Unofficial translation of press release Council of State Decision 201701423/1/V2 on 'westernized lifestyle', original press release available here:

Female foreign nationals who have adopted a Western lifestyle in the Netherlands that is not accepted in their country of origin do not necessarily have the right to asylum in the Netherlands. They do have that if certain conditions are met. This is stated in a ruling by the Administrative Law Division of the Council of State today (21 November 2018). The verdict is about a young Afghan woman who wants to have a residence permit and relies on her western lifestyle. The State Secretary must reassess whether she meets the conditions for asylum. With this judgment, the Administrative Law Division follows the district court that came to the same judgment last year.

Women can qualify for asylum if they can make it plausible that their Western lifestyle derives from a religious or political conviction. A right to asylum may also exist if they make it plausible that they will no longer be able to fully adapt to the standards that apply when they return to their country of origin. The State Secretary for Justice and Security must then examine and assess such a claim. In the case of the Afghan woman in this case, the State Secretary did not.

Western lifestyle is not automatically religious or political belief ...

Foreign nationals can obtain asylum in the Netherlands if they are at risk in their country of origin because of their religious or political convictions. In the opinion of the Administrative Law Division, a Western lifestyle is not necessarily such a conviction. The position of women in other countries is not the same as in the Netherlands, but that alone is not sufficient for an asylum permit. "The right of asylum is not intended to solve these differences between different countries," according to the Administrative Law Division.


... but sometimes there is reason for asylum

This can be different if a stranger makes it plausible that her western lifestyle is an expression of a religious or political conviction. An example of this is a woman who has turned away from her religion and therefore behaves in a western way. In that case, the changed religious beliefs of the foreign national may be grounds for persecution in the country of origin and entitlement to asylum in the Netherlands.


There may also be a right to asylum in the Netherlands if the foreign national can no longer fully adapt in the country of origin as a result of behavioral characteristics that are extremely difficult or practically impossible to change or to hide. In the country of origin, such behavioral characteristics could give the impression that the foreign national has changed his faith, possibly with great risks for the foreign national. The State Secretary must then investigate and assess whether the foreign national really cannot adapt and therefore runs great risks on return.


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