Gender equality in the Netherlands

Does being a woman or a man matter in the Netherlands?

Not so long ago, men and women's roles in the Netherlands were firmly divided along traditional gender lines, with men at the head of the family. Up until 1956 there were no married women working in Dutch civil service positions. In fact, women automatically lost their job as soon as they took their marriage vows.

Liberal attitudes from 1960

In the years since 1960 the Dutch government has come to take an increasingly liberal position, essentially holding that the state must support the free choice of the individual. Men and women must be permitted to arrange their lives as they wish. And this should not be hampered by gender – that is, the cultural ideas and practices surrounding how a man or a woman ought to be and act.

From 1974 onwards, the Dutch government has actively sought to ensure equal rights and equal opportunities for men and women.

Equal Treatment Act 1994

Gender equality is now embedded in Dutch law. The Dutch constitution expressly forbids discrimination. The Netherlands has various laws to reinforce this. Most familiar is the General Equal Treatment Act (Algemene Wet op Gelijke Behandeling) of 1994. Among other things, this act makes it illegal for employers to favour people on the basis of personal characteristics such as gender or sexual preference. However, these laws are not a precise reflection of society.

Read more about gender (in)equality in the Netherlands

Compared to other EU countries, the Netherlands earns high marks for gender equality. Yet, even here, it does matter whether you are a man or a woman.

This section takes a closer look at these gender differences and Dutch domestic policies on:

You can also read more about the distinction between gender and sex, the Netherlands' international gender policy and the NGOs active in this area.

Source: Gender Equality Index.

last modified Oct 20, 2016 05:30 PM
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