Minority Groups: Concept, Rights and Examples

The term" Minority groups "Is difficult to conceptualize. There is no consensus on what they are, due to the diversity of cultures and points of view.

However, it is recognized that this is a phenomenon that is present in all societies. As a general concept, it can be said that a minority is a subgroup within a larger society. Members are often subject to discrimination, prejudice, segregation or persecution at the hands of another group, called majority.

Minority group within a company.  White puppets and a red one. Minority groups are subgroups within a society
Photo retrieved from

Francesco Capotorti proposes a simple concept of minorities. It points out that these are groups present within a society, which do not present a dominant position within the State. Members of these groups have certain ethnic, religious and / or linguistic characteristics that separate them from other members of society.

In addition to this, minority groups are joined by a feeling of solidarity, which aims to preserve their cultural roots.

Marmayan, N. notes that the concept of minorities can be related to a large tree with many branches, the latter being minority groups. In this sense, minority groups can be: ethnic, religious, racial, gender, among others.

According to Juanita Tamayo Lott, minority group status is not directly related to the race or ethnicity to which it belongs, but derives from the treatment given to it, which means that minority groups are created By the society that receives them.

You can also see the 18 types of racism in the world .

Rights of minority groups in the framework of human rights

In 1992, the General Assembly of the United Nations introduced the Declaration of the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. This measure was taken to ensure the effective implementation of human rights, as well as to promote inclusion.

Another human rights initiative with respect to minority groups was the Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, established in 1998. It represents the first multilateral legal instrument for the protection of minority groups.

The aim of this convention is to promote equality through the creation of conditions that allow minorities to preserve and develop their origin culture, as well as their identity.

Some of the principles of the Convention are:

1-No to discrimination


3- Preservation of culture, religion language and tradition

4. Freedom of expression

5. Freedom of thought

Freedom of religion.

7- Freedom in the framework of education.

8- Right to access and use of the media.

9- Cooperation.

10- Right to participation in economic and social life.

In 2003, the Minority Rights Group International highlighted some points that the European Commission should take into account to improve the living conditions of minority groups. These points include:


Primary education should be offered in the mother tongue of minority groups; Similarly, the curriculum should reflect the culture of minorities and promote integration; Finally, teachers and teachers belonging to minority groups should be hired.


In order to avoid high levels of unemployment among minority groups, greater job opportunities for minority groups should be offered, as well as equal access to these jobs.

Government matter

There should be a legal reform that provides representation to minority groups and allows them to be included in the legislative system.


Minority groups should have access to health services without being discriminated against. In addition, there should be sufficient medical facilities in areas populated by these.

All of the above will be achieved through recognition of the presence of minorities.

Relativity of the term"minorities"

Most dictionaries use the term minority to refer to small groups within a society. Having said that, it might seem easy to determine a minority group.

However, this concept reduces the phenomenon of minorities to a simple demographic question, without taking into account other more complex elements.

For example, the Arabs, Albanians, Italians and Indians, to name a few groups, are considered minorities in some countries. With regard to these groups, they could not be said to be absolute minorities, since they also represent the majority in the country of origin.

On the other hand, it is many countries, Asians are not considered minorities despite meeting the basic conditions.

It is here that the relativity of the term"minorities"is observed, because it depends on the perception.

Once understood the relativity of the term"minorities", it can be said that the indigenous and the Roma constitute minority groups.


Minority Groups: Concept, Rights and Examples Australian Aborigines. Retrieved from https://www.dailymail.co.uk

The indigenous are the peoples who inhabited a territory before it was conquered and colonized by another people or society. Other more specific definitions indicate that the natives are descendants of the towns that inhabited a given territory for the moment of the arrival of societies belonging to another culture or ethnic group.

Although there is still no accepted definition of the term, in most cases the importance of the historical and cultural traditions of indigenous peoples is emphasized.

In this sense, the Aboriginal communities of the United States of America, Canada, Latin America and Australia are considered indigenous peoples. These groups were persecuted during the period of colonization and, in some cases, are still discriminated against.

The Roma

Minority Groups: Concept, Rights and Examples 1 Roma women. Retrieved photo from https://romediafoundation.wordpress.com

The Roma, also known as gypsies, constitute the largest ethnic minority in all of Europe, with a population between 8 and 12 million.

Similarly, this group is one of the most discriminated. Throughout European history, examples of illegal practices against Roma, such as slavery and extermination, can be found.

In the twentieth century, stereotypes against these groups continued. There were States that even applied anti-Roma laws and policies. In Sweden, for example, Roma women were forcibly sterilized; This practice was not abandoned until 1975. In England, it was forbidden for Roma to settle in camps.

The greatest attempt to exterminate this minority group occurred during World War II, where it is estimated that half a million Roma were exterminated because of their ethnic origin in concentration camps.

However, in recent years measures have been taken to combat the social exclusion of Roma in Europe. In 2005, the Decade of Roma Inclusion was launched, which represented an international effort to promote the inclusion of these groups.

Similarly, many Roma activists around the world are struggling to defend their human rights. However, in terms of gender equality, the progress has been rather nil. Roma women are discriminated against for three reasons: they belong to a minority group, because they are women and because they are poor.

In fact, some Roma women are not only discriminated against by members of the majority group, but also within their own community. This is due to strict patriarchal traditions.

The result of this multiple discrimination is that Roma women are excluded from social and institutional life. In terms of education, there are difficulties to enter the system and very few can finish primary school.

In terms of health, it is evident that many hospitals refuse to offer these women medical care, even in cases as urgent as childbirth. On occasions when they are admitted to hospitals, they are often verbally abused or segregated in labor and maternity wards.

Other minority groups

1 - In general, all immigrants represent minority groups.

2 - Women are also minority groups, since society tends to favor the figure of man.

3- Immigrant women face a particularly difficult situation, since they belong to two minority groups (such as Roma women).

4 - In the West of the world, people belonging to religions other than Catholic often represent minority groups. This is the case of Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Mormons.

5- In the United States, Latinos are minorities.

6- Homosexual and transgender people also constitute minority groups and often suffer discrimination. In some countries, homosexual couples are legally discriminated against because they do not have the right to marry or to adoption.


  1. Marmaryan, N. (s.f.). Minority Concept and Related Issues. Retrieved on February 25, 2017, from conf.uni-ruse.bg.
  2. Kelvin M. Pollard and William P. O'Hare. (1999). America's Racial and Ethnic Minorities. Retrieved on February 24, 2017, from prb.org.
  3. Preston, C. D. (2001). Attitudes to Ethnic Minorities, Ethnic Context and Location Decisions. Retrieved on February 25, 2017, from http://www.ucl.ac.uk.
  4. Kugelmann, D. (2007). The Protection of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples Respecting Cultural Diversity. Retrieved on February 25, 2017, from mpil.de.
  5. United Nations. (November 2014). Guidance Note of the Secretary-General on Racial Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. Retrieved on February 24, 2017, from un.org
  6. Cultural diversity and minorities. (S.f.). Retrieved on February 24, 2017, from pjp-eu.coe.int.
  7. Ravnbøl, C.I. (2010). International Journal on Minority and Group Rights. The Human Rights of Minority Women: Romani Women's Rights from a Perspective on International Human Rights Law and Politics. Retrieved on February 24, 2017, from heinonline.org.

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