Executive summary

AuthorKarin de Vries
1. Introduction
The Netherlands is a representative democracy premised upon a bicameral system. King
Willem-Alexander is the official head of state. The Government always consists of a
coalition of different political parties, since a multitude of parties are elected to Parliament
and none of them has ever had an absolute majority. The political climate in the
Netherlands in the past 15 years has been influenced considerably by the rise of far right -
wing parties, such as the Party for Fr eedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV). Issues brought
up by such parties, in particular concerning immigration and anti -Islam or anti-terrorism
measures, now dominate political discourse in general. In 2017 a new coalition
Government was formed after a long period of negotiations. It consists of the People’s
Party for Freedom and Democracy (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie, VVD) (liberal),
the Christian Democrats (Christen-Democratisch Appèl, CDA), the Christian Union
(Christenunie, CU) and the Democrats 66 (Democraten 66, D66).
The Netherlands is party to all the major international agreements relevant to combating
discrimination, including the European Convention on Human Rights (including Protocol
No. 12), the International Covenan t on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Opti onal
Rights (ICESCR), the I nternational Convention on th e Eliminat ion of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination (ICERD), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrim ination
Against Women (CEDAW), including the Optional Protocol to this Convention, the
with Disabilities (CRPD). The latte r was ratified in 2016 and upon ratification the scope of
the Disability Dis crimination Act (DDA) was extended. The ab ove-mentioned instruments
constitute part of the domesti c legal order after they have been publis hed in the official
Law Gazette and can be applied directly by domestic courts if the provision concerned is
sufficiently clear and precise.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands has the second highest population density in the European
Union, after Malta. People of immigrant origin predominantly come from Turkey, Morocco,
Suriname and the Dutch Antilles (although people from the Dutch Antilles cannot really be
described as ‘immigrants’, they are nevertheless often perceived or treated as such). Th e
main religions a re Rom an Cat holic 24 %, Protestant 15 %, Muslim 5 %, other 6 % and
none 51 % (2017).1
2. Main legislation
International law: the Constitution bar s the Dutch Supreme Court from exercising
Constitutional review of formal statutory acts. However, the Netherlands ad heres to a
‘monist theory’ of international law. This means that the Dutch courts can apply
international standards of equal treatment and non-discrimination directly, including when
it concerns statutory acts.
The Constitution: a non-discrimination clause is contained in Article 1 of the Dutch
Constitution. It covers the grounds of religion, philosophy of life, political convictions, race
and sex, as well as ‘any other ground’.2 This article can be invoked by an individual
applicant against actions by the Government and by private institutions and can also be
invoked between individuals.
1 Netherlands Statistics (2018), Wie is religieus en wie niet? (Who is religious and who is not?), see
2 ‘Any other ground’ includes age, disability and sexual orientation. These grounds are expressly protected in
the statutory equal treatment acts which have been adopted to implement the constitutional non-
discrimination clause.

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