Discrimination and equal opportunities

Treating someone unfairly because of who they are or what they believe in is called discrimination. Equal opportunities are about making sure this doesn’t happen, and that everyone is treated fairly.

What does it mean?

Discrimination is when someone treats you unfairly because of your age, sexuality, marital status, being pregnant or having a child, having a disability, ethnicity or race, religion or gender. It can include bullying, but it’s also discrimination when someone doesn’t let you join in an activity because of your race or religion.

Discrimination can take many forms and happen in a range of environments including school, work and within communities. 

Equal opportunities are a set of rules that make sure everyone is treated fairly and with respect. They protect you against discrimination by making sure everyone is treated the same.

It's illegal to discriminate against someone because of:

  • their age, sexuality or gender
  • being transsexual, married or in a civil partnership
  • being pregnant or having a child
  • having a disability
  • race, ethnicity or religion.

What you need to know

how they treat
isn't right

Get help and advice from young people

Discrimination in sport

Discrimination in sport is not okay. You should be able to play a sport you enjoy, no matter what your race, age, gender, religion or sexuality is.

However, sometimes leagues and teams are based on things like age or gender. Some teams might only have girls in them and other teams might just have boys. Often sports teams will only include people who are the same age, so that when you play you're competing against people of a similar ability to you.

But if you do experience discrimination, you don’t have to face it alone. Talk to someone you trust – this might be someone in your sports club, or someone at home or school. It’s important that you feel comfortable with whoever you choose to talk to.

If you're at a football match and see any kind of discrimination (for example, homophobia or racism) then you can report what happened anonymously through the Kick it Out app.

What you should do

Discrimination could leave you feeling like others don’t understand you. You may feel alone or scared. But you don’t have to put up with it.

If you’re being discriminated against, you should:

  • keep a diary of what’s happening – you can use this as evidence
  • tell an adult you trust about how you're being treated.

Your school should have a policy about equal opportunities and discrimination. These are guidelines about what to do if a pupil is being treated unfairly by other young people or a teacher.

Your school and your teachers should support you if you’re experiencing discrimination. It’s against the law to discriminate against someone unfairly, so your school should do something about it.

Other sites we recommend:

  • the Children's Legal Centre can provide legal information, advice and representation for young people
  • Children's Law Centre can give you advice on discrimination and the law for young people in Northern Ireland
  • You & Co helps young people cope with the side effects of crime and what happens in a courtroom
  • Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can give you advice on dealing with different kinds of discrimination.