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date: 27 January 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This article begins with a discussion of the constitutionalization of affirmative action and its side effects. It examines the legal underpinnings of affirmative action in two relatively well-endowed developing countries and former British colonies — Malaysia and South Africa — where the disadvantaged groups that receive the benefits of affirmative action are numerical majorities from the start. It also considers the case of India, where the disadvantaged groups targeted for affirmative action initially are numerical minorities. The discussion then turns to the non-constitutionalization of affirmative action and its side effects. In countries where affirmative action has not been constitutionalized and where the beneficiaries (women excepted) are minority groups, the legal validity of a program of this kind will depend upon whether it meets a set of formal requirements. The most important of those is arguably that the outcome of the decisional process by which scarce goods are being allocated should not be exclusively determined by group membership. The soft, gender-focused, ‘discrimination-blocking’ EU affirmative action model and the (exceptional) US affirmative action regime are examined.

Keywords: constitutionalization, disadvantaged groups, Malaysia, South Africa, India, United States, EU, affirmative action model

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