4.3 Current policy and policy reinforcements – Discriminatory grounds
Numerous initiatives have been launched to increase the involvement of municipal authorities in efforts to tackle local discrimination of Black members of the community. The purpose of these efforts is to reinforce contact between municipal authorities and local Afro-Dutch communities. The NCDR is asking the Government to free up additional financial resources to help municipal authorities become more involved in the UN International Decade for People of African Descent.
Discrimination against Muslims
Tackling hate speech is necessary to prevent stigmatization, exclusion and discrimination resulting from expressions of hatred against Muslims and other groups. 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.
Another project initiated by the government is a pilot project that aims to increase the participation of young Roma and Sinti in education and the labor market, with municipal authorities and key figures from the communities acting as intermediaries. The communities are also expressly involved when issues relevant to the community itself are explored and when policy intentions are reviewed.
As part of its mandate, the NCAB supervises the security situation of Jewish institutions, which is monitored by intelligence and security services. The tasks of guarding and securing religious institutions have been decentralized. If threats and risks give cause to do so, the local authorities may take appropriate security measures.
The NCAB is familiar with the legislative bill that criminalizes condoning, denying or grossly trivializing crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. On June 9, 2021, the European Commission informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of its opinion that the text of the Dutch Criminal Code insufficiently reflects that – briefly put – publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivializing crimes of genocide (Article 1(1)(c) and (d) of the Racism Framework Decision) is punishable. In response, the Netherlands is expected to submit a proposal for the re-implementation of Article 137c for consultation this spring, which will result in the express incorporation in the law that the aforementioned specific actions may qualify as group insult.
People with a disability
Applying to the Netherlands since 2016, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) aims to improve the position of people with a disability in such areas as work, education, transport, culture, sports and other leisure activities. The Convention does not confer new rights on people with a disability, but instead guarantees their equal access to human rights that apply to all. Major basic principles underpinning the UN CRPD are independence, full participation and ease of access. The Netherlands Institute for Human Rights monitors the implementation of the Convention in the Netherlands.
In 2018, the Government launched the Unlimited Participation! program of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport to implement the UN CRPD, which stipulates what action the Netherlands must take to improve the position of people with a disability. To achieve this, the Ministry has pooled resources with other Ministries, municipal authorities, companies and organizations, including the UN Convention Alliance (Alliantie VN-verdrag), a coalition of interest groups for people with a disability in which network organization Ieder(in) also participates.
Aimed at raising awareness of barriers that people with a disability come across in practice, the Unlimited Participation! program focuses partly on bringing about a shift from a medical model to a social model. The medical model views a disability as an abnormality in an individual’s mind or body; the social model, by contrast, considers how the surroundings can be structured so as to allow everyone to participate in society. As such, the social model provides a different perspective of looking at society. The Unlimited Participation! program also opts to view the issue from the angle of participation rather than discrimination, as requested by this group of people.
The Minister for Long-term Care and Sport bears policy responsibility for the coordination of the UN CRPD implementation and, in April 2022, sent an action plan to Parliament addressing the follow-up of the Unlimited Participation! program. It is up to other departments to implement certain substantive aspects of the Convention, with specific ambitions on several topics also being incorporated into the coalition agreement.
Recently, a movement has emerged in which numerous parties set to work on creating a more accessible and inclusive society. The Government intends to use the ensuing momentum to take more steps in the period ahead. The action plan describes how the follow-up steps will be structured, which may take the form of activities aimed at increasing knowledge and raising awareness, the use of experts by experience and the conclusion of inclusion pacts with initiators that seek to cooperate to bring about concrete accessibility and inclusion improvements.
On March 17 and September 27, 2021, the previous Government informed Parliament of the decision-making process for the signing and ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN CRPD. The Government believes that financial and legal implications are major aspects in the decision-making process surrounding the ratification of the Optional Protocol and protocols associated with other human rights treaties. A UN evaluation on the functioning of the Convention committees, which could have added to the knowledge, has been delayed for an unknown period of time on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why the Government asked the Council of State to provide information about the financial and legal implications of the Optional Protocols to the UN CRPD and the ICESCR and the Third Protocol to the UNCRC. The information has now been obtained from the Council of State and the aim is to provide a response around November 1, 2022. The Government will be able to consider further steps to be taken partly on the basis of the information provided by the Council of State. Interest groups, the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights and Parliament are calling for the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN CRPD.
The Netherlands Institute for Human Rights has advocated a UN CRPD network of civil servants who act as liaison officers. The initial structure of the network is found both between and within Ministries. In concert with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the Institute has also organized a number of meetings to speak with employees of several departments and experts by experience.
People with a disability
The NCDR argues for the rapid signing of the Optional Protocol to the UN CRPD.
The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations has also commissioned the Royal Netherlands Standardization Institute (NEN) to prepare a voluntary standard for accessible building practices. The Institute collaborates with a broad group of representatives of the construction world, housing associations, property developers, architects, government authorities and consumers in the process. The standard may be viewed as a guideline for more accessible building practices and will supplement the current Building Decree, which already contains general requirements on building accessibility. Consideration is also being given to ensuring that as many parties as possible will make use of the standard.
Surveys have revealed that LGBTIQ+ persons regularly face violence and discrimination in public spaces. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science focuses on prevention by fostering acceptance. Aiming to promote the safety of LGBTIQ+ persons, the Ministry of Justice and Security has prepared the 2019-2022 LGBTI Safety Action Plan together with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the municipal authorities of the four largest municipalities in order to increase social safety at the local, regional and national levels. The Safe Cities, Rainbow Cities and Rainbow Provinces partnerships encourage local authorities to develop policies intended to prevent violence.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ministry of Justice and Security has commissioned the Research and Documentation Center (Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek- en Documentatiecentrum; WODC) to conduct a study to gain a better understanding of the perpetrator profiles of those who commit violence against LGBTIQ+ persons. The results may contribute to future policies aimed at promoting the safety of LGBTIQ+ persons.
The Government supports the Level Playing Field Alliance (Alliantie Gelijkspelen), which was set up to create a safe environment for all top athletes, amateurs and fans and to make a stand against homophobia and transphobia in sports. Following this example, the Sports and Movement for Everyone alliance also addresses this issue. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science also supports the Shared Pride, Shared Luck alliance, which focuses on the social acceptance and safety of LGBTIQ+ persons.
The Government disapproves of conversion practices – also known as ‘sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts’ (SOGICE), ‘reparative therapy’ or ‘conversion therapy’ – aimed at bringing about a change in sexual identity, gender identity and/or gender expression. Seeking to safeguard the human dignity of each and every individual, the Government wants to prevent and counteract such practices now and in the future. The ‘Exploratory study of legal and policy interventions to prevent and combat ‘conversion therapy’’ has been completed and was sent to Parliament on May 16, 2022 also on behalf of the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, the Minister of Justice and Security and the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. The policy response was sent to Parliament on July 5, 2022. i The exploratory study is a follow-up to the report Voor de verandering (‘For a Change’), which was sent to Parliament on May 28, 2021.
In preparing such a prohibition under the law, the Government eagerly awaits the private member’s bill within the Parliament and the recommendations from the Council of State. A prohibition will set the standard and will offer support to people who have undergone conversion practices.
In the European Netherlands, there are at least fifteen providers of conversion therapy programs that attempt to change, suppress or ‘repair’ a person’s sexual or gender identity. Conversion practices obviously do not bring about any change in sexual orientation or gender identity. Numerous studies have revealed that victims suffer serious adverse consequences, ranging from depression to attempted suicide. The NCDR therefore calls upon the Dutch Parliament to embrace the private member’s bill aimed at criminalizing conversion therapy treatments in the European Netherlands and the Caribbean Netherlands. In preparing a prohibition under the law, the Government eagerly awaits the private member’s bill within the Parliament and the recommendations from the Council of State.
Parliament also instructed that a study be conducted of how transition leave may be arranged for transgender individuals, as the current leave schemes do not sufficiently allow for this. A response to the results of the report will be provided later this year.
In response to the report by the State Commission for Review of Parenting (Staatscommissie Herijking Ouderschap), a shared custody scheme has been worked out for individuals who are closely involved in the care and upbringing of a child but who presently do not have custody. A bill on surrogate motherhood has also been prepared.
The tightening of the Equal Treatment Act ensures that the legal position of transgender and intersex individuals is now expressly enshrined in the law.
Discrimination against non-binary, intersex and transgender individuals is currently not explicitly prohibited in the Dutch Criminal Code. Transgender, intersex and non-binary persons are therefore not protected in law against expressions of group insult, despite being exposed to much discrimination. Moreover, the terms ‘heterosexual and homosexual orientation’ are not inclusive. The term ‘sexual orientation’ should be used in the law. It is also important to investigate whether the terms sexual characteristics, gender identity and gender expression need to be added.
A bill has been presented to Parliament that is intended to simplify the procedure for changing gender registration by cancelling the expert opinion and age limit and through other measures.
Around 4 percent of all Dutch people do not identify as male or female. They see themselves as non-binary, for example. This group is faced with many uncomfortable situations in daily life because at present it is only possible to officially register gender as male or female. It should be easily possible to have the official gender registration deleted and replaced by an ‘X’ without judicial intervention. The NCDR eagerly awaits the outcome of the discussion of the bill.
Parliamentary Documents II 2021-2022, 30 420, no. 371.