Record number of discrimination reports; Many from people with disability
Last year, the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights received a record number of complaints and questions about unequal treatment: 5,286. Almost half of these are considered discrimination according to the law. Most were discrimination related to a disability or chronic illness, as has been the case for the past five years.
The Institute received almost 600 reports of racism. Over 450 people submitted complaints and questions because they felt discriminated against based on their gender.
The discrimination monitor noted 2,328 reports of people feeling discriminated against by the government due to the introduction of the coronavirus access pass. According to the law, these reports cannot be directly seen as discrimination. In total, 2,873 complaints did not meet the legal grounds for discrimination.
The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the situation for people with disabilities or chronic illness, the Institute said. They especially had difficulty finding a job, education, or a home. The discrimination monitor mentioned examples of people unable to wear a face mask or get vaccinated due to a disability who therefore faced problems with the coronavirus access pass.
In addition, the parliamentary elections were not always accessible to people with disabilities. And 77 parents filed a complaint because their gifted child was not getting proper support at school. The discrimination monitor mentioned an example of a man who was paralyzed and unable to make a signature but was forced to do so by an insurance company.
"The government is really missing something here. They must do much more to determine that companies must help people with disabilities so that they can also use services or goods," said Jacobine Geel, chairperson of the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights. "That is not a favor, but an obligation of the government resulting from the signing of the UN Disability Convention."
Many complaints of racism followed the childcare allowance scandal. People also suspected they were ethnically profiled, for example, by municipalities when applying for social assistance benefits. The monitor mentioned a complaint from a construction worker as an example of racism in the workplace. "A colleague and I always have to do the shitty jobs. The foreman, the project leader, and the boss treat us differently from the other colleagues. My colleague and I are the only ones with different skin colors," the construction worker said.
"Fortunately, tackling racism is high on the agenda, but we still have a long way to go in the Netherlands," Geel said.
Over half of the gender discrimination reports involved people disadvantaged in their work because they were pregnant or wanted to have children. The Institute also pointed out the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace.
"We have been dealing with questions, reports, and requests about this form of violence against women for years," Geel said about sexual harassment. "People don't always know that they can ask the Institute for a ruling if they face sexual harassment. The prohibition of sexual harassment is regulated in the equal treatment legislation, so the Institute can assess it. We then mainly look at the role of the employer. They must ensure a safe working environment where discrimination does not get a chance."
Reporting by ANP and NL Times.