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International human rights law and the intangible face of ageism

Barbara Mikołajczyk (Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Silesia, Katowice, Poland)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 5 January 2023

Issue publication date: 28 March 2023




The purpose of this paper is to show the potential of international human rights law to raise awareness of the international community about ageism and its three aspects – old age discrimination, stereotyping and prejudices against older persons. The author evaluates the ability of international human rights law to encourage states to take action against these phenomena and looks for new solutions. The author also intends to examine if there are international law instruments compelling states to reject stereotypes and prejudices on older persons if there is no treaty devoted to them.


The author applies methods relevant to legal science. The core human rights treaties, soft law documents and activities of human rights bodies are selected, analysed and interpreted.


The core human rights treaties require going beyond their literal interpretation to observe older persons' rights. States should interpret them in good faith, relying on the ageing mainstreaming approach. Instruction to states on how to do so lies in the soft law and output of the international human rights bodies. However, there is also room for improvement. Therefore, the author proposes adopting a targeted resolution on counteracting ageism and its components, updating positions by international treaty bodies, and involving various human rights procedures and specialised agencies in the fight against intangible dimensions of ageism.


It is the first study analysing awareness about stereotyping and prejudices against older persons from international human rights law. The author indicates untapped possibilities of the fight against ageism and its intangible dimensions under international law.



The paper has been prepared in the framework of Project no. 2018/31/B/HS5/00435 (OPUS 16) – “Social and digital inclusion of older people as a special task for NGOs: a perspective of international human rights law” – financed by the National Science Centre, Poland.


Mikołajczyk, B. (2023), "International human rights law and the intangible face of ageism", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 42 No. 3, pp. 434-448.



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