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The information contained on this page represents the situation as of 1 January 2013 and is a summary of the  country report produced by the country expert from the network. The summary can be downloaded  here as well.

Emmanuelle Bribosia

Country context

In Belgium, which has a population of 11 million, the main religion is Roman Catholicism (50%). Other believers are Muslims (5%), Anglicans, Protestant and Orthodox (2,5%), persons of Jewish faith (0,4%) and Buddhists (0,3%). In addition, nearly 42% of people identified themselves as non-believers, among which 10% claim to be atheists.[1]

Main principles and definitions

The Racial Equality Federal Act and the General Anti-discrimination Federal Act are in line with most of the main concepts enshrined in the EU Directives (direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and instruction to discriminate).  There is nevertheless a problem regarding victimisationbecause Belgian law only protects victims, its representatives and witnesses against victimisation while the EU Directives cover 'all persons' involved.As in the Directives, discriminations based on assumed characteristics and discriminations based on association with persons with particular characteristicsare not expressly forbidden in the Racial Equality Federal Act and in the General Anti-discrimination Federal Act. However, the preparatory works (travaux préparatoires) clearly specify that these Acts apply to such discriminations.

Enforcing the law

The General Anti-discrimination Federal Act and the Racial Equality Federal Act provide for civil and criminal procedural protection of victims of discrimination nearly identical with respect to all the prohibited criteria.

Main legislation

Belgium is party to most of the important international agreements relevant for counteracting discrimination (i.e. the European Convention on Human Rights and its Protocol no. 12, the Revised European Social Charter, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Optional Protocol to the Covenant, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) including the Optional Protocol to this Convention, the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities).

Material scope

The Racial Equality Federal Act and the General Anti-discrimination Federal Act provide for protection in large areas of public life: the provision of goods or services when these are offered to the public; access to employment, promotion, conditions of employment, dismissal and remuneration, both in the private and in the public sector; the nomination of a public servant or his/her assignment to a service; the mention in an official document of any discriminatory provision; and access to and participation in, as well as exercise, of an economic, social, cultural or political activity normally accessible to the public.

Equality bodies

The Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism was created by an Act of Parliament of 15 February 1993, most recently amended on 10 May 2007 in order to give the Centre a role in the supervision of all the grounds covered by the Racial Equality Federal Act and the General Anti-discrimination Act, apart from language. For the time being, it should be kept in mind that the Centre is still not competent to bring cases involving discrimination based on trade union opinion in court.

Go to the European Commission - Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities This initiative is financed by the EC Programme Progress. But the views expressed in this website do not necessarily reflect the official views of the EU institutions.