women experiencing domestic abuse

Rape Crisis Glasgow  rape, sexual harassment, and stalking

Please see below for links to main Acts covering violence and abuse

Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2011 removed the requirement that there be a course of conduct before a non-harassment order may be obtained in domestic abuse cases and introduced the criminalisation of breach of interdict with a power of arrest.

Sexual Offences Scotland Act 2009  - covers sexual violence offences.  Download a guide to the act. (pdf 96KB)

Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 - deals with issues arising from offences committed against children by people in a position of trust

Matrimonial Homes (Family Protection) (Scotland) Act 1981
Provisions for interdicts and/or exclusion orders for those experiencing domestic abuse

Protection from Abuse (Scotland) Act 2001
Provisions for power of arrest to be attached to an interdict regardless of the relationship between the abused and the abuser

Protection from Harassment Act 1997
Anyone who is being harassed can apply for a non-harassment order

Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010
Introduces the offence of `engaging in threatening or abusive behaviour`, also offences relating to extreme pornography; it criminalises stalking and made changes to the criteria for non-harassment orders making it more straightforward to obtain NHOs. 

Forced Marriage etc (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act 2011
Aims to protect people from Forced Marriage. 

Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005
Aims to protect women and girl children from female genital mutilation

Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2005
Covers`grooming` a child under the age of 16 for sexual purposes and meeting such a child following prior contact for the purposes of engaging in some form of illegal sexual conduct

Prostitution (Public Places) (Scotland) Act 2007
Covers soliciting and loitering in a public place in order to buy sex

Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982
Section 46 covers soliciting and importuning by people involved in prostitution. The Act also covers regulation of sex shops

Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 section 22 provides that the maximum penalty for involvement in trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation is 14 years imprisonment on conviction on indictment. Sections 4 and 5 of the Asylum and Immigration (treatment of Claimants) Act 2004 provide for a similar specific offence of involvement in human trafficking for other purposes

The Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 was introduced to the Scottish Parliament in 2009 and includes further provision for trafficking

Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007
In February 2011, the Scottish Government expects to introduce a new membership scheme to replace and improve upon the current disclosure arrangements for people who work with vulnerable groups.  The Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme (PVG Scheme) will:

  • help to ensure that those who have regular contact with children and protected adults through paid and unpaid work do not have a known history of harmful behaviour
  • be quick and easy to use, reducing the need for PVG Scheme members to complete a detailed application form every time a disclosure check is required
  • strike a balance between proportionate protection and robust regulation and make it easier for employers to determine who they should check to protect their client group

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