birth), date of registering at the national register and date of acquisition of
No reference is made to membership of a national minority in the federal anti-
discrimination legislation, although it would have been justified by reference to the list of
prohibited grounds of discrimination in Article 21 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
In practice, due to the very specific treatment of linguistic minorities in Belgium, the
inclusion of ‘membership of a national minority’ in the anti-discrimination legislation would
have been very tricky and the legislature decided to avoid these difficulties by not
mentioning it as such.
Belgian case law does not interpret the terms ‘presumed race’ and ‘ethnic origin’
separately. Belgian courts do not draw a clear distinction between the two terms;
sometimes they use both of them, and sometimes only one of them without any real
consistency.60 Occasionally the courts just refer to the pertinent legal provisions without
quoting the grounds themselves.61 There are no recognised ethnic minorities in Belgium,
which would benefit by having a special legal status. Minority language could be recognised
as a part of ethnicity but discrimination on the grounds of language as such is dealt with
separately in Belgian anti-discrimination law and is not under the responsibility of Unia
because of the tense relationships between the French-speaking and Dutch-speaking
communities. In Belgium, the use of French or Dutch in political life, but also in art, culture,
education, etc. is of highly symbolic significance and can give rise to serious political
In its 2016 and 2017 annual reports, Unia focused on the increase of racism and
discrimination related to the post-terrorist climate we are living in.62 It also pointed out the
significant increase of hate speech on social media.63
b) Religion and belief
Religion and belief are not defined in the anti-discrimination legislation.
In 2017, Unia published a report concerning discrimination based on religious belief, linked
to the consequences of the terrorist attacks. The report shows a rise in anxiety vis-a-vis
the Muslim community in Belgium and more broadly people of North African origin.64 This
situation leads to more discriminatory behaviour being reported to Unia, especially
discrimination against Muslim women wearing the hijab. In its 2018 annual report, Unia
noted that ‘Current events relating to the ground of religion and belief have focused mainly
on the wearing of the hijab’.65
59 Inter-federal Centre for Equal Opportunities (Unia) (2015) Socio-Economic Monitoring - Labour Market and
Origin, Federal Public Service on Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue, Brussels, November 2015, pp.
60 See: Court of first instance (Correctionele rechtbank) of Antwerp, judgment no. 2009/4737 of 22 October
2009; Court of Appeal (Hof van Beroep) of Antwerp, judgment no. 2009/1837 of 25 February 2009; Court
of Appeal (Cour d’appel) of Mons, judgment of 13 January 2010; Criminal Court (Tribunal
correctionnel/Correctionele rechtbank) Dendermonde, judgment no. F.D. 35.98.16/05 AF of 7 February
2014; and Court of Appeal (Hof van Beroep) of Brussels, judgment of 10 February 2015. www.unia.be/en.
61 See Court of first instance of Brussels (Criminal section) (Tribunal correctionnel de Bruxelles), judgment no.
BR 43.IN.101194/06 of 26 February 2014, www.unia.be/en.
62 Unia (2017) Annual report for 2016, p. 19 and Unia (2018), Annual report for 2017, pp. 58-59, both
available on its website, www.unia.be/en.
63 Unia (2018), Annual report for 2017, pp. 53-57, available on its website, www.unia.be/en.
64 Unia (2017), Mesures et climat: conséquences post-attentats, June 2017, www.unia.be/en.
65 Unia (2019), Annual Report for 2018 (Reconnect with human rights), pp. 71-75, available on the website,