Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law in all parts of the kingdom criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. The penalty is imprisonment not exceeding 12 years, a fine not exceeding 78,000 euros ($85,800), or both. In case of violence against a spouse, the penalty for various forms of abuse can be increased by one-third. In Aruba the penalty is imprisonment not exceeding 12 years or a fine of 100,000 Aruba florins ($57,100). Authorities effectively prosecuted such crimes.
According to a 2011 government-commissioned study (the most recent such study conducted) more than 200,000 persons per year were victims of some sort of domestic violence, including abuse and honor-related violence. The majority of cases involved psychological abuse. In the Netherlands police registered approximately 65,000 reports of domestic violence in 2015. Victims of domestic or sexual violence can apply for financial compensation from a government fund for victims of physical violence. The average prison sentence for a convicted rapist was 20.5 months.
Safe Home, a knowledge hub and reporting center for domestic abuse, was the national platform that worked to prevent domestic violence and support victims. Since 2012 Safe Home has run a national multimedia campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence and to direct survivors to the proper institutions for assistance. The center operated a national 24/7 hotline for persons affected by domestic violence. The government supported the organization Movisie, which assisted domestic and sexual violence survivors, trained police and first-line responders, and maintained a website on preventing domestic violence.
No official statistics were available regarding the incidence of rape, domestic violence, or sexual harassment in Sint Maarten, Aruba, or Curacao. A person convicted of stalking may be sentenced or fined. A judge may impose a restraining order if a person is found guilty of stalking or assault. In Sint Maarten the Safe Haven foundation collaborated with government agencies in cases pertaining to women and children, especially in abuse cases. In Curacao the Victims Assistance Bureau continued a “stop abuse” public information campaign and published articles in its free newspaper, Tasina, to raise awareness of domestic violence.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): In the kingdom the law prohibits FGM/C for women and girls; the maximum penalty for FGM/C is 12 years in prison. According to a 2013 government-funded study conducted by the Pharos Center of Expertise on Health for Migrants and Refugees, based on 2012 data, an estimated 40 to 50 girls residing in the Netherlands were at risk of FGM/C annually. Approximately 80 percent of the girls who were at risk came from Egypt, Somalia, Ethiopia/Eritrea, and Kurdish Iraq. The study noted that, for a number of these girls, the risk of FGM/C was real only when they visited their home countries. There were no signals or reports of FGM/C in immigrant communities following the influx of migrants during the year.
Doctors had a protocol on how to assist a victim and how to report threats of FGM/C to Safe Home. Safe Home has the legal obligation to investigate reports of child abuse and could refer cases to law enforcement. The Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sport continued funding for the Pharos Center to run a project to prevent and counter FGM/C that included conducting research, improving medical procedures for victims, and training professionals on how to deal with the problem. Pharos also operated Focal Point, which functioned as a FGM/C knowledge hub for aid workers, law enforcement agencies, policy advisors, and others.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The National Expertise Center for Honor-Related Violence, part of the police force in the Netherlands, received 452 reports of honor-related violence in 2015. A 2014 study by several NGOs and a university concluded that each year hundreds of forced marriages and related marital abuses take place among immigrant communities in the Netherlands. Engaging in forced marriage is illegal under Dutch law. Since March preparing for a forced marriage is also illegal. Honor-related violence is treated as “regular violence” for the purposes of prosecution, and there is no separate offense category or penalty for this type of violence. Laws against violence were enforced effectively in honor-related violence cases, and victims were permitted to enter a specialized shelter.
In 2015 the government began implementing an action program, Self Determination 2015-17, under which authorities were provided one million euros ($1.1 million) annually to counter forced marriage and honor-related violence. Examples of projects included a social media campaign, training community activists, and distribution of legal information.
Sexual Harassment: The law penalizes acts of sexual harassment and was enforced effectively. The law requires employers to protect employees against aggression, violence, and sexual intimidation. Complaints against employers who fail to provide sufficient protection could be submitted to the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights. Victims of sexual assault or rape in the workplace must report the incidents to police as criminal offenses. The Curacao government has a policy against sexual harassment and a procedure to report violations. Sexual harassment is illegal in Sint Maarten. Aruban law states the employer shall ensure the employee is not sexually harassed in the workplace. Employers are required to keep the workplace free from harassment by introducing policies and enforcing them. This includes taking every complaint seriously and initiating an investigation.
Reproductive Rights: The kingdom’s governments recognized the right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.
Discrimination: Under the law women throughout the kingdom have the same legal status and rights as men. The government actively worked to combat discrimination. The law requires equal pay for equal work. There were reports of discrimination in employment.
Birth Registration: Citizenship can be derived from either the mother or the father. Births are registered promptly.
Child Abuse: A 2010 government study (the most recent one available) estimated that 119,000 children were abused annually in the Netherlands. Experts estimated that 50 to 80 children died each year from some form of abuse.
A multidisciplinary task force in the Netherlands acts as a knowledge hub and facilitates interagency cooperation in combatting child abuse and sexual violence. The task force, consisting of field experts, also organizes an annual “Week against Child Abuse” to raise awareness of the problem. The Netherlands’ national rapporteur on human trafficking and sexual violence against children independently investigated government efforts and made policy recommendations. The government also continued implementing the action plan, Children Safe 2012-16, part of Safe Home (see above paragraph on domestic violence against women), to improve victim care (including prevention), confront perpetrators, and stop intergenerational violence. The children’s ombudsman headed an independent bureau that safeguarded children’s rights and called attention to abuse. Physicians are required to report child abuse to authorities.
The website Safe Internetting, a joint initiative of the government of the Netherlands, the business sector, and various social organizations, continued to run a registration center where youth could report inappropriate internet behavior, such as bullying, discrimination, hacking, stalking, webcam abuse, and violations of privacy.
In Aruba the law prohibits child abuse. Penalties for abusing a child could be increased by one-third if the abuser was a parent of the child. The government and NGOs conducted public information campaigns to focus attention on the problem. Aruba has a child abuse reporting center. In Curacao physicians are not required to report instances of abuse they encounter to authorities, but hospital officials reported indications of child abuse to authorities.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 in all parts of the kingdom. In the Netherlands and Aruba, there are two exceptions: if the persons concerned are older than 16 and the woman is pregnant or has given birth, or if the Minister of Security and Justice in the Netherlands or the Minister of Justice in Aruba grants a dispensation based on the parties’ request. Underage marriages were rare; a 2015 study commissioned by the government concluded that an estimated 250 marriages involving a minor occurred each year in the Netherlands, mostly in immigrant communities. The government began implementing an action program, Self Determination 2015-17, under which authorities allocated one million euros ($1.1 million) annually to counter forced marriage and honor-related violence by raising awareness and providing legal information.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: In the Netherlands and Aruba, the penalty for commercial sexual exploitation of a minor is imprisonment for up to eight years or up to 12 years if the victim is under 16. The country has a national reporting center for sexual exploitation. The penalty in the Netherlands for statutory rape is imprisonment not exceeding 15 years, a fine, or both. In Aruba the penalty for statutory rape is imprisonment not exceeding 12 years or a fine. In Curacao the penalty for an adult who entices minors into meeting for committing lewd acts is a prison sentence of up to nine years. The penalty for statutory rape is 12 to 15 years’ imprisonment. The minimum age of consent is 16 in the Netherlands, Curacao, and Aruba and 15 in Sint Maarten. In Sint Maarten the penalty for forcing a minor to engage in prostitution is imprisonment for up to 8 years or up to 12 years if the victim is under 16. Both Aruba and Curacao had two centers for taking reports on the sexual exploitation of children.
Throughout the kingdom the law prohibits production, possession, and distribution of child pornography. In the Netherlands the maximum penalty for these offenses is eight years’ imprisonment, while the penalty for accessing child pornography on the internet is four years in prison.
The government of the Netherlands continued to implement the 2015-18 National Program against Child Pornography and Child Sex Tourism. The program was one of the five priorities of the 2015-18 Security Agenda, a national agenda including policy measures and goals to fight crime. The National Police had a team that investigated cases. The Prosecutor’s Office and police worked closely in conducting interventions and developing improved digital tools and methods to counter child pornography and child sex tourism with cooperation from the private sector. Law enforcement agencies cooperated internationally in the European Financial Coalition against Child Sexual Abuse Online, the Global Alliance Coalition against Child Sexual Abuse Online, and the Virtual Global Taskforce.
International Child Abductions: The Netherlands is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, but the convention does not apply to Aruba, Sint Maarten, or Curacao. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/english/legal/compliance.html.
The Jewish population in the Netherlands numbered approximately 30,000 persons.
According to the NGO Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), the country’s main chronicler of anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic incidents, including threats, verbal abuse, and the desecration of monuments and cemeteries, decreased during the year. The most common incidents took place in e-mails, on Twitter, and through other forms of social media.
In April CIDI reported fewer incidents (126) in 2015 (the most recent available figures) than the year before (171) but qualified it as “still higher than normal…in a year without military intervention in Israel.” Fewer incidents of street harassment and e-mail harassment occurred. Incidents of vandalism (18) and physical violence (6), however, were considered relatively high. Twice as many incidents (10) of anti-Semitic chanting during soccer matches occurred than during the prior year. Persons who were recognizable as Jewish because of dress or outward appearance, for instance wearing a yarmulke, were targets of direct confrontations.
For example, in a dispute over produce delivery July 24, a supplier expressed his anger by saluting Hitler and knocking down a Jewish customer, subsequently breaking his wrist. The man did not file a police complaint.
In May, CIDI filed complaints with police against soccer fans chanting anti-Semitic remarks.
In 2015 the government-sponsored, editorially independent Registration Center for Discrimination on the Internet (MDI) of the Netherlands also reported a significant decrease in anti-Semitic expression. The center received 142 reports of anti-Semitism on the internet (15 percent of the total discrimination incidents it recorded), compared with 328 reports in 2014. The National Registration Center for Punishable Discrimination on the Internet also recorded fewer incidents, including 46 in 2015 (7 percent of the total number of discrimination incidents recorded).
The MDI noted that anti-Semitic material appeared not only on websites of right-wing extremists but also among the ultra-left and pockets of the Muslim community. The center noted that criticism of Israel’s policies and appeals to boycott the country readily turned into anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, and expressions of wishing Jews dead.
The National Discrimination Expertise Center (LECD) of the Netherlands coordinated the prosecution of cases of discrimination and hate speech, including inciting religious hatred. In 2014, the most recent year for which figures were available, the LECD registered 174 incidents, including 52 anti-Semitic ones. Indictments were issued in 59 percent of all cases, resulting in convictions in 90 percent of the cases. The most common sentences were fines and community service.
Jewish leaders and other political contacts reported an increased, palpable sense of fear among many in the Jewish community and relayed anecdotes of Jews, including schoolchildren, facing harassment and intimidation when wearing religious symbols in public areas in Amsterdam and elsewhere.
The government of the Netherlands updated its national action plan to counter discrimination, which also included specific measures to counter anti-Semitism. In order to counter tension in society over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the government fostered cooperation between key figures in the Jewish and Muslim communities, promoted debate among Muslim youth with the goal of advancing diversity and tolerance, and stressed the importance of education to support fundamental values. The government formed agreements with major social media organizations such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to counter discrimination on the Internet. The government also established measures in consultation with stakeholders to counter harassing and anti-Semitic chanting during soccer matches.
Government ministers regularly met with the Jewish community to discuss appropriate measures to counter anti-Semitism. The government worked with youth and other relevant NGOs on several projects, including making anti-Semitism a subject of discussion within the Turkish community, organizing roundtables with teachers on anti-Semitic prejudice and Holocaust denial, holding discussions with social media organizations on countering anti-Semitism among Islamic youth, promoting an interreligious dialogue, and renewing a public information campaign against discrimination and anti-Semitism. The MDI also completed a “counterspeech” campaign on the internet to repudiate online anti-Semitic allegations and Holocaust denial.
The Jewish populations in the Dutch Caribbean were small. There were no official or press reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
Antidiscrimination laws exist throughout the kingdom. In the Netherlands discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities is illegal. The Act on Equal Treatment on Grounds of Disability or Chronic Illness (WGBH) requires equal access to employment, education, air travel and other transportation, housing, and goods and services. The law requires that persons with disabilities have access to public buildings, information, and communications, and it prohibits making a distinction in supplying goods and services. The latter implies that shops, movie theaters, museums, and sports clubs may not refuse persons because of a disability and must provide adequate adaptations. The law also provides equal access to health care and the judicial system. Despite continued progress, public buildings and public transport were not always easily accessible, lacking access ramps. The law provides criminal penalties for discrimination and administrative sanctions for failure to provide access. Government enforcement of rules governing access was inadequate.
In June parliament adopted comprehensive legislation to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which made significant adjustments to the WGBH Act.
In the Dutch Caribbean, a wide-ranging law prohibiting discrimination does not specifically mention, but it was applied to persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, health care, air travel and other transportation, and the provision of other government services. Some public buildings and public transport were not easily accessible in the Dutch Caribbean.
Although discrimination is illegal in Curacao, UN Children’s Fund human rights observers asserted that there was a continuing need for more specific laws prohibiting it, since persons with disabilities had to rely on ad hoc measures by government and other employers to access buildings, parking spots, and information.
According to the Ministry of Education in Sint Maarten, children with physical disabilities have access to public primary and secondary schools “if they are able to participate fully in their academic programs.” Not all schools were equipped for children with a range of physical disabilities, but the government reported that all children with physical disabilities had access to public and subsidized schools.
The laws of the kingdom’s constituent territories prohibit racial, national, or ethnic discrimination. In the Netherlands members of minority groups, particularly immigrants and Muslims, experienced verbal abuse and intimidation and were at times denied access to public venues such as discotheques. In the Caribbean regions, some instances of discrimination occurred.
In the Netherlands the Muslim community of approximately 900,000 persons faced frequent discrimination, intolerance, and racism, as did members of other minority/immigrant groups, particularly in public venues and with regard to housing and employment. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the minority unemployment rate during the year was approximately twice that of the native Dutch workforce, while the unemployment rate among minority youths was almost three times as high as among native Dutch youth.
Various monitoring bodies reported a sharp increase of incidents of discrimination against Muslims in the wake of several terrorist attacks in neighboring countries. For example, the umbrella organization, Islamic Organizations in the Rotterdam Region (SPIOR), registered 174 incidents of discrimination against Muslims in 2015, half of them concerning verbal abuse in the street, often directed at women wearing headscarves; 20 percent concerned discrimination at work or in education and 14 percent involved actual physical violence. SPIOR called the incidents “the tip of the iceberg” because most incidents went unreported, partly because Muslims either lacked trust in the authorities or feared retaliation.
On February 27, Molotov cocktails were thrown at a mosque in Enschede causing a minor fire. Five men were subsequently arrested. They were convicted on October 27 of attempted arson with terrorist intent and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, of which one year was suspended.
According to the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights, discrimination on racial and ethnic grounds occurred in virtually every sphere. For example, many gyms and sports associations required participants to speak only Dutch or prohibited headscarves. Members of minorities were checked more often in public transportation and by police.
The Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP) reported the existence of “ethnic discomfort” and “tension among population groups.” At the same time, it noted there was growing awareness and visibility of discrimination and exclusion on racial and ethnic grounds. The SCP also reported that up to half of individuals belonging to an ethnic minority stated they had experienced discrimination in a public venue, employment, contacts with official institutions, or education. Muslims often linked the discrimination they experienced to their religion.
Both the government and NGOs, including the Registration Center for Discrimination on the Internet, actively documented instances of discrimination. The National Discrimination Expertise Center, a unit of the prosecutor’s department, registered, evaluated, and prosecuted discrimination cases. Most court lawsuits charging defamation involved race. Persons who were not ethnically Dutch also filed civil lawsuits alleging discrimination in the supply of such services as mobile telephones and access to clubs.
Migrant organizations and spokespersons from the black community complained about ethnic profiling by police because it appeared that migrants and persons of color were stopped and searched more often than were native Dutch. An investigation in the immigrant neighborhood of Schilderswijk in The Hague, however, failed to confirm systematic ethnic profiling. National Police Chief Inspector Erik Akerboom also denied the accusations.
Racial discomfort was symbolized in the Netherlands by the continued debate over “Black Pete,” the black-faced helper in the popular St. Nicholas tradition. The government officially recognized that persons were offended by the tradition as a symbol of prejudice and racism in society, but it also stated that it was not up to the government to change the tradition.
The government of the Netherlands gave high priority to combating discrimination, racism, and unequal treatment. It augmented its National Action Plan Against Discrimination, adding measures aimed at prevention and awareness raising. The government began a campaign to stop discrimination, stimulate diversity, and deter bullying to ensure safety in schools. The plan also encouraged victims to report discrimination; sought to improve registration, investigation, and prosecution of discrimination; enhanced law enforcement; and supported the use of education to counter discrimination. In addition, police received training on avoiding ethnic or racial profiling.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
In the Netherlands the law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including in such areas as taxes and allowances, pensions, inheritance, and access to health care. The law also prohibits educational institutions operating on a religious or ideological basis from engaging in discrimination on the basis of homosexuality.
There were reports of anti-LGBTI violence. For example, on October 15, unknown individuals severely beat two men on a ferry in Amsterdam because they were gay. The perpetrators managed to get away.
In August the media reported in Curacao a teacher allegedly berated a gay student in front of a class, asserting that being gay at home was acceptable but not while in school. The case was under investigation.
LGBTI persons reportedly experienced more problems at work than their heterosexual peers and feel less safe in public spaces.
The government increased efforts to counter discrimination of transgender individuals. The Transgender Network Netherlands (TNN) worked with authorities and NGOs to advance the rights of transgender persons and to combat discrimination. The TNN specifically promoted an action plan to increase labor participation of transgender persons. Several communities and educational institutions introduced gender-neutral toilets.
In the Netherlands the 2016-20 National Action Plan to Counter Discrimination outlined specific measures to counter discrimination and homophobic violence. Police had “pink in blue” units dedicated to protecting the rights of LGBTI persons. The city of Amsterdam had a safety information call center for LGBTI persons as part of its “pink agenda” aimed at increasing safety and acceptance of homosexuality. When courts find acts of violence against LGBTI persons to be motivated by bias, they can provide higher penalties to perpetrators. The Ministry of Security and Justice started a campaign in the LGBTI-specialized media to encourage victims to report incidents and file complaints to the police.
In the Netherlands the law obliges elementary and secondary schools to address diversity and LGBTI problems. The Expreszo youth website set up a hotline for complaints involving schools that did not comply. The government supported Christian LGBTI groups and Muslim community activists as well as “gay-straight” alliances to counter bullying. The government also continued programs to counter prejudice in immigrant and orthodox religious communities where social acceptance of homosexuality was low. Authorities worked with five gay-straight alliances, consisting of NGOs, unions, sports associations, and other experts, to work with organizations involved with senior citizens, education, sports, employment, and the environment with the aim of helping LGBTI persons feel at ease and accepted. The government initiated the establishment of the alliances but did not fund them.
In Aruba the parliament on September 1 granted same-sex couples the right to register their unions and receive benefits granted to married persons.