Name change free for descendants of enslaved persons

Descendants of enslaved persons will be able to change their surname for free as of 2024. The Council of Ministers has agreed to send this regulation to the Council of State, as proposed by Minister for Legal Protection Weerwind.

This is one of the measures taken by the government so as to increase knowledge and raise awareness of the history of slave-trading and, in doing so, aid the healing process and gain a better understanding of its consequences.

Minister Weerwind: “The apologies that have previously been made in respect of the history of slave-trading were not the end, but only one aspect. It is up to the government and society as a whole to follow through on these apologies. Making it easier for descendants of enslaved persons to change their surname, free of charge, is an initiative that is a good follow-up of the excuses made and the subsequent steps that are being taken.”

In the colonial past, enslaved persons were often not given the opportunity to choose their own name, and were given names instead. This name would often include a reference of the (former) slave owner or the plantation where they worked.

Adults who have such a surname will soon be able to change their surname, free of charge. The current costs for changing your surname amounts to € 835. Furthermore, the person requesting such a change is also currently required to submit a psychological statement evidencing that he/she is experiencing problems due to his/her surname. This will become a thing of the past. In these cases, the name change will be free of charge. A statement evidencing that the person involved is a descendant of an enslaved person will suffice.

The internet consultation for this proposal has been completed and the proposal will now be sent to the Council of State. The Council of State always advises the government on proposed legislation and regulations, as part of regular procedure.