Dutch MPs vote to keep ban on hate speech

Tweede_kamer Sisyfus Wikimedia commons

A proposal by VNL to scrap the ban on group defamation, hate speech and discrimination from the Penal Code was rejected by a majority in Dutch parliament on Thursday. A large majority of the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, found the proposal not well thought out as it opens the door to discrimination directed at vulnerable groups such as Jews, Muslims, women, LGBT and disabled people, NU.nl reports.

The VNL, made up of former PVV members Louis Bontes and Joram van Klaveren, wants to abolish Article 137C (Group insult) and 137D (incitement to hatred and discrimination) in the Criminal Code. According to the party, this would give more freedom to freedom of expression.

The D66 is all for freedom of speech, but points out that there are limits, according to the newspaper. "Besmirching the walls with swastikas. Waving ISIS flags. Spreading anti-gay flyers. Anti-Semitic slogans at football stadiums. Imams who call gay people cockroaches. This will all be allowed. That road I will not walk Never."

CDA leader Sybrand Buman vehemently opposed this proposal. According to him, removing these articles will open the door to violence. He pointed out that the current law dates back to the 1930's and was initially intended to protect Jews against the rising Nazism. He thinks it would be better to double the punishment for inciting hatred.

The SP, ChristenUnie and SGP all pointed out that getting rid of this ban would make it impossible to prosecute so-called "hate imams" for offensive and hate preaching. 

The PVV supported the proposal, as can be expected given the fact that party leader Geert Wilders was just convicted based on the same Act. "There is no freedom without freedom of expression, it is a crucial part of democracy", parliamentarian Martin Bosma said. The PVV itself worked on a similar proposal, but decided to put it on hold. According to Bosma, this was done deliberately as there was no parliamentary majority.

The VVD did not support abolishing the ban completely, but will consider getting rid of the ban on group defamation. According to MP Joost Taverne, freedom of speech is an important condition to be able to freely exchange ideas in an open democratic society. The VVD adds that there are other sections of the law that individuals can rely on if they feel offended, which means that the ban on group insult is not required.

D66 leader Alexander Pechtold and CDA leader Buma vehemently disagreed. "You can not voluntarily belong to a group", Pechtold said, referring to being homosexual or female. Buma points out that the argument that you can rely on other parts of the law for justice against discrimination, holds no water. "80 percent of the cases relating to anti-Semitism results in court to a conviction based on Article 137C."

Buma went further and accused the PVV of "political swindling" because Wilder, and also the VNL, regularly pose parliamentary questions when an imam crosses the line. "If this proposal makes it, a hate imam is allowed to say the most horrible things about gay people." he said. "Make some effort to bring legal baggage to the debate."