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3. Recognizing and reporting

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world!

Anne Frank

Discrimination is a many-headed monster representing distinction and exclusion on the basis of ethnic background, gender, political and religious conviction, sexual orientation and gender identity, disability, age and other characteristics. It is found in healthcare, education and the hospitality sector, in the labor market and the housing market, and in the streets. It is vital that we learn to recognize discrimination and racism – not only to prevent discrimination but also to ensure that, if it happens, it is reported and punished. It is also important to closely monitor developments. Much research into this subject is being conducted in the Netherlands, which will help us identify the most effective approach.

It is essential for discrimination to be reported if we are to tackle it in the right way and in the right place to ensure that it becomes a topic for discussion and that the victims of discrimination receive the help they need. As there are many more people who experience discrimination than there are reports made, the Government seeks to increase people’s willingness to report discrimination. Studies have shown that many people do not know where they can report discrimination, that they have little confidence in the bodies to which their case can be reported and that, after reporting, they receive little information about the outcome. This means that antidiscrimination agencies should become easier to find and should provide greater clarity about what is done with a report once it is received.

In this chapter, we discuss the steps taken to reinforce government policy efforts aimed at recognizing and reporting discrimination and racism. These steps go beyond the current policy on these topics that the Government is already pursuing. 

Increased visibility for antidiscrimination agencies

In 2022, the Government launched an investigation into the structure, tasks and financing of the antidiscrimination agencies. As part of this investigation, the structure of a comparable organization – like the Legal Aid Desk – is also examined at the request of the Parliament.

One way to increase the visibility of the antidiscrimination agencies would be to introduce a single nationwide operating name. Lack of name recognition presently hampers their effectiveness. Many people have no idea what an antidiscrimination agency is, partly because each regional organization has a different name. This also makes it more complex to organize national press campaigns. The number of reports of discrimination is expected to rise if and when the antidiscrimination agencies operate under a single name. The government will engage in dialogue with the agencies to ensure the introduction of a single name in 2023.

At present, not all antidiscrimination agencies are members of the sector association discriminatie.nl. The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations intends to explore options for strengthening the sector association so as to improve its role as an advocate for its members.

Increasing the willingness to report

Together with the antidiscrimination agencies and other reporting bodies, in late 2022 or early 2023 the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations is planning to organize the first national meeting for all relevant organizations who register discrimination complaints. During this event, the initial results of the study into the reporting process will be discussed and translated into a plan of action that should help increase the willingness of individuals to report discrimination.

The Government will start a major campaign for the general public to increase the willingness of individual citizens to report discrimination.

Registration of discrimination in the Muslim community

Research shows that 27 percent of all Dutch people experience discrimination. This is 55 percent among the Muslim community, but the level of reporting discrimination in this community is very low. Policy efforts aimed at increasing the willingness of individual citizens to report discrimination should focus specifically on discrimination in the Muslim community.

The NCDR also recognizes the desirability of an independent national survey of discrimination against Muslims in the Netherlands, which should be completed within two years. The NCDR is currently discussing with various parties, including the State Commission against Discrimination and Racism (Staatscommissie Discriminatie en Racisme), whether this survey can be integrated into their working program.

Improved registration

The lack of a precise distinction between the various types of discrimination reports renders an interpretation of discrimination statistics more difficult. This, in turn, also complicates the development of a targeted policy. For these reasons, the task of registering various forms of discrimination, including discrimination against Muslims and transgender persons, should be assigned to the organizations responsible for receiving discrimination reports that do not yet include these categories in their records, such as the police and the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights.

Evaluation of the Face Covering Clothing Act

The Face Covering Clothing Act will be evaluated in 2023. This evaluation will include not only the background to and the usefulness and necessity of the Act, but also its effects on the group of people most affected by the Act.

Study into the Public Administration (Probity Screening) Act

The NCDR has received word that municipal authorities are employing the Public Administration (Probity Screening) Act in cases involving the establishment of religious institutions. An initial study will have to be conducted into how often, why and with what result the Act is invoked when religious institutions, such as mosques and schools with an Islamic signature, are established.

Internship discrimination

The NCDR believes that the SBB, the agency responsible for reporting internship discrimination in senior secondary vocational education, should pay greater attention and offer more support to victims of discrimination.

Labor market

Employers, including the national government and social and educational institutions, are asked to include details of their efforts in the field of diversity and inclusion and in tackling discrimination and inequality in the broadest sense in their annual reports and management reports. Aspects that should be considered include gender, cultural diversity, people with a disability, sexual orientation and age. Employers delivering outstanding performance can be put in the spotlight through various initiatives. 

Enforcement by municipal authorities

Existing legal frameworks are insufficient to enable municipal authorities to tackle cases of incitement to discriminate. This is an unsatisfactory situation. The possibilities currently available for enforcement and the imposition of sanctions – for example by imposing penalties, withdrawing permits and licenses and initiating disciplinary procedures – should be examined. Thorough consideration will have to be given as to how these can be used and whether, alongside these repressive measures, other solutions or a supplementary approach are needed in order to address these problems.

Further investigation into healthcare

The NCDR wishes to conduct further qualitative investigation into the scope of discrimination in healthcare, including an investigation into the situation in care homes and in home care. It could be conducted through the knowledge program of the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) or it could be taken up by the State Commission.

Past investigations led to the recommendation to appoint officers tasked specifically with identifying discrimination within care institutions, alongside a more individual and culturally sensitive work approach. A separate research program will also have to be initiated into specific female disorders. More knowledge is needed within the educational programs for care professionals concerning cultural and gender differences and discrimination in general, as well as unintentional discrimination by some professionals.

Online discrimination: improved awareness of contact points

In order to increase willingness to report discrimination, and to gain better insight into online discrimination, its scope and other factors, it is important to clearly identify where online discrimination and online hate speech can be reported. Both the awareness of the Centre against Internet Discrimination (MiND) and the findability of the organization as the central contact point for reporting online discrimination should be improved. Greater attention should also be paid to further underpinning and professionalizing the level of knowledge available at all relevant organizations for reporting online discrimination, such as the police and the antidiscrimination agencies. Furthermore, a broader and better understanding is needed of all reports of online discrimination, so that these figures can be included in annual reports on discrimination figures. At both national and international level, good and bad practices have been identified, both about online discrimination and online hate speech, and how these expressions of discrimination can be combated. Investigations are currently underway into establishing a knowledge base to compile and improve access to these practices, which includes a consideration of whether a central hotline facility, a knowledge institute or another organization should be responsible for the knowledge base. The possible use of peer-to-peer education as a means of tackling online discrimination and online hate speech is also being investigated in more detail, including studies into online awareness and the setting of social standards on the internet.