The national legal system
In the Netherlands, central Government is the onl y level of government that passe s anti-
discrimination or equal treatment legislation. The principles of equality and non-
discrimination are covered by various areas of the law. Of importance are the Constitution,
public and private employment law, c riminal law and specific statu tory equal treatment
acts. Moreover, since t he Dutch constitutional system adh eres to a ‘monist theory’ of
international law, internat ional equality guarantees are au tomatically applicable in the
national legal system and take precedence over national legislation, provided that they are
sufficiently clear and precise to be justiciable in concrete cases (cf. Articles 93 and 94 of
the Constitution). Private employment contracts are regulated by Book 7 of the Civi l Code
(Burgerlijk Wetboek), which contains equal treatment provisions, and by specific statutory
equal treatment acts. Furthermore, regulation may occur through Collective Labour
Agreements at the level of the sector or i ndividual employer. For civil servants, a law was
adopted t o make their employment subject to the same rules as private sector
employment, with the exception of certain specific categories including judges and military
personnel.15 The main equality body is the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (NIHR)
(College voor de Rechten van de Mens), which has a section that deals with complaints
about unequal treatment.
List of main legislation transposing and implementing the directives
- Article 1 of the Constitution (Grondwet) ensh rines a constitutional equality and non-
- International non-discrimination provisions (e.g. Arti cle 26 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 14 of the European
Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)) can be directly applied in court proceedings.
Sometimes provisions from the UN International Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), th e UN Convention on the Rights of People
with Disabilities (CRPD) or the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination again st Women (CEDAW) are also called upon before Dutch cou rts.
The Netherlands ratified the CRPD on 14 June 2016.
- EU Treaty provisions and directives can b e directly applied under the normal
conditions for applicability of EU Law in the Member States.
- The Criminal Code (Wetboek van Strafrecht) includes specific provisions criminalising
discriminatory speech a nd publications (Articles 137d-137f) and discriminatory acts
in the performance of an individual’s job or enterprise (Articles 137g and 429quater).
Discrimination is defined in Article 90quater, in line with Article 1 of the UN ICERD
and therefore different from the definit ion in the directives. In addition, Article 137c
forbids insulting groups of people because of their race, religion/belief or homo-
- The Ci vil Code (Burgerlijk Wetboek) includes specific articles prohibiting sex
discrimination and discrimination in relation to the duration of employment contracts
and whether they are permanent or fixed-term contracts (Articles 7:646-7:649).
Employers are also liable if they fail to guarantee safe working conditions. This
includes an environment free from discrimination and (sexual) harassment (Article
15 Act on the regularisation of the legal status of civil servants (Wet normalisering rechtspositie ambtenaren),
Staatsblad 2017, 123. The Act will enter into force on 1 January 2020. The exempted categories are listed in
Article 3 Civil Servants Act (Ambtenarenwet 2017).
16 The term ‘homosexual or heterosexual orientation’ was used instead of the more ordinary term ‘sexual
orientation’ to make clear that it does not include paedophile orientation. To avoid confusion in this report
‘sexual orientation’ is used throughout unless otherwise indicated, as this is what the Dutch law intends to