Rape and Domestic Violence: The law in all parts of the kingdom criminalizes rape of a person, regardless of gender, including spousal rape, and domestic or intimate partner violence and the government enforced the law effectively. The penalty in the Netherlands for rape is imprisonment not exceeding 12 years, a substantial fine, or both. In the case of violence against a spouse, the penalty for various forms of abuse can be increased by one-third. In Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten, the penalty for rape is imprisonment not exceeding 15 years, a substantial fine, or both. Law enforcement officers in Curaçao received training to better interview and investigate sexual assault cases. NGOs in Aruba and Curaçao asserted cases of domestic violence, already heightened by the pandemic years, continued to rise.
The government of the Netherlands estimated that each year, approximately 200,000 persons were confronted with serious and repeated domestic violence. Authorities used various tools to address domestic violence, including disseminating educational information and materials, issuing restraining orders against offenders, and providing protection to survivors.
The government of the Netherlands continued funding for Safe Home, a knowledge hub and reporting center for domestic abuse with 26 regional branches, as the national platform to prevent domestic violence and support survivors. The center operated a national 24/7 hotline for persons affected by domestic violence. The government of the Netherlands also continued to support the organization Movisie, which assisted survivors of domestic and sexual violence, trained police and first responders, and maintained a website on preventing domestic violence. Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten continued to provide shelter and support to survivors of domestic violence. In December 2021, the inter-island collaboration committee No Mas No More, supported by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, held its biannual conference addressing domestic violence with participants from Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten.
Other Forms of Gender-based Violence: So-called “honor-related” violence is treated as regular violence for the purposes of prosecution and does not constitute a separate offense category. Laws against violence were enforced effectively in so-called “honor-related” violence cases, and survivors were permitted to enter a specialized shelter. The Dutch National Police’s National Expertise Center for Honor-related Violence reported 682 cases of honor-related violence during the year, a 9 percent increase over 2021; the center reported that 20 percent of the incidents occurred within the Dutch-Syrian community.
Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment throughout the kingdom, and it was enforced effectively. The penalty in the Netherlands is imprisonment not exceeding eight years, a substantial fine, or both. The law requires employers to protect employees against aggression, violence, and sexual intimidation. 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. In Sint Maarten and Curaçao there is no sexual harassment law. Both Sint Maarten and Curaçao have laws prohibiting stalking.
In the Netherlands complaints against employers who failed to provide sufficient protection can be submitted to the NIHR. In Curaçao the Victims Assistance Foundation assists survivors. In 2021 the Victim Support Sint Maarten Foundation (VSS) was officially established to provide services.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Some religious and cultural communities discouraged premarital sex, the use of contraception, or both. Although no government policies or legal, social, or cultural barriers adversely affected access to skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth in the Dutch Caribbean islands, there were barriers in accessing reproductive health services in Aruba and Curaçao for undocumented migrants who did not have access to the public health insurance system. Salu Pa Tur, a free medical clinic in Curaçao, noted prenatal care to pregnant migrants was only available until the second trimester due to limitations on their medical licensing, leaving a significant gap in care for low-income migrants. Migrants, however, did have access to generalized medical care or could get private healthcare insurance provided they were able to self-fund such services. Hospitals provided medical emergency assistance to all.
The government provides access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, and emergency contraception was available as part of the clinical management of rape. In Curaçao all women, including undocumented migrants, can access well-baby clinics for free. Well-baby clinics give postnatal baby and toddler care up to four years. This includes regular check-ups, vaccination, and all other necessary tests. Planned Parenthood Aruba, an affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, provides sexual and reproductive health services in Aruba.
Discrimination: Under the law women throughout the kingdom have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, religious, personal status, and nationality laws, as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property. The governments enforced the law effectively, although there were some reports of discrimination in employment (see section 7.d., Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation).
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The laws throughout the kingdom prohibit racial, national, or ethnic discrimination, and the government enforced these prohibitions effectively.
In July the Dutch Central Bureau for Statistics published the results of a Ministry of Justice and Security-funded survey of 173,000 residents. According to the survey, 35 percent of individuals of Moroccan origin felt discriminated against, which is the highest percentage, followed by those of Surinamese or Dutch-Caribbean origin, with 30 percent. In terms of religion or belief, 30 percent of Muslims felt discriminated against, as well as more than 20 percent of Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists. Race or skin color was the most frequently cited ground for discrimination.
According to the NIHR, discrimination on racial and ethnic grounds occurred in virtually every sphere (see also Section 6, Other Societal Violence or Discrimination). In 2021 then Minister for Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations Kajsa Ollongren appointed Rabin Baldewsingh as the Netherlands’ first national coordinator on racism and discrimination. On December 31, a neo-Nazi group calling themselves “White Lives Matter Netherlands” projected a series of white supremacist slogans onto the Rotterdam Erasmus Bridge, garnering significant attention on social media. In the Netherlands police received training on avoiding ethnic or racial profiling, although Amnesty International stated in a report submitted to the United Nations in November for the Netherlands Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights that ethnic profiling by police continued to be a concern. The government put into place more effective procedures to process reports of discrimination and assist survivors, including establishing an independent complaints committee.
In April the Dutch Data Protection Authority fined the Tax and Customs Administration €3.7 million ($3.9 million) for a range of data-processing violations related to the so-called “childcare benefits scandal.” The fine came after an internal investigation and a parliamentary inquiry showed systemic discrimination in the use of an artificial intelligence software that improperly identified benefit recipients as fraudulent, with nonwhite recipients flagged as potentially fraudulent at much higher rates. The denial of benefits and subsequent legal actions to recover benefits resulted in over 1,000 children – mostly nonwhite – being taken from their homes, among other impacts.
Birth Registration: Throughout the kingdom citizenship can be derived from either the mother or the father, but not through birth on the country’s territory. Births are registered promptly and on a nondiscriminatory basis.
Child Abuse: There are laws against child abuse throughout the kingdom. A multidisciplinary task force in the Netherlands acts as a knowledge hub and facilitates interagency cooperation in combating child abuse and sexual violence. The children’s ombudsman headed an independent bureau that safeguards children’s rights and calls attention to abuse. Physicians are required to report child abuse to authorities.
Aruba has a child abuse reporting center. In Curaçao, while physicians were not required to report to authorities instances of suspected abuse they encountered, hospital officials regularly reported indications of child abuse to authorities. In Sint Maarten the law addresses serious offenses against public morality, abandonment of dependent persons, serious offenses against human life, and assault that apply to child abuse cases.
The Public Prosecutor Offices in the Dutch Caribbean provide information to victims of child abuse concerning their rights and obligations in the juvenile criminal law system.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for 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 girl is pregnant or has given birth, or if the minister of justice and security in the Netherlands or the minister of justice in Aruba grants a dispensation based on the parties’ request.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Throughout the kingdom, the law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, sale, grooming, or using children for commercial exploitation, including child sex trafficking. The law prohibits the production, possession, and distribution of child pornography, and authorities enforced the law. The age of consent is 16 throughout the kingdom.
The Reform Jewish Congregation, the largest Jewish community in the Netherlands, estimated the Jewish population in the Netherlands at 40,000 to 50,000.
In April the NGO Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), the main chronicler of antisemitism in the Netherlands, reported 183 antisemitic incidents in 2021, a sharp increase of 36 percent compared with 135 reported incidents in 2020. The number of antisemitic incidents in schools rose sharply from three in 2020 to 13 in 2021. One incident reported by CIDI involved a primary school student who was harassed by classmates, one of whom sent him a picture of another student making a Nazi salute. Jews or Jewish agencies that speak out against abuses became the target of antisemitic insults and threats. CIDI also found Jewish individuals in public often were subjected to name-calling or intimidation. Common incidents included vandalism, physical abuse, verbal abuse, bullying at school, and hate emails.
CIDI registered several antisemitic incidents involving politicians, mainly from the Forum voor Democratie (FvD, Forum for Democracy) political party. During the year members of the FvD repeatedly equated COVID-19 measures with the persecution of Jews. In December 2021, a preliminary relief judge ruled in favor of CIDI, the Central Jewish Consultation, and four Jewish Holocaust survivors in a case against Thierry Baudet, the leader of the FvD, for various manifestations of Holocaust trivialization.
The Dutch penal code does not specifically criminalize antisemitism, but it criminalizes discrimination and hate speech, including speech inciting hatred based on religion; the government enforced those laws effectively. The Public Prosecution Service registered an increase of 53 percent in the number of crimes involving antisemitic acts: from 38 in 2020 to 58 in 2021. This translates to almost one-third of the 185 discrimination incidents reported. Dutch government ministers regularly met with the Jewish community to discuss appropriate measures to counter antisemitism. Government efforts included raising the problem of antisemitism within the Turkish-Dutch community, setting up a national help desk, organizing roundtables with teachers, reaching out to social media groups, promoting an interreligious dialogue, and conducting a public information campaign against discrimination and antisemitism.
The government’s first national coordinator on countering antisemitism, Eddo Verdoner, began his duties in 2021. The national coordinator reports directly to the minister of justice and security and works to strengthen cooperation between government and civil society stakeholders in combating antisemitism. Following parliamentary motions calling for the extension of the coordinator’s original mandate, the government announced in December 2021 it would fund the position for five additional years.
The government, in consultation with stakeholders, also established measures to counter harassing and antisemitic chanting during soccer matches. The Anne Frank Foundation continued to manage government-sponsored projects, such as the “Fan Coach” project to counter antisemitic chanting and the “Fair Play” project to promote discussion on discrimination. The government assisted local organizations with projects to combat antisemitism by providing information and encouraging exchange of best practices among key figures from the Jewish and Muslim communities.
The Jewish populations in the Dutch Caribbean are small. There were no reports of antisemitic acts there.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics
Criminalization: No laws criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, or cross dressing. There are no laws targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons and no reports neutral laws are disproportionately used against LGBTQI+ persons.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: Acts of violence or other abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity were not uncommon. There were no reports of police or other government agents inciting, perpetrating, condoning, or tolerating violence against LGBTQI+ persons. Dutch police maintained a kingdom-wide network of units dedicated to protecting the rights of LGBTQI+ persons. The law allows for higher penalties for violence motivated by anti-LGBTQI+ bias and these laws and penalties were generally enforced.
Discrimination: Throughout the kingdom the law and jurisprudence prohibit discrimination by state and nonstate actors based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics and recognizes LGBTQI+ individuals, couples, and their families. The law prohibits discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services such as healthcare. The governments generally enforced the law. The government urged institutions and companies to stop unnecessary registration of gender.
Nonetheless, there were hundreds of reports of discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons. In 2021, 32 percent of incidents of discrimination registered by police concerned sexual orientation. Of those incidents, a large majority concerned verbal abuse, followed by threats of violence, and physical abuse. LGBTQI+ slurs were frequently used against police. Prosecutions were rare; many incidents were not reported, allegedly because victims often believed nothing would be done with their complaint. In April four LGBTQI+ asylee applicants were relocated from the government reception center in Ter Apel after reporting sexual orientation-based threats of violence and intimidation from other applicants at the facility.
In a 2021 survey by a television program of 3,800 members of the LGBTQI+ community in the Netherlands, most respondents reported it was difficult to be openly gay in the Netherlands. In addition, many respondents stated they did not believe they were free to walk hand-in-hand with their partner (50 percent) or to exchange a kiss in public (54 percent).
The Civil Code of Curaçao stipulates that a marriage can only be concluded between a man and a woman. In September 2021, the Court of First Instance ruled in favor of a same-sex couple in a case filed by Human Rights Caribbean Foundation against Curaçao, stating that the constitution required equal rights for same-sex couples, especially in the absence of a legal alternative, such as a registered partnership. The judge ruled discrimination existed in Curaçao as LGBTQI+ persons did not have equal pension and inheritance rights. The government of Curaçao appealed the ruling, arguing gay couples can move to the neighboring island Bonaire where same-sex marriage is legal.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: An Amsterdam court ruled July 21 that a plaintiff assigned female gender at birth may retroactively change the gender field on their birth certification from “F” for female to “X” for nonbinary, for the first time in the country. The Prosecutor’s Office argued there were no legal provisions allowing for the nonbinary option, but the court disagreed, citing the Gender Equal Treatment Act. In 2018 a nonbinary person received a passport with “X” as the gender marker for the first time, but their birth certificate noted the gender could not be determined, an interim solution the courts had adopted until the July 21 ruling.
Individuals aged 16 or older who want to change their gender in their government identity documents require an assessment by a doctor or psychologist.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: In June 2021, hundreds of persons demonstrated in Amsterdam against the alleged outsized role of psychologists in determining whether a transgender individual may qualify for hormone treatments and surgery in response to media reports regarding the difficulties faced by several patients of the Amsterdam University Medical Center.
In a 2020 response to an inquiry made by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, the Dutch government expressed its opposition to so-called conversion therapy, stated it is “harmful,” confirmed it is not permitted as part of the Dutch public healthcare system, and indicated individuals subject to conversion therapy are permitted to make a complaint to the Health and Youth Care Inspectorate, the police, and the criminal courts. Responding to a study from a Dutch university in July, the minister of justice and security expressed her support for draft legislation banning conversion therapy.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: There are no restrictions on speaking out on LGBTQI+ matters or restrictions on association or freedom of assembly. The Amsterdam Pride event attracts several hundred thousand visitors each year and is one of the largest annual events in the country.
Persons with Disabilities
In the Netherlands the law requires equal access to employment, education, health services, transportation, housing, and goods and services. It 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 law provides criminal penalties for discrimination and administrative sanctions for failure to provide access. All government websites follow international web content accessibility guidelines, and the government provides information in a range of accessible formats.
The government generally enforced the law effectively, although government enforcement of rules governing access was inadequate. Public buildings and public transport were not always accessible, sometimes lacking access ramps.
Laws throughout the kingdom ban discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. In the Dutch Caribbean, a wide-ranging law prohibiting discrimination was applied to persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, healthcare, transportation, and the provision of other government services. Some public buildings and public transport were not accessible to persons with physical disabilities.
Human rights observers from UNICEF noted that in Curaçao, persons with disabilities had to rely on improvised measures to access some buildings and parking areas, as well as to obtain information.
Not all schools in Sint Maarten were equipped for children with a range of physical disabilities, although the government reported all children with physical disabilities had access to public and subsidized schools. A March article published by the student newspaper at the Technical University of Eindhoven cited 2020 Central Bureau of Statistics figures showing a 5 percent disparity in the higher education entry and graduation rates of students with disabilities as compared to students without disabilities.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
In the Netherlands the Muslim community of approximately 900,000 persons faced frequent physical and verbal attacks, acts of vandalism, discrimination, and racism, as did members of other minority and immigrant groups. In 2021 police registered 183 incidents on the grounds of religion, of which 122 were against Muslims, out of a total of 6,580 discriminatory incidents. Incidents included mosques receiving threatening messages or vandalism, usually taking place around Christian holidays. Mosques received Christmas cards with threatening or insulting texts.
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
In October 2021, media reported that research conducted at mosques for various municipalities, justified as “mapping” the Islamic community, allegedly were undercover investigations by the research agency NTA (Nuance by Training and Advice), paid for by the Office of the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV). In the immediate aftermath of the media reports, the Rotterdam Islamic Organizations Platform Foundation was quoted describing the mapping as “state Islamophobia” and “espionage activities.” The Hague Cooperative of Islamic Organizations demanded an apology from the municipalities and called on the National Ombudsman and the Dutch Data Protection Authority to investigate the matter. Emails obtained and published by Dutch press in December reportedly showed the then director of NCTV hid concerns of his staff over the possible illegality of the program.