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Title:  The Netherlands Human Rights Practices, 1995 
Author:  U.S. Department of State  
Date:  March 1996  
 
 
 
 
                       THE NETHERLANDS 
 
 
The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary 
legislative system and an independent judiciary.  Executive authority is 
exercised by the Prime Minister and Cabinet representing the governing 
political parties (traditionally a coalition of at least two major 
parties).  The bicameral Parliament is elected through free and fair 
elections. 
 
Regional police forces are primarily responsible for maintaining 
internal security.  The police, the royal constabulary, and 
investigative organizations concerned with internal and external 
security are effectively subordinated to civilian authority. 
 
The market-based economy is export oriented and features a mixture of 
industry, services, and agriculture.  Key industries include chemicals, 
oil refining, natural gas, machinery, and electronics.  The agricultural 
sector produces fruit, vegetables, flowers, meat, and dairy products.  
Living standards and the level of social benefits are high.  At just 
over 7 percent of the work force, unemployment is a serious problem, and 
one which affects minorities relatively more than the general 
population. 
 
The Government fully respects the rights of its citizens, and the law 
and judiciary provide effective means of dealing with instances of 
individual abuse.  The Government is taking serious steps to address 
violence and discrimination against women.  The Government has also 
taken steps to address societal discrimination against minorities.  The 
Criminal Investigation Service registered dozens of racist incidents 
with life-threatening violence, such as shootings, arson, and physical 
abuse. 
 
Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, which are two autonomous regions of 
the kingdom, also feature parliamentary systems and full constitutional 
protection of human rights.  In practice, government respect for human 
rights on these islands generally is little different from that in the 
European Netherlands.  The two Caribbean Governments have taken measures 
to address past reports of police brutality.  Prison conditions remain 
substandard. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1   Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings. 
 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. 
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
The Constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reports 
that officials employed them. 
 
In response to police mistreatment of suspects and prisoners in the 
Netherlands Antilles, the Antillean Government established an 
independent commission with investigatory powers to respond to 
complaints from the public about police brutality, and the Dutch 
Government funded a police professionalization training program there, 
which graduated its first class in September.  The Dutch agreed to adapt 
the training program for Aruba as well and to establish a commission to 
look into Aruba's police training needs. 
 
Prison conditions in the islands, and particularly on Curacao and St. 
Maarten in the Netherlands Antilles, are generally considered 
substandard.  Prisoners continued to complain of poor food, lack of 
access to medical personnel, and overcrowding.  The Dutch Ministry of 
Justice made a series of recommendations in 1994 for the reorganization 
of the Netherlands Antillean prison system.  In January the island 
government pledged to implement those recommendations but took no action 
during the year.  The governments allow access by nongovernmental 
organizations (NGO's) to prisons; Council of Europe rapporteurs visited 
Aruba, Curacao, and St. Maarten in the spring. 
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, and the 
Government observes this prohibition. 
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the 
Government respects this provision in practice.  The judiciary provides 
citizens with a fair and efficient judicial process.  The law provides 
for the right to a fair trial, and the independent judiciary vigorously 
enforces this right. 
 
There were no reports of political prisoners. 
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
The law prohibits such practices, government authorities generally 
respect these prohibitions, and violations are subject to effective 
legal sanction. 
 
 Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the 
Government respects these rights in practice.  An independent press, an 
effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system 
combine to ensure freedom of speech and of the press, including academic 
freedom. 
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The law provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in 
practice. 
 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
The law provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects 
this right in practice.  State subsidies are provided to religious 
organizations that maintain educational facilities. 
 
   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
The law provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in 
practice.  The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for 
Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees.  
There were no reports of forced expulsion of those having a valid claim 
to refugee status.  In January the Government instituted tighter 
criteria for granting asylum, resulting in a 50 percent drop in the 
number of asylum applicants in the first half of the year. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their 
government peacefully, and citizens exercise this right in practice 
through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of 
universal suffrage. 
 
There are no restrictions in law or in practice on the participation of 
women and minorities in government and politics.  The second chamber of 
Parliament includes 49 women among its 150 members.  Four of 13 cabinet 
ministers and 80 of 633 mayors are women. 
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
Human rights groups operate without government restriction, 
investigating and publishing their findings.  Government officials are 
very cooperative and responsive to their views. 
 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The law bans discrimination on the basis of any of these factors or on 
sexual orientation or political preference.  The Government generally is 
effective in enforcing these provisions.  Under a new Equal Treatment 
Act, complainants may take offenders to court under civil law. 
 
   Women 
 
The Government supports programs to reduce and prevent violence against 
women.  Battered women find refuge in a network of 48 government-
subsidized women's shelters offering the services of social workers and 
psychologists.  In addition, battered women who leave their domestic 
partners become eligible for social benefits which include an adequate 
basic subsidy as well as an allowance for dependent children.  
Nongovernmental organizations also advise and assist women who have been 
victims of sexual assault.  Since 1991 marital rape has been a crime and 
carries the same penalty as rape.  Spousal abuse carries a one-third 
higher penalty than ordinary battery.  However, since the judicial 
system does not compile statistics distinguishing spousal abuse from 
battery, it is difficult to estimate the extent of the problem.  The 
most recent study, by the Ministry of Welfare, Health, and Culture in 
1989, showed that over 20 percent of women in heterosexual relationships 
were victims of violence during their lifetimes.  Slightly over half of 
these suffered repeated severe violence. 
 
Concern over trafficking in women for prostitution is on the rise.  The 
Dutch Foundation Against Trafficking in Women estimates that each year 
around 1,000 women are brought into the Netherlands for purposes of 
prostitution.  The International Organization for Migration collected 
data on 155 women brought from Eastern and Central Europe to the 
Netherlands in 1994 and found that over 95 percent had become trapped in 
prostitution.  Women who are forced to work illegally as prostitutes 
have special exemptions in immigration law and receive counseling and 
legal assistance.  In June the Dutch Society of Attorneys General issued 
new guidelines for prosecutors to improve enforcement of the existing 
law against trafficking in women. 
 
Women are increasingly entering the job market, but traditional cultural 
factors and inadequate child care facilities can discourage women--
especially those with young children--from working.  Although more than 
40 percent of the Dutch work force is now female, many women work only 
part-time.  Only 52 percent of women ages 15 to 64 have jobs, and 64 
percent of these employed women work less than 35 hours a week.  By 
contrast, 75 percent of men in this age group are employed, 85 percent 
of whom work 35 or more hours a week. 
 
Women are often underemployed and have less chance of promotion than 
their male colleagues.  The unemployment rate of women reentering the 
labor market is high.  A 1993 study of central government civil servants 
showed that, while 58 percent of those in the lowest salary grade were 
women, only 9 percent in the highest grade were women.  These problems 
notwithstanding, women are making steady progress by moving into 
important professional and high-visibility jobs. 
 
In 1988 the Government began instituting affirmative action programs for 
women.  Collective labor agreements usually include one or more schemes 
to strengthen the position of women.  Legislation mandates equal pay for 
equal work, prohibits dismissal because of marriage, pregnancy, or 
motherhood, and provides the basis for equality in other employment-
related areas.  A legislatively mandated Equal-Treatment Commission 
actively pursues complaints of discrimination in these areas as well as 
allegations of pay differences. 
 
The Dutch social welfare and national health systems provide 
considerable assistance to working women with families.  Women are 
eligible for 16 weeks of maternity leave at full pay.  The Parental 
Leave Law allows new mothers and fathers to work only 20 hours a week 
over a 6-month period. 
 
Women have full legal and judicial rights and enter marriage with the 
option of choosing community property or separate regimes for their 
assets. 
 
Women's groups dedicated to such issues as equal rights in social 
security, the legal position of women, sexual abuse, taxation, 
education, work, and prostitution operate freely.  The Social Ministry, 
citing research which showed that one in three working women has 
experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, initiated legislation to 
address this problem.  And in 1994, Parliament passed an amendment to 
the Workers' Conditions Act requiring employers to take measures to 
protect workers.  The Government runs an ongoing publicity campaign to 
increase awareness of the problem.  As the biggest employer in the 
country, it has taken measures to counter harassment among civil 
servants, for example, in the police force. 
 
    Children 
 
The Government is committed to ensuring the well-being of children 
through numerous well-funded health, education, and public information 
programs.  The Council for the Protection of Children, operated through 
the Ministry of Justice, enforces child support orders, investigates 
cases of child abuse, and recommends remedies ranging from counseling to 
withdrawal of parental rights.  In addition, the Government has set up a 
popular hot line for children and a network of pediatricians who track 
suspected cases of child abuse on a confidential basis.  There is no 
pattern of societal abuse of children. 
 
International sex tourism involving abuse of minor children is 
prosecutable under Dutch law.  In November Parliament passed legislation 
raising the minimum penalty for child pornography offenses from 3 
months' to 4 years' imprisonment, and to 6 years' in the event of 
financial gain.  The new legislation also allows for provisional arrest, 
house searches, and criminal financial investigations.  Moreover, it 
will no longer have to be proven that a person possesses child 
pornography for the purpose of distribution or public display.  
Sufficient cause for prosecution will be "the possession of pictures of 
sexual behavior with minors." 
 
   People with Disabilities 
 
There is no discrimination against disabled persons in employment, 
education, or in the provision of other state services.  Local 
governments are increasingly mandating access to public buildings for 
the disabled. 
 
   National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
Integration of racial and ethnic minorities into the social and cultural 
mainstream remains a difficult domestic issue. 
 
The Government has tried to increase public awareness of racism and 
discrimination.  The law bans discrimination on the basis of race or 
nationality and allows those who believe that they have been 
discriminated against to take the offender to court under civil law.  A 
1994 study by the University of Leiden and the Dutch Public Safety 
Service concluded that the number of incidents of violence against 
foreigners and ethnic minorities had increased in recent years.  The 
study counted the number of reported racially motivated incidents of 
violence in 1993 to be around 350 but estimated the unreported number to 
be much higher.  In 1994 the Criminal Investigation Service (CRI) 
registered 1,114 racist incidents, ranging from racist pamphlets and 
painted slogans to bomb threats, assaults, physical abuse, and 
destruction of property.  There was no noticeable increase in the number 
of incidents in the first 6 months of 1995.  CRI registers only 
incidents of "lighter  offenses," e.g., painted swastikas, when a 
complaint has been field.  Therefore, it estimates that the number of 
such incidents is much higher. 
 
Immigrant groups face some de facto discrimination in housing and 
employment.  These groups, concentrated in the larger cities, suffer 
from a high rate of unemployment.  The Government has been working for 
several years with employers' groups and unions to reduce minority 
unemployment levels to the national average.  As a result of these 
efforts, in recent years the rate of job creation among ethnic 
minorities has been higher than among the general population. 
 
A 1994 law requiring employers with a work force of over 35 people to 
register their non-Dutch employees has run into implementation problems.  
Some employers find the law burdensome, and some minority employees 
object to being counted as "non-Dutch."  Employers must submit 
confidential affirmative action plans including recruitment targets and 
proposed means of reaching that target. 
 
Section 6   Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
Membership in labor unions is open to all workers including military, 
police, and civil service employees.  People are entitled to form or 
join unions of their own choosing without previous government 
authorization, and unions are free to affiliate with national trade 
union federations.  This right is freely exercised. 
 
Unions are entirely free of control by the Government and political 
parties.  Union members may and do participate in political activities. 
 
All workers have the right to strike, except for most civil servants who 
have other institutionalized means of protection and redress.  The right 
to strike is exercised freely, but the number of strikes each year is 
very low and resulted in only 47.5 lost labor days in 1994.  There is no 
retribution against striking workers. 
 
About 25 percent of the Dutch work force is unionized, but union-
negotiated collective bargaining agreements are usually extended to 
cover about three-quarters of the work force.  The white-collar unions' 
membership is the fastest growing. 
 
There are four union federations in the Netherlands, and there are also 
independent unions.  These federations are active internationally, 
without restriction. 
 
    b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
The right to organize and bargain collectively is recognized and well 
established.  Discrimination against workers because of union membership 
is illegal and does not occur. 
 
Collective bargaining agreements are negotiated in the framework of the 
"Social Partnership" developed between trade unions and private 
employers.  Representatives of the main union federations, employers' 
organizations, and the Government meet each autumn to discuss labor 
issues, including wage levels and their relation to the state of the 
economy and to international competition.  The discussions lead to a 
central accord with social as well as economic goals for the coming 
year.  Under this umbrella agreement, unions and employers in various 
sectors negotiate sectoral agreements, which the Government usually 
extends to all companies in the respective sector.  As a result, 
collective bargaining agreements cover three-quarters of the labor 
force. 
 
Antiunion discrimination is prohibited.  Union federations and 
employers' organizations form the "Social Partnership" and are 
represented, along with independent experts, on the Social and Economic 
Council.  The Council is the major advisory board to the Government on 
its policies and legislation regarding national and international social 
and economic matters. 
 
There are no export processing zones. 
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by the Constitution and does 
not occur. 
 
   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
The minimum age for employment is 16 years, and for full-time work it is 
conditioned on completion of the mandatory 10 years of schooling.  Those 
still in school at age 16 may not work more than 8 hours per week.  
People under age 18 are prohibited by law from working at night, 
overtime, or in areas dangerous to their physical or mental well-being.  
The laws are effectively enforced by the tripartite Labor Commission, 
which monitors hiring practices and conducts inspections. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
The minimum wage for adults is established by law and can be adjusted 
every 6 months to changes in the cost-of-living index.  Since 1982 few 
adjustments have been made, and the rise in the minimum wage has lagged 
well behind the rise in the index.  The gross minimum wage is $1,352 per 
month (2,163 guilders).  For workers earning the minimum wage, employers  
currently pay $3,750 a year (f. 6,000) in premiums for social security 
benefits, which includes medical insurance.  Only 3 percent of workers 
earn the minimum wage because collective bargaining agreements, which 
are normally extended across a sector, usually fix a minimum wage well 
above the legislated minimum.  Government, unions, and employers are 
discussing ways to increase the number of minimum wage jobs and to 
decrease employers' social payments in order to lower the cost of hiring 
new workers and to create more jobs, especially for the long-term 
unemployed. 
 
There is a reduced minimum wage for young people under age 23--one of 
the demographic groups with the highest rate of unemployment--intended 
to provide incentives for their employment.  This wage ranges from 33 
percent of the adult minimum wage for workers ages 16 to 85 percent for 
those ages 22.  The legislated minimum wage and social benefits 
available to all minimum wage earners provide an adequate standard of 
living for workers and their families. 
 
A 40-hour workweek is established by law, but collective bargaining 
agreements often set a shorter workweek.  The rapid increase of 
telecommuting and high level of part-time work have lowered the 
estimated actual workweek to 35.8 hours, under the European average.  As 
a job creating measure, the Government now permits flexible hours.  For 
some, this could mean more than an 8-hour day, within the weekly legal 
limits.  However, collective bargaining negotiations are heading toward 
an eventual 36-hour week for full-time employees. 
 
Working conditions, including comprehensive occupational safety and 
health standards set by law and regulations, are actively monitored by 
the tripartite Labor Commission.  Enforcement is effective.  Workers may 
refuse to continue working at a hazardous work site.  The Ministry of 
Labor and Social Affairs also monitors standards through its labor 
inspectorate. 
 
(###)

[end of document]

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