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Sex

The Code does not specifically define the ground of “sex,” but the OHRC considers it to be related to a person’s biological sex, male or female. Men and women receive equal protection under this ground. The ground of “sex” also includes a broader notion of “gender,” which can be described as the social characteristics attributed to each sex.

The Code protects men and women from harassment and discrimination, including assumptions about their abilities that result from stereotypes about how men and women ”should” behave, dress or interact. The right to equal treatment without discrimination because of sex also applies to pregnancy.

Relevant policies: 

  1. Pregnancy

    From: Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code

    The Code protects a woman because she is or was pregnant, may become pregnant, has just had a baby or other pregnancy-related situations.[27] Pregnancy includes the process of having a baby from conception up to the period following childbirth. It also includes the post-delivery period and breastfeeding.

    The term “pregnancy” takes into account all the special needs and circumstances of a pregnant woman and recognizes that the experiences of women will differ. Special needs can be related to:

  2. Re: Implementing recommendations of the UN Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women

    February 3, 2017 - Dear Minister Naidoo-Harris: I am writing to you in keeping with the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s mandate to promote and protect human rights in Ontario. First, let me congratulate you on your recent appointment as the new Minister of Women’s Issues for Ontario.

  3. Re: Sexualized and gender-specific dress codes in restaurants

    July 8, 2016 - In pursuit of our public interest mandate, section 31 of the Code authorizes the OHRC to request production of documents and gather other information as part of an inquiry. Pursuant to section 31, we are writing to request that you review employee dress codes in your Ontario operations, remove any discriminatory requirements, and provide documentation showing that you have done this.

  4. Restrictions of facilities by sex

    From: Guide to your rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Code

    This section allows separate washrooms, examination areas, change rooms and other services that are men-only or women-only. Trans people should be provided access to facilities that are consistent with their lived gender identity.[34]


    [34] For more information, see the OHRC’s Policy on discrimination and harassment because of gender identity (2000).

  5. Sexual harassment & sex discrimination at work

    From: OHRC policy position on sexualized and gender-specific dress codes

    March 8, 2016 - The OHRC recognizes the severe impacts of sexual harassment on working women and trans people. It can reduce employees’ morale, decrease productivity and contribute to physical and emotional effects such as anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. The United Nations’ Declaration of the Elimination of Violence Against Women specifically recognizes that sexual harassment is a form of violence against women.

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