Flag of the NetherlandsFlag of the Netherlands. Photo: © European Union, 2014. All rights reserved.

Gender policy, politics and resources in the Netherlands


Legal situation:


Scientific institutions and Sources:

Short description and evaluation

In the Netherlands, equal opportunities seem to have arrived and been integrated in the political mainstream. On the part of the state, various ministries and government authorities are involved in the implementation of equal opportunities policies. In this regard, a comprehensive approach is being implemented which views equal opportunities policy as an anti-discrimination policy covering all forms of discrimination.

Nevertheless, in this context equal opportunities for women and men are treated as important, independent issues. In parallel with this more focused approach, gender is also taken into consideration as a universal dimension in other areas. With respect to the Netherlands, it is possible to speak of a gender-conscious anti-discrimination and diversity policy. Diversity management also has an important place as a strategy to achieve equal opportunities, which is apparent in the numerous projects, organisations and portals on this topic. Gender mainstreaming, in contrast, is no longer current in the vocabulary of contemporary Dutch politics.

At the level of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the Netherlands has a wide-ranging, thematically very differentiated spectrum of organisations in the field of equal opportunities and equal treatment policies. There are often close links to government organisations, be it by means of initiation, financing or concrete partnership, making it impossible to draw a clear line between governmental and non-governmental policies in this field.

Many of the Internet portals bundle and provide information on varying issues relating to equal treatment, contributing to a highly public, easily accessible density of information on the topic. Gender politics in the Netherlands is also institutionally well established in the scientific field.

« top

Legal situation

Equal opportunities law/Anti-discrimination law

In the Netherlands there is no differentiation between equal opportunities and anti-discrimination law. Rather, both are included under the term ‘equal treatment law’. Gender is thus treated as a relevant category of discrimination.

The prohibition of discrimination is anchored in Chapter 1 of the Dutch constitution. The law specifies twelve

grounds for discrimination: gender, race, nationality, religion/belief, political ideology, civil status, part- or full-time employment, temporary employment contracts, disability or chronic illness, and age.

The following laws define equal treatment in the Netherlands, and are supplemented by European Union legal definitions and rulings in this field (implementation is monitored by the Equal Treatment Commission):

  • Equal Treatment Act (Algemene wet gelijke behandeling – AWGB)
  • Equal Treatment of Men and Women in Employment Act (Wet gelijke behandeling mannen en vrouwen – WGB)
  • Equal Treatment in Working Hours Act (Wet verbod op onderscheid naar arbeidsduur – WOA)
  • Equal Treatment of Temporary and Permanent Employees Act (Wet Onderscheid Bepaalde en Onbepaalde Tijd – WOBOT)
  • Equal Treatment with Disability or Chronic Illness Act (Wet gelijke behandeling op grond van handicap of chronische ziekte – WGBH/CZ)
  • Equal Treatment in Employment Age Discrimination Act (Wet gelijke behandeling op grond van leeftijd bij de arbeid – WGBL)

A published annual report documents all cases of discrimination reported to discrimination bureaus

in the Netherlands.

Legal guidelines in the scope of women’s ‘emancipation politics

’ include the fields of divorce law, equal treatment in employment, the support of women in leading

positions, and legal provisions in the fields of sexual intimacy, aggression and violence. The two key legal guidelines in women’s politics are the Equal Treatment Act and the so-called Women’s Contract.

« top

Laws on quotas, in particular in the political and economic sectors

It is not possible to make a statement on this topic on the basis of the available sources.

« top

Further laws/legislative provisions and government programmes

Denk Divers (Dutch):
Denk Divers is the portal of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, responsible for issues relating to discrimination and diversity. The portal bundles information on the topic of diversity management, such as relevant statistics on; good practice examples,; sponsorship options, or and links to other organisations working in the field. The portal’s starting point is a project with the objective to increase diversity in government institutions. Thus, for example, the goals for the period 2008 to 2011 are to  place women in 30% of executive state positions and have them to make up 50% of all state employees, as well as to double the share of civil servants with a migration background.

Diversiteitsindex (Dutch):
The Diversity Index is also a project and portal of the Ministry of the Interior. Using various indicators, it shows the diversity of different public institutions. It is intended as an information and steering tool that can assist in evaluating processes and decision-making.

Div – National Network For Diversity Management (Dutch) offline on 06.05.2011:
The national network is an initiative of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment and is supported by the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment. with the Its objective of is to implementing diversity management in the public and private sectors. (Dutch):
This portal of the Ministry of the Interior bundles all information on the topics of discrimination and equal treatment, such as, for e.g., news on relevant legislation; and contact details, information for anti-discrimination authorities, etc. In addition to this the website also  facilitates the online registration of cases of discrimination via the Internet.

Plan To End Discrimination In The Workplace:
The current Plan To End Discrimination In The Workplace focuses on the fields of discrimination against foreigners and age discrimination, as well as on the issues of youth unemployment and improving the position of women on the labour market.

“1000 And 1 Power” Programme (Dutch):
The programme’s objective is to support the equal participation of women with a migration background and/or from ethnic minorities. Integration into paid employment should be achieved by means of sponsoring voluntary work/or charity work. In addition to this, between 2010 and 2012 the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Housing will fund the development of communal centres for fathers between 2010 and 2012 in order to increase the social integration of men with a migration background.

There has been a law on registered partnerships since 1997. In contrast to Scandinavian legislation, in the Netherlands Dutch legislation allows both homosexual and also heterosexual couples to register their partnership. In order to register a partnership, both partners must be Dutch or have a valid residence permit. The rights and obligations of marital spouses and marital property laws also apply to registered partnerships.

In common with marital spouses, registered partners have the right to refuse to give evidence and an entitlement to maintenance and inheritance. The tax benefits given to married couples also apply to registered partnerships.

« top

Current political discourse

Central themes in the Dutch discourse are women’s and/or emancipation politics, diversity, and equal treatment/discrimination. In this context, however, women’s politics are, however, not treated as just one dimension, but instead given their own weight. Moreover, ethnic discrimination issues are discussed in combination with gender and are not treated as gender-blind.

Apart from that, it is clear that in particular age-discrimination and homo-emancipation, as it is known in the Netherlands, have an important significance in political discourse.

Overall the Dutch discourse is characterised by a gender-conscious diversity approach. On the other hand, it is noticeable that Gender Main Streaming as such is no longer discussed, neither as a concept nor in the context of specific issues.

Furthermore, it is interesting to note just how many topics are deemed by the government to be key issues (from the government side) within the area of ‘women’s emancipation’.

Topics covering: equal opportunities for foreign women and men; time politics; women in positions of leadership; the sexualisation of women in the media; girls and technology; economic independence; combating the prevention of violence against women, and international emancipation politics. (see Vrouwenemancipatie (Dutch))

« top


Government and non-government organisations cooperate in many areas, and some NGOs have been set up by government organisations. This situation sometimes makes it difficult to categorise them exactly.

NGOs: Parties, organisations within civil society

There is a multitude of NGOs in the fields of gender, equal treatment, anti-discrimination and diversity. Most of these NGOs focus on one single dimension of diversity, such as the equal treatment of: ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, etc.

National Expertise Centre For Diversity (LECD) (Dutch):
The centre views itself as a partner assisting politics with in the implementation of diversity. It advises political institutions on the implementation of diversity management at all levels. Since 2005 the centre has been awarding the Diversity Prize for Dutch Politics. The centre explicitly treats gender as a dimension of diversity.

Movisie – Movisie – Dutch Centre For Social Development (Dutch):
The centre supports the participation of the public. Key areas of activity include social cohesion, voluntary work, domestic and sexual violence, at-risk groups and informal care. The centre’s projects are funded to nearly 50% by resources from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.

E–Quality (Dutch):
E-Quality is a scientific centre for issues related to gender, family and diversity. It provides advice on the implementation of gender policies to the government and institutions. The centre commissions practical research on issues of gender, family and diversity.

LEEFtijd – Expertise Centre For Age And Life Course (English):
This independent centre on age and life-course issues supports companies and governmental and non-governmental organisations in the implementation of life-course policies by means of research, advice and the development of instruments.
Its objective is to support people of all ages and at all stages of their lives in using and enhancing their talents in all areas of life – whether work, caring, leisure or social activities. In this context the centre focuses in particular on equal opportunities in relation to age, to age on the labour market, and to life-course.

Importante (Dutch):
Importante is an organisation working on behalf of NGOs and emancipation initiatives; it provides advice, training and projects with the objective of supporting organisations campaigning for women’s equal access to education and employment.

Importante carries out awareness training on emancipation issues for the public, politicians and administrators, and the media. Themes that come under focus in this context are: diversity and inclusion, social participation and professional participation.

Vrouwen (Dutch):
The portal provides an extensive collection of Womens's NGOs addressing women’s issues and concerns, differentiated according to thematic areas.

Further Thematic Portals:

« top

Government, Ministries

Various ministries of the Dutch government are active in the field of gender diversity:

  • The topics of discrimination and diversity are the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, with the Ministry of Justice also concerned with issues of discrimination.
  • The topic of equal treatment on the labour market falls within the purview of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, and includes the issue of equal pay.
  • The topic of work/family balance is the responsibility of the Ministry of Youth and Family.
  • Issues of women’s emancipation and homo-emancipation are addressed within the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

Commission For Equal Treatment (CGB) (Dutch, some parts English):
The commission is an independent organisation that was established in 1994 to promote and monitor compliance with Dutch and European legislation on equal treatment; to provide information and advice on the legal standards which that apply; and to act as a direct contact for the public, giving free advice on issues of (un-)equal treatment.

In this context, the commission also investigates individual cases from the viewpoint of a court. It does so not only upon request of the parties concerned but also upon its own initiative.

The rich store of experience gathered over the years is fed back into politics by means of advice provided to the government. The commission is responsible for all issues concerning discrimination based on the following grounds/characteristics: gender, race, nationality, religion/beliefs, political ideology, civil status, part- or full-time employment, temporary employment contracts, disability or chronic illness, and age.

Apart from registration through the commission, cases of discrimination also can be registered by means of a central telephone hotline, the internet-site or regional/local anti-discrimination bureaus. In some cases the complaint can also be filed anonymously.

Art. 1 (multi-language):
Art. 1 is a national organisation that works against discrimination. It was founded in 2007 by the regional/local anti-discrimination agencies and the former National Bureau Against Discrimination (LBR) in 2007. The National Expertise Centre Discrimination, set up by the Art. 1 association, is the successor to the National Bureau.

National Expertise Centre Discrimination (Landelijk Expertise Centrum Discriminatie):
The expertise centre is an organisation located within the state law enforcement agency to advise the staff in anti-discrimination bureaus, who register and follow up on discrimination cases.
The centre supports them with advice on complaints and with the organisation of projects. It provides information, documents and rulings on discrimination. The starting point for the expertise centre was the National Bureau Against Discrimination, founded in 1999 as the amalgamation of three national organisations working in the field of anti-discrimination and/or anti-racism.

Task Force Part-Time Plus (Dutch):
The task force was set up by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment as a temporary task force in 2008 with the objective of stimulating the part-time employment of women with a greater number of hours (>more than 24), thus strengthening women’s financial /economic independence.

The task force’s Corresponding measures include: pilot projects, regional events, a web-page with a focus on practical issues, public relations work, research and an international conference.

Further measures adopted by the government to achieve a positive work/family balance include the sponsoring: of different and flexible working models, of family-friendly companies, of active fatherhood and the /participation of fathers in family tasks; as well as family leave for parents and benefits for parents.

Weitere Task Forces:

  • Task force „Women to the Top“ (women in positions of leadership)
  • Task force „Mobility Management“ (positive work/family balance)

« top

Scientific institutions and sources


Women’s And Gender Studies In The Netherlands (English):
For links to all relevant institutions with programmes in Women’s And Gender Studies In The Netherlands.

Many home pages are also available in English, e.g.such as:

« top


Aletta – Institute For Women’s History (English):
In existence since 1935, Aletta was known until as the International Information Centre and Archive of the Women’s Movement. It comprises a library, an archive and a knowledge centre, and carries out its own scientific research.

In this context it also takes on an important networking function for women’s history research and documentation worldwide.

« top


Description of the status of source material:
The status of source material in Dutch is excellent.  A large amount of information is available on the Internet. In most cases the sites are, however, not available in other popular widely read languages, so that a certain level of  Dutch is required.

Citation of relevant sources:
Internet addresses were provided directly in context.

« top

This study was conducted by Tanja Berger und Pamela Dorsch and comissioned by the Gunda Werner Institute of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in 2010.


All images, except marked otherwise Public Domain CC0

All rights reserved