The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize that:
1. The widest possible protection and assistance should be accorded to the family, which is the natural and fundamental group unit of society, particularly for its establishment and while it is responsible for the care and education of dependent children. Marriage must be entered into with the free consent of the intending spouses.
2. Special protection should be accorded to mothers during a reasonable period before and after childbirth. During such period working mothers should be accorded paid leave or leave with adequate social security benefits.
3. Special measures of protection and assistance should be taken on behalf of all children and young persons without any discrimination for reasons of parentage or other conditions. Children and young persons should be protected from economic and social exploitation. Their employment in work harmful to their morals or health or dangerous to life or likely to hamper their normal development should be punishable by law. States should also set age limits below which the paid employment of child labour should be prohibited and punishable by law.
A. Domestic Violence / Violence Against Women
Despite the obligation to develop gender sensitive policies,139 the Netherlands still formulates its policies on domestic violence as if it were a gender neutral phenomenon which is unrelated to traditional gender roles and the unequal power relationships between women and men. There is a lack of gender-specific knowledge, national guidance and political support. A gender scan has only been applied to partner violence but not to other types of gender-based violence. Often awareness of gender-related factors is missing with policy makers and implementers, as well as police and service providers.140
At the same time, under influence of the growing influence of internet, new forms of sexual violence, stalking and bullying have developed through social media and the internet, e.g. grooming, teens dating violence, the publication of nude pictures of girls or women by ex-partners, etc. Professionals, including the police, have only limited knowledge of these new forms and how to act.
Moreover, there is a lack of awareness within the police force that the main problem is the behaviour of men, not of women. This lack of policy is especially acute as the reorganization of the police into one national police, expertise on domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence has been lost and complaints from victims of violence, especially domestic violence, about their treatment by the police have increased. The police has become less accessible; women are regularly discouraged from reporting or the police refuses to take down their statement. This is especially important given the fact that there are an estimated 60.000-100.000 reports on domestic violence per year.141
The submitting parties recommend the Committee to urge the Dutch government to develop gender sensitive policies on violence against women and to monitor the gender specific impacts of policies, in addition to:
Improving knowledge about these new forms of violence with the police and other relevant professionals.
Increasing the expertise of the newly formed police on gender-based violence, by preference by installing specialised units.
Trafficking (& articles 2 and 11 ICESCR)
While the Committee has recommended the Dutch government to continue and intensify its efforts to combat trafficking in its Concluding Observations of 2010, the efforts on combating human trafficking are currently under serious pressure. The focus and capacity of investigating authorities has shifted to human smuggling (as a result of the current refugee crisis) rather than human trafficking and as a result victims of human trafficking are (literally) less noticed. This is aggravated by the fact that restructuring of the police has resulted in expertise on human trafficking not being reinstalled in the assigned positions, leading to set backs in expertise and knowledge in detecting and investigating human trafficking cases. This is a development that need urgent attention as it already has (and will continue to have) a detrimental effect on combatting human trafficking and identifying victims of human trafficking. The submitting parties are also concerned about the (lack of) identification of trafficking victims among refugees, including unaccompanied minors.
In international law a shift can be seen from an offender-oriented approach towards a more victim-centred approach,142 in which the victim is not merely a means to catch the perpetrator. The submitting parties note a reverse development in the Netherlands as the primary focus of current trafficking policies is on the contribution of victims to the criminal investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators. Police have the exclusive mandate to identify (potential) victims and before a reflection period or residence permit is granted, the story of the victim is objectified for the purpose of a criminal investigation, rather than from the perspective of the needs of the victim.143 The focus on criminal procedure instead of victim’s needs is enhance by the merger of the police, the aliens police and the anti-trafficking units. A similar focus on immigration policy instead of victim’s needs has been noted with regard to the actions of the labour inspection (Inspectie SZW) in cases of trafficking for other purposes than prostitution, e.g. for domestic work. The labour inspection is primarily focused on tracking illegal workers, does not have a victim-centred approach, appointments for an intake with a possible victim can take 6-8 weeks which negatively affects their access to assistance and protection, and in several cases the victim is already during the intake informed that their alleged exploitation will not be investigated. As a result no social protection is offered.
Currently the specialised shelters are only available for non-EU victims (and to a very limited extent for EU victims and very difficult for Dutch victims to access). However, also EU and Dutch victims can be in need of the specialised care these shelters can provide. Moreover, since the special arrangements for trafficking victims (B8 procedure) are primarily based on third-country nationals, EU and Dutch victims have no or hardly access to assistance and other provisions.
The submitting parties are of the opinion that identification of victims of trafficking should focus on the needs of the victim, like the need to shelter and other support services rather than on the identification of indicators to start criminal proceedings and that more disciplines should be involved in the identification process, including NGOs providing for care and assistance to victims.
The submitting parties suggest the Committee to ask the government how it will ensure that the focus on human smuggling does not go to the detriment of combating trafficking and what measures it has taken to adequately identify trafficking victims among refugees.
The submitting parties recommend the Committee to urge the Dutch government to put the victim’s needs for support services first, by:
Ensuring all victims of violence (trafficking and otherwise) have access to (women’s) shelters;
fully integrate specialized NGO’s into the membership of the anti-trafficking task force;
de-linking identification of victims and criminal proceedings (e.g. separating trafficking units from aliens police) and to establish independent multi-disciplinary teams for the identification of victims and their needs;
ensuring a more victim-centred approach of the Labour Inspection and cooperation with NGO’s.
Effects of decentralisation on the quality of child services / youth care
C.1. Sexual violence in youth institutions
Recent research shows an alarming prevalence of sexual abuse within institutions of youth care.144 Although this has led to a national action plan,145 the implementation of several aspects of the action plan has been slowed down, amongst others through budget cuts and reorganizations due to the decentralisation of youth care to the municipalities.
Many municipalities lack the expertise to tackle child abuse. According to research commissioned by the Ministry of Health municipalities are not always aware of their supervisory role with regard to the implementation of the reporting code for domestic violence and child abuse.146
The submitting parties recommend the Committee to call upon the Dutch government to ensure swift implementation of the action plan, including sufficient expertise and budget to take the necessary measures.
The Netherlands has fourteen closed juvenile institutions with a total of 23 accommodation and 1162 available places. According to national statistics 1275 minors and young people under 23 years were placed in a closed youth institution in 2015. The average duration of stay was 182 days. Children stayed in closed institutions without the necessary judiciary authorization or judicial review.147
The submitting parties recommend the Committee to urge The Dutch government to provide for judicial review of legal measure by which minors and youngsters are committed to closed care facilities.