Human Rights in Belgium
Human rights can be defined as things that all people are entitled to. This, of course, includes the people of Belgium, a small country in Western Europe with a population of about 11.5 million. Belgium is a monarchy in which the King plays a largely symbolic role. In reality, a parliamentary democracy primarily governs the nation. While they are protected in some regards, human rights in Belgium are not where they could be.

Human rights in Belgium are not evenly granted. According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2016 report, “The main human rights problem was heightened hostility and discrimination against racial and religious minorities in employment, housing, and societal attitudes.” These prejudices are not simply the continuation of outdated ideas. Recent events have emboldened them.

Following terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, Muslims and Jewish human rights in Belgium were threatened. The previously mentioned report by the U.S. Department of State said that Muslim women were especially affected by the restrictions put in place by the government. Additionally, “Anti-Semitic incidents occurred in schools, the media, and elsewhere in society.” This elucidates an important concept about how events and circumstances that may seem isolated are often connected in some way.

On July 10, the European Court of Human Rights made an important decision on one of the issues relating to Muslim women’s human rights in Belgium. The court ruled that banning full-face veils is not a violation of human rights law. The case was brought to the court by two Muslim women who argue that the ban violates their rights, both as private citizens and as members of a religious faith.

There is clearly room for improvement when it comes to human rights in Belgium. However, a well-rounded assessment of the situation shows that the country does not completely fail in this regard either.

With regard to respect for the integrity of the person, Belgium does well. It’s one blemish, according to The State Department’s report, is that there is room for improvement when it comes to prison and detention center conditions.

Another area in which Belgium thrives is regarding freedom of speech and expression. Belgians’ free speech and the free press is protected by the nation’s constitution and law. The nation has also made considerable efforts to quell dangerous rhetoric, as the 1995 Belgian Holocaust Denial Bill elucidates. According to Revolvy, it is illegal in Belgium to challenge the existence of or justify the Holocaust. The bill passed the Chamber of Representatives without a single “no” vote, demonstrating Belgium’s willingness to combat hate speech.

Human rights in Belgium are not perfectly protected. However, that does not mean that the country is not succeeding on many of these fronts and working to improve others.

Adam Braunstein

Photo: Google