Post-communist Central and Eastern European ('CEE') legislators and judges have been resistant to equality and antidiscrimination law. This Article argues that these negative attitudes can be explained in part by the specific trajectory that EAL has taken in CEE during and after state socialism, which has differed from Western Europe. In the UK/EU, the formal guarantees of equal treatment and prohibitions of discrimination of the 1960s and 1970s were complemented by a more substantive understanding of equality in the 1990s and 2000s. This development was reversed in CEE—substantive equality, of a certain kind, preceded rather than followed formal equality and antidiscrimination guarantees.
The State Socialist concern with equality was real, and yet the project was incomplete in several significant ways. It saw only socio-economic, but not socio-cultural inequalities (relating to dignity, identity or diversity). It was transformative with regards to class, but not other discrimination grounds, especially not gender. While equality was a constitutionally enshrined principle, there was an absence of any corresponding enforceable antidiscrimination right. Finally, the emphasis on the “natural” differences between the sexes meant that sex/gender discrimination was not recognized as conflicting with women's constitutional equality guarantees.