Freedom means that you can think, say and do what you wish. In the Netherlands we have a great deal of freedom. Everyone in the Netherlands has the same degree of freedom. This means that other people may also think, say and do what they wish. The most important freedoms are set out in the text below.
In the Netherlands you may choose the beliefs you have. People with different religions can all live in our country safely. Nobody may be threatened or feel unsafe as a result of their beliefs. The freedom to believe what you wish to believe also means that you may opt to have no faith. You may decide this at any time and nobody can stop you. You must also extend this freedom to other people: you cannot force someone else to have the same beliefs as you. And, if someone gives up their faith, you must respect that. Even if you do not agree. Everyone may demonstrate their beliefs to others. Some jobs, however, require that everyone wears the same clothes. For example, the army, the police or at court. Police officers cannot wear a cross, for example, or a headdress when working as they must be seen to be impartial. Whatever faith you have, you must always abide by the law.
The Netherlands is home to people from various cultures. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. In the Netherlands, you may think, say and write what you like. You may send a letter to a newspaper or the government, protest, discuss and express your own opinions. Of course, it is important to consider others. In the Netherlands there are various TV channels, newspapers and journals. The government cannot control what is said or written in the media. You may also state your opinions if you disagree with something. Nobody can prevent you from expressing your opinion. This freedom is very important in the Netherlands, because in a democracy, you can only take effective decisions if you have heard the opinions of as many people as possible. Whatever opinion you have, you must abide by the law. This means that you may not deliberately offend someone, injure or incite them to hatred or hostility. It is not always easy to decide on the limits of freedom of expression. However, freedom of speech does not mean that you have to express everything. If you feel offended or discriminated against, you can submit a complaint or report this to an anti-discrimination bureau.
People in the Netherlands may express their beliefs and choose their own lifestyles. This means that you too can decide what music you listen to, what clothing you wear, what work you do, which newspaper you read and what you eat. There are, however, exceptions to this. A police officer must remain neutral. And some companies have rules about tattoos and piercings. They do not permit their employees to display their piercings and/or tattoos. This could be due to safety issues or because they do not think they are very pleasant. Other people may not determine your lifestyle. Your neighbour may well have a different lifestyle to you, have other beliefs, wear different clothing or listen to different music. It is only if we accept that many other people are different to us, and consider one another, that we can create a good society in the Netherlands. Just like the other freedoms, there are limits which correspond to the freedoms of your neighbour. Your neighbour may not, for example, listen to loud music at night if it disturbs you.
It is important that you feel at home in the Netherlands as this will enable you to meet people and take part in society. You could, for example, join a sports association, go to a neighbourhood centre or take part in a course. You will then meet people that share the same interests as you. In the Netherlands you can also start your own association. For example, a sports association, but also a union or a political party or an association of people from your home country. You can express your opinion via an association or political party. That is why it is important, in a democracy, that people can start up associations. Working in an association, not only allows you to meet people, you could also impact upon politics. Of course, everyone in an association must abide by the law. If people in an association do not abide by the law, the Dutch society courts can ban the association itself. You cannot, for example, use violence. In the Netherlands, you may form a group on the streets to demonstrate or meet. A demonstration is a form of protest. By demonstrating, you can express your opinion. If you wish to demonstrate, you must first register at the municipality.
In the Netherlands, you may decide for yourself which choices you make in your life. This is referred to as the right to self-determination. You may thus choose whether or not to have a faith. You may choose your own lifestyle. You may decide who you wish to marry and whether or not you reveal your sexuality. The right to self-determination encompasses many freedoms to which citizens are entitled. The right to self-determination also means that you can decide what you do with your body. Nobody may cause you pain or touch you if you do not want them to. Even a doctor may only examine you with your permission. There are exceptions to this rule in law, however. Under certain circumstance, the police, for example, may check to see if you are carrying weapons. The police can also conduct a test to see if car drivers have been drinking alcohol. There are also other important choices that you may makes regarding your own body. Women may terminate their pregnancies. Euthanasia is also permitted in the Netherlands under certain circumstances. Somebody who is suffering unbearably due to an illness and sees no chance of improvement, can ask a doctor to end their lives. Despite the fact that euthanasia and abortion are permitted in the Netherlands, the subjects are always up for discussion. Political parties have differing opinions about these topics.