Discrimination in public a "structural" problem in Netherlands: Human Rights Board
Discriminatory behavior in public space happens structurally in the Netherlands and has serious consequences for the victims, according to the 2019 annual report of the Board of Human Rights. "The many anti-racism demonstrations underscore the persistence of this problem." The Board called on the Dutch government to appoint a coordinator to develop an "overarching, integrated and structural approach to all forms of discriminatory behavior."
Discrimination occurs throughout society and people are targeted for a variety of reasons. 28 percent of people who experience discrimination in public experience it on the basis of their ethnicity - so based on their skin color, ethnic- or national origin, or the language they speak.
Discriminatory behavior can have significant consequences for the victim. "People feel humiliated and unsafe. It also affects their right to be who they are," the Board said. No less than two thirds of victims display avoidance behavior, according to the report. They avoid certain public locations or online forums. Nearly half said they avoid certain websites or social media. A fifth avoids taking public transit. "So it restricts people in their freedom of movement."
Two thirds of victims also said they adjust their behavior in other ways, partly based on they way they were discriminated against. Gay couples stop holding hands when outside. Women change the way they dress. Religious people hide signs of their belief. "Discriminatory behavior therefore also hinders the exercise of other human rights, such as the right to freedom of religion and the expression of your identity."
According to the Board of Human Rights, there is attention for discrimination at both national and local levels. But more is needed. The board therefore calls the government to appoint a national coordinator to tackle discrimination more structurally. The government should also make sure that discriminatory behavior does not become normal, by "continuing to work on raising awareness and showing that everyone has a place in society". This also means Ministers and politicians speaking out when serious incidents of discrimination occurred, the Board said.
Only about 30 percent of discrimination victims report this to the authorities. The others think that filing a report will have no effect or that discrimination is not serious enough to report, the Board said. According to the Board, this shows that that the authorities need to do a better job at registering discrimination. The Board also called on the police to give more information on where victims can find help and support. "Think for example of psychological and legal help, or practical help from the reporting center for internet discrimination MiND in removing discriminatory posts on the internet."