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!
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:
- legal equality
- social acceptance in general
- discrimination and safety at school, in the workplace and in the street
- health and well-being
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.