'Headscarf forbidden': discrimination still happens in Brussels institutions, says MP

'Headscarf forbidden': discrimination still happens in Brussels institutions, says MP
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Despite discrimination in Brussels institutions being illegal, a recent incident in which job applicants were prohibited from wearing a headscarf shows that it does still happen, says Brussels MP Fouad Ahidar.

At the end of September, the Sainte-Geneviève Catholic elementary school posted a job offer via Brussels' Actiris unemployment office, looking for someone who could supervise children and clean. The announcement specified that "wearing a headscarf was forbidden," leading to a wave of indignation among Brussels residents.

"I do not understand how an institution in Brussels that is committed to inclusivity and fighting against all forms of discrimination can make such an analytical error and be so out of step with its own anti-discrimination policy," said Ahidar.

"On the one hand, the Brussels Government invests millions of euros to fund and promote inclusive and anti-discriminatory tools and policies within Actriris, and on the other hand, it publishes a job offer that explicitly excludes women who wear headscarves," he added.

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The job offer has been temporarily blocked, as a new legal analysis must take place, according to an Actiris spokesperson.

Ahidar asked whether that means that during the first legal analysis, the statement "wearing a headscarf is forbidden" was not considered discriminatory. He asserted that this would be completely against Actiris' anti-discrimination policy.

Responding to Ahidar's questions in the Economic Affairs Committee, Brussels Employment Minister Bernard Clerfayt, who supervises Actiris Brussels, stated that it concerned an error of judgement.

"A reinforcement of the automated controls regarding discriminatory terms is necessary," said Clerfayt. He also suggested working with the school in question on a diversity plan to make them aware of this issue.

As of 13 October, Ahidar is still waiting for Actiris' second legal opinion.

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