2.3 Current policy and policy reinforcements – Discriminatory grounds
The government has launched many initiatives to combat racism as part of the UN International Decade for People of African Descent, but many aspects of the approach have yet to be strengthened. i In response to the 2020 BLM protests and the subsequent meetings with the Prime Minister, an interdepartmental process was developed for the bottom-up reinforcement of efforts to tackle discrimination and racism. As part of this process, topics and points of concern – including those raised during the meetings with the Prime Minister and in the Black Manifesto issued later – are explored with various stakeholders and addressed where necessary and possible.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment also plans to initiate an exploratory study of the perspective for action when it comes to helping people discuss racism in their own communities. This exploratory study ensues from a study of the causes of, and factors triggering, discrimination of persons of African descent (2021) and explores possible points of reference and instruments that people may use to discuss racist and discriminatory expressions and conduct in their own bubbles. This is how bystanders will be motivated to step in whenever they witness racism, how awareness is created among actual or potential perpetrators and how a social standard is propagated to the effect that racism and discrimination are unacceptable.
Appointed by the Minister of Justice and Security on April 1, 2021, i the National Coordinator for Combating Antisemitism (Nationaal Coördinator Antisemitismebestrijding; NCAB) advises the Minister of Justice and Security and is tasked with providing advice, boosting policy efforts, and bonding and bridging. The NCAB brings antisemitism expertise to the government and coordinates and supports collaboration between different Ministries and civil society organizations, thereby enhancing the infrastructure for tackling antisemitism both within the government and elsewhere. The NCAB is also charged with identifying problems in the Jewish community and monitoring which measures effectively safeguard security in Jewish communities. From 2019 to 2021, every year 1 million euros was made available to combat antisemitism. The NCAB’s mandate is to advise on the possible follow-up of projects carried out using the antisemitism funds. The coalition agreement has given the NCAB’s position a permanent status and has allocated a permanent annual budget of 500,000 euros.
In 2022, the NCAB will publish a National Work Plan i containing concrete and new action to be taken to combat antisemitism in the Netherlands, which is based on three pillars: 1) monitoring and follow-up; 2) education and prevention; 3) commemoration and celebration. Following up on the work plan, the NCAB will focus on creating a National Strategy for combating antisemitism. The NCAB’s work plan will also discuss current national and international policies, including projects ensuing from the national government’s antisemitism funds, exchange of information with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and the EU strategy for combating antisemitism.
The departments will also continue their efforts to tackle antisemitism. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport subsidizes the education program of the Anne Frank House called ‘Learning from the war’, which educates teachers and young people about combating antisemitism and racism from the perspective of World War II (WW II). The Anne Frank House advises volunteers to influence behavior in their own circles: teachers, teenagers in schools, fans and coaches of soccer clubs and various government organizations, including the police. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport also provides grants to the five Dutch WW II memorial centers that tell the story of WW II and connect it to current social issues such as the importance of the rule of law and of combating antisemitism, antiziganism and racism. Nationaal Comité 4 en 5 mei for the Remembrance of the Dead on May 4 and Liberation Day (May 5) provides education products for primary, secondary and senior secondary vocational education.
Education is key to promoting a respectful society and counteracting racism and discrimination in all its forms. The curriculum for the start of primary education up to the end of secondary education expressly states that the horrific events of the Holocaust must be discussed.
In addition to Holocaust education, the Dutch government also seeks to revamp civic education with the aim of helping pupils understand and gain knowledge about each other’s cultures and religions and countering intolerance. The new Civic Education Act was passed by the Senate on June 22, 2021 and entered into force on August 1, 2021 and has increased the mandatory nature of the rules for civic education in both primary and secondary education. Training courses and a helpdesk provide support to teachers who struggle with the discussion of socially sensitive issues such as antisemitism, discrimination against Muslims and Holocaust denial.
Discrimination against Muslims
The Government-wide efforts to tackle racism and discrimination also focus on fighting discrimination against Muslims in the labor market, the housing market and education, using the criminal law approach as well. By involving the chain as a whole, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment seeks to prevent discrimination based on origin, religion or color, including discrimination against Muslims. Studies have revealed that prejudice, stereotypes and the prevailing social standard are useful tools to predict racist and discriminatory behavior. The greater focus on tackling discrimination against Muslims was announced in the letter to Parliament of November 11, 2020 and has since been elaborated as follows: i
- Preventive use of knowledge and instruments supporting local authorities and social professionals to specifically tackle discrimination against Muslims. The Inclusion & Community Platform makes a major contribution with its studies and publications about effective ways to reduce discrimination, which includes eliminating prejudice. The Platform also actively communicates and implements antidiscrimination interventions among intervention developers and implementing organizations.
- In early 2022, a grant from the Ministry of Justice and Security, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment was used to tackle specific discriminatory grounds, including discrimination against Muslims.
- Encouraging the willingness to report discrimination against Muslims is key to combating and sanctioning discrimination and to identifying the extent of this discriminatory ground.
The guideline ‘Increasing the willingness to report discrimination: a public design approach’ has been drafted with the aim of supporting municipal authorities and antidiscrimination agencies in collaborating with local parties and citizens to develop activities intended to encourage the willingness to report discrimination, including discrimination against Muslims.
This guideline is based on lessons learnt from the pilot project ‘reporting discrimination against Muslims’ and has been transformed into a guideline that can be used to develop local activities intended to promote the willingness to report all discriminatory grounds.
- In order to increase the perspective for action on the subject of intersectionality – with a focus on the plurality of grounds for discrimination, as is the case for Muslim women – two lines of approach will be explored in more detail:
a. a pilot project of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science that aims to develop, execute and test a method teaching policy officials of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science who have various topics in their portfolios that impact the efforts to tackle discrimination and racism to let intersectionality guide their thoughts and actions. If proven effective, the method will be applied more widely; and
b. how a more intersectional way of linking data may help obtain a more complete picture of equal participation in society and a more balanced portrayal of groups with a migration background.
These lines of approach will be used for a more detailed analysis of the results of the Intersectionality Knowledge Tables, which were focused specifically on the grounds of discrimination against Muslims and anti-Black racism.
- Inclusive communication by the national government, starting with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. To that end, the following factors will be explored:
a. public perception of the new migration categories introduced by Statistics Netherlands, with a focus on reviewing the inclusive terminology used for people with a migration background;
b. a series of meetings between the Social Stability Expertise Unit and Islamic organizations to jointly identify the lessons to be learnt by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.
- Tackling hate speech is essential for preventing stigmatization, exclusion and discrimination resulting from expressions of hatred against Muslims. The fight against hate speech will be explored in line with the European Commission’s proposal to give priority to expressions of hatred and hate crimes and, to that end, add them to the list of EU crimes stated in Article 83(1) TFEU.
The Government remains responsible for maintaining links and for engaging with the Muslim community based on trust, and we will continue to invest in this. Actions initiated by municipal authorities based on mistrust, such as covert operations in mosques conducted in the past, have caused much unrest and are undesirable.
Underpinning this Government’s LGBTIQ+ policy as indicated in the coalition agreement, the ‘rainbow electoral agreement’ will be carefully carried out through legislation, private members’ bills and policies. Acting as the coordinating Minister of Emancipation, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science will seek to collaborate with fellow members of government with the aim of implementing all action items from the agreement in the shortest possible term. In addition to the implementation of the rainbow electoral agreement, additional LGBTIQ+ policies are also being developed, such as the BI+ policy, LGBTIQ+-inclusive sports and, at a local level, rainbow municipalities. Several alliances are also supported, including Shared Pride, Shared Luck (Gedeelde Trots, Gedeeld Geluk) of COC, TNN and NNID.
In schools, teaching pupils to treat sexuality with respect in society is part of the mandatory learning standard component ‘sexuality and sexual diversity’. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science aims to promote acceptance and social safety of LGBTIQ+ pupils and schools are offered extensive support to help them comply with their statutory obligation to ensure a safe school climate.
The national government is already working on the elimination of unnecessary gender registration, and the Government intends to cease stating people’s gender on identity cards with effect from 2024/2025.
The emancipation policy pursued in the past few years focused on increasing women’s economic and financial independence, as this contributes to their financial resilience and self-reliance and gives them the freedom to make their own choices in life. The situation that the position of women in the labor market is less favorable than the position of men has major consequences both for the women themselves and for society as a whole, as labor potential and talent go to waste. It should be noted that the Government sets great store by working towards gender equality in the labor market. The coalition agreement also contains several measures to achieve this.
The Government encourages labor participation, working more hours or days every week, and proportionate representation of women in management positions. In this regard, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment aims to facilitate the work/care combination and to promote a more equal division of care responsibilities between men and women through leave arrangements and childcare. Making it financially more attractive to work more hours is another relevant measure, which is to be achieved through tax policy, system reforms and childcare allowance.
This measure also helps reduce the gender pay gap, as it is correlated with the unequal position of women in the labor market. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science seek to eliminate wage differentials between men and women, for example by improved monitoring of wage differentials. Wage transparency is of the essence here. Identifying wage differentials may help raise awareness among companies, organizations and employees. The proposal for the EU Pay Transparency Directive will in any event be followed for this purpose, as the Netherlands accepted the General Approach to the proposal on December 6, 2021. Once the Directive has been adopted, it must be implemented in the Netherlands within a few years’ time. Measures aimed at achieving pay transparency require employers to be more transparent about how they determine wages. The proposal includes an obligation for large companies to annually report on a variety of data on the gender pay gap and equal pay, as well as several measures aimed at improving the legal protection of employees.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science have also pooled resources in tackling pregnancy discrimination, for example by improving the provision of information and communication about the rights of employees, employers and other stakeholders when an employee is pregnant and by raising awareness of this issue.
The emancipation policy of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science also extensively discusses how to tackle ‘gender-related violence’. This is a collective term that covers various types of violence that are fully or partly driven by an unequal balance of power between men and women and harmful stereotypical views of masculinity and femininity, resulting in domestic violence, femicide, sexual violence, sexual harassment, transgressive behavior and online violence.
That is why the emancipation policy of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science addresses the termination of gender stereotypes and the promotion of gender equality as well as specific measures intended to reduce gender-related violence and improve social safety, with an emphasis on prevention and awareness. The Ministry cooperates closely with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the Ministry of Justice and Security and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment in tackling gender-related violence. In doing so, it also implements the recommendations of GREVIO, the expert body that supervises the implementation of the Istanbul Convention.
Seeking to enhance gender-sensitive care, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science focuses on respectful treatment and awareness and thereby supports the Tailored Healthcare Alliance (Alliantie Gezondheidszorg op Maat). The Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) carries out the gender and health remit, working on sustained consideration and integration of sex and gender in healthcare and care research programs.
Aiming to prevent male and female stereotypes in education, the Ministry supports the Work and the Future (Werk.en.de.toekomst) alliance. This alliance was set up to counteract stereotypes in education, the labor market and the government and will be terminated at the end of 2022.
As the Government aims to achieve gender diversity among senior employees in the private, public and semi-public sectors, on January 1, 2022 an ingrowth quota was introduced to improve the male/female ratio at the top of the business community. Large companies must also define targets and are required to report on gender diversity at the top of their organizations. The Ministries and their implementing organizations will aim to have 45 to 55 percent women at the top or in senior management within five years’ time. The Government has also set itself a target of 50 percent women at the top for appointments in autonomous administrative authorities and on advisory boards. Calling on the entire public and semi-public sectors to work towards 50 percent women at the top or in senior management positions, the Government will introduce a statutory obligation to define a target for top executives and senior management at other organizations within the public and semi-public sectors.
In the autumn of 2022, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science will send the Emancipation Memorandum to Parliament, which sets out the prospective policy on gender equality and LGBTIQ+ equality to be pursued while the Government is in office.
The UN has proclaimed the period from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2024 the UN International Decade for People of African Descent. The Dutch interpretation of this Decade focuses on stepping up efforts to tackle discrimination and anti-Black racism. For more information, see Parliamentary Documents II 2015-2016, 30 950, 80, blg-610762.
The NCAB’s work plan will be published on www.antisemitismebestrijding.nl.
Various action items from the Manifesto against Islamophobia are included, such as intersectionality, a willingness to report discrimination, inclusive communication and hate speech.