Zwarte Piet leads to discrimination, bullying: Dutch child advocate

Zwarte Piet in his current for is in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, says Children's Ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer. According to her, the figure of Zware Piet can contribute to bullying, exclusion or discrimination. He must therefore be adapted in such a way tht no children experience negativity in the Sinterklaas festival, NOS reports.

This report is the first time the independent institute of Children's Ombudsman is reacting in the Zwarte Piet debate. Kalverboer launched an investigation following complaints from a number of parents. They find Zwarte Piet a caricature that is a breeding ground for discrimination and racism and something their kids are hurt by. This last prompted the Children's Ombudsman to act.

Kalverboer does not say exactly what the adapted Zwarte Piet should look like. She does call on parents, schools, private and public youth organizations and youth orientated media to make an effort to reshape the character. "They must ensure that children of all skin colors can have fun at this party." she said. "By stripping Zwarte Piet of discriminatory and stereotypical characteristics, he can by turned into a figure that reflects the joy that so many experience in the Sinterklaas tradition, and that is consistent with the rights of all children in the Netherlands."

For this investigation, Kalverboer spoke to kids of all skin color between the ages of 10 and 16 years. Despite their differences, all the children she spoke to agree, she said. "All te young people I spoke to believe that the appearance of Zwarte Piet should be changed if there are children and young people who feel discriminated against by the current appearance", she said. The kids also find that adults dominate the Zwarte Piet discussion in an unpleasant way.