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Belgium in 2015: Living together put to the test

June 21st 2016

The year 2015 left a deep mark on our society. Violent conflicts and tensions on a global scale have had a direct impact on us. As Unia (Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities) finalises this annual report, Belgium is suffering the repercussions of the bomb attacks at Zaventem airport and Maelbeek metro station in Brussels.

Annual Report 2015

Annual Report 2015 (Click to enlarge picture) The divide between different sectors of the population seems to be getting wider, and social relations have been put to the test at various levels. We are confronted with fundamental questions regarding values and standards, freedoms and individual responsibilities, and ultimately, the actual possibility of harmonious cohabitation.

This annual report endeavours to provide an answer to questions such as these. It begins with an overview of the major events that had a repercussion on Unia’s work in 2015. In particular, there is the tense climate that has reigned since the Paris attacks in January and November; the implementation of the "M-decreet" in Flemish education; the second Socioeconomic Monitoring report, which shows the close link between the origin of workers and their position on the job market; the assessment of anti-discrimination legislation; the (missing) legal framework regarding neutrality issues; recording hate crime and information exchanges on this subject.

Chapter 2 succinctly presents the main figures relating to the files and reports dealt with by Unia in 2015. In Chapter 3, these files are analysed according to the areas for action (goods and services, media/internet, employment, education, etc.) and in Chapter 4, according to the discrimination criteria (so-called "racial" criteria, disability, religious or philosophical beliefs, sexual orientation, age, wealth, etc.).

Chapter 5 shows how Unia has been active at a federal level, in relation to federated entities and on a local scale, since interfederalisation. It also highlights its international engagement, including its membership of Equinet. Unia has been an active member of the Executive Board since its creation, and participates in Equinet’s working groups (communication, equality law and policy formation) as well as other more informal groups (Cluster on Standards for equality bodies and on Strategic Litigation). Staff of Unia regularly attend Equinet events as speakers where they share their experience with their counterparts.

As usual, this annual report concludes, in Chapter 6, with a look to the future.

Read the report in French and Dutch

Via Unia Website

Unia’s work expressed in figures for 2015

Statistical Report 2015 (Click to enlarge picture) One of Unia’s statutory tasks is to deal with "individual reports". Hence, anyone can contact Unia to ask a question, request an intervention, submit an observation or raise any other issue relating to anti-discrimination legislation or the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities, as provided for in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Unia is legally competent to deal with:

  • Discrimination, including direct and indirect discrimination, instructions to discriminate and harassment directly linked to the criteria specified in anti-discrimination legislation (see vocabulary); in the case of disability, this also includes a lack of reasonable accommodations.
  • Hate speech (public expression of hate: incitement to hatred, discrimination or violence). This includes "cyber hate" (hate speech on the internet).
  • Hate crimes motivated by hostility towards a person or a group owing to their origin, disability, sexual orientation or any other protected criteria.

If Unia considers itself competent to deal with a report, and if this report is more than a simple request for information, a file will be opened. It should be noted that a report or a file may involve only one criterion concerning discrimination or several of these criteria.

In 2015, Unia received 4,554 reports regarding potential discrimination, resulting in the opening of 1,596 files. This is a slight decrease compared with 2014. But in general, the figure has been on the rise since 2010.

Apart from areas within education, social issues and various activities, we have witnessed a fall in the number of files in other areas.

As was the case in 2014, the three main criteria were so-called "racial" criteria (38% of all the files), disability (22 %) and religious or philosophical beliefs (19 %). This was followed by: age (5 %), sexual orientation (5 %), wealth (4 %), and state of health (4 %).

As was also the case in 2014, the three main areas concerning society were goods and services (24 % of all the files, including and especially accommodation), media (23 %, including and especially the internet), the labour market and work (22 %). This was followed by: education (11 %), social interaction (problems with neighbours or in the public space) (10 %) and the "various activities" sector, such as a cultural or sporting event, etc. (4 %).

Read the report in French and Dutch

Via Unia Website