Religious and philosophical beliefs
A college adopts a new regulation preventing the wearing of head coverings of any kind, a Sikh is refused for the job of a cook because he has a beard, an employee asks an employer to provide an area for prayer during breaks, etc.
People can show their religious or philosophical beliefs through their behaviour or dress. For instance they may attend certain services or activities, follow certain practices, or display an outward symbol of their convictions.
The freedom to do so - i.e. the freedom of religious belief - is a constitutional right and a fundamental human right in Belgium. It gives you the freedom to choose what to believe in and how to practise it. It also means that there is no need to conceal or declare it. And that extends to philosophical beliefs such as atheism, agnosticism and free-thinking.
The diversity of religious or philosophical beliefs can sometimes provoke strong reactions: in the workplace, at school, in public areas, etc. If (for no good reason) a person is treated differently because of their (actual or assumed) religious or philosophical beliefs, this is seen as discrimination, which is forbidden. Hate messages and hate crimes are criminal offences.
However, the right to show your religious or philosophical beliefs openly is not absolute. For specific reasons and in certain circumstances an outward display of your religious or philosophical beliefs may be restricted or even prohibited.
How can Unia help?
At Unia we fight discrimination on the grounds of religious or philosophical belief in all areas of society within the scope of our competencies. This brings us into consultation with different sectors, governments and civil society.
- Would your organisation like to learn the best way to handle requests for adaptations of religious practices? Unia can offer support. Read more about the services and advice available from Unia.
- Our free eDiv online training course is available in French and Dutch and teaches you everything you need to know about diversity policy and antidiscrimination law in the workplace.
- Have you experienced discrimination on the basis of your religious or philosophical beliefs? Get in touch. We will advise you on your rights and can legally accompany you in certain cases. Discover how your complaint is processed.
- Unia always begins by seeking a constructive, out-of-court solution. Draw inspiration from our negotiated solutions in the area of religious and philosophical belief. Only in exceptional cases do we take a case to court.
- In our online data hub you can search for all existing data in Belgium on religious and philosophical beliefs.
- Finally, Unia also publishes reports and studies and passes recommendations to the competent authorities.
Victim or witness
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In 2006, S. Achbita was fired when she started wearing a headscarf at work. The case came before the Labour Court of Antwerp (2009), the Court of Cassation (2015), the Court of Justice of the European Union (2017) and the Labour Court of Ghent (2020). Below you can find a full chronology.
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