Sexual diversity in the Netherlands

Ninety-five per cent of the Dutch think that men and women should be able to choose when, how, and with whom they have sex, as long as their chosen partner is over the age of 16 and gives consent.

General acceptance of lesbians, gays and bisexuals (LGB) in the Netherlands is high, although this wasn't always the case. 

Pre-1950: a sin, a disease and a disorder

Before the Second World War, homosexuality was by no means accepted in the Netherlands. It was seen as a sin, a disease and a preventable disorder. Even a suspicion of homosexuality could cost a person their job and social position.

Homosexual contact was not illegal in the Netherlands in the 20th century. However, from 1911 until 1971, the age of consent for homosexuals was stricter than for heterosexuals. Homosexual activity with a person under the age of 21 was an illegal act.

Post-1950: homosexuality accepted as a form of love

In the 20th century, many homosexual men and some women publicly stood up for their right to live. The major breakthrough for acceptance of homosexuality came at the end of the 1950s, when both Catholic and Protestant experts working in pastoral and psychological care stated that homosexuals were simply ordinary people looking for love. And this viewpoint caught on.

Acceptance of homosexuality also grew as a result of changing attitudes towards sexuality in general in the 1950s and 1960s. To an increasing degree, sex was being separated from reproduction and marriage.

Post-1960: increasing emancipation of homosexuals and bisexuals

From the 1960s onwards, laws that discriminated against homosexuals were increasingly amended. Since 1994, discrimination against someone based on their sexual preference has been explicitly prohibited.

However, the year 2001 was a particularly symbolic year for tolerance of homosexuality in the Netherlands. In that year, the Mayor of Amsterdam conducted the first ever civil marriage ceremony between gays and lesbians in the world!

Present day

Today, the Netherlands fights for the rights of sexual minorities at both the national and international level. However, tolerance, acceptance and respect for LGB people in the Netherlands is still not universal.

This section takes a closer look at the situation of LGB people and Dutch domestic policies on:

You can also read more about the meaning of homosexuality and bisexuality in the Netherlands, international LGBT policy in the Netherlands and the relevant NGOs.

Want to know even more about LGB history in the Netherlands? You can consult the digital library of IHLIA, the centre for LGBT heritage in the Netherlands.

last modified Oct 20, 2016 05:30 PM
Was this information useful?
Add comment

You can add a comment by filling out the form below. Plain text formatting.