Discrimination figures at peak in 2017

Edition 29 May 2018, by Anastasiia Myronenko

Equality and tolerance, highly discussed in the media and society, are still concepts that require a lot of effort to implement. According to information from the Dutch Institute for Human Rights, the number of discrimination reports received in 2017 was unprecedented. The organization received 4,259 complaints, an increase of one third in comparison with 2016. And even though the main reasons for discrimination remain the same, their distribution is different. Last May, the Institute launched a new reporting section that concerned discrimination of pregnant women. As a result, 35 percent of all reports received were filed by women who faced unjust treatment either during pregnancy or right after giving birth. Many of the cases were connected to the labor market, when pregnant women were not hired because of their condition or had a lot of trouble getting back to work after having a child. There were also incidents when women were not able to return to the same position after the maternity leave.

Many reports involved discrimination of people with disabilities, chronic illnesses and psychological conditions. The number of records of unfair treatment on the basis of disability increased in 2017, including more violent incidents. As stated by the anti-discrimination offices, the number of people reporting unfair treatment being unjustly treated increased by 40 percent. In 2016, the United Nations implemented a new decision concerning discrimination of people with disabilities. In addition to the areas of education, employment and housing, the reports could also refer to discrimination in accessing goods and services. For instance, it included reports from people, who could not enter a building in a wheelchair, or were not allowed to enter a shop with their assistance dog. Some people suffered from changes in the public transport, when full-size buses providing access to people with disabilities were replaced by smaller local buses. Alternatives, such as special target group transport, also brought inconvenience. Usually, this type of buses has to be arranged in advance and they often take longer than public transport, as the bus is supposed to pick up other people from the region. Therefore, some people felt that their options became strictly limited because of these transportation changes.

A few institutions, including anti-discrimination agencies and the police, registered multiple complaints concerning discrimination on the basis of origin, nationality, religion and race. It is a growing social problem that sometimes escalates into violence and insults. The number of reports grew by 25 percent compared to 2016. This led to a heated discussion among politicians, especially after an incident at the Emir Sultan mosque in January 2018. Some politicians claim that the authorities are not doing enough to fight racial discrimination and that it often is ignored in comparison with other kinds of unjust treatment.

However, a multitude of measures are being taken. For instance, different anti-discrimination institutions promote possibilities to report a complaint if someone feels they are being unfairly treated. They provide a number of options – from discrimination hotlines to online forms and messengers, all to make it more comfortable for people to speak up. The agencies also often present themselves as mediators in conflict situations, trying to find a consensus or turn to the authorities in more difficult cases. In addition to this, it is getting more common to implement anti-discrimination courses, especially for organizations that have direct contact with people by helping them on the labor market. Employers try to make sure that the recruitment process provides equal opportunities for all candidates and aspire to eliminate discrimination from daily practices.