Gender-political situation in Denmark
- Gender Equality law
- Gender Equality Act 2000
- Gender mainstreaming
- Anti-discrimination law
- Laws on quotas, above all in the political and economic fields
- Other laws/statutory regulations
- Implementation of core terminology from the EU directives
- Access to employement, working conditions
- Maternity protection and protection during pregnancy; parental leave
- Equal pay
- Company pension schemes
- Statutory social security schemes
- Enforcement and compliance
- Current political discourse
- NGOs: political parties, civil society organisations
- Governments, Ministries
- Other gender actors
Scientific institutions and sources:
Brief description and evaluation
Much like Sweden, Denmark has a very institutionalised gender equality policy (numerous governmental gender actors). As a result, gender equality policy is entrenched in the country’s legislation, implemented by means of action plans and subjected to regular checks/evaluations. In Denmark institutional structures for gender policy have been provided by the state since the mid-1960s. The situation of women on the labour market used to be a dominant policy area. Since introducing the Gender Equality Act in 2000, Denmark has turned its focus to the strategy of gender mainstreaming; the promotion of women and/or affirmative action are viewed with a certain degree of criticism, however. The approach taken by scientists, civil society and the international community of states is to praise Denmark’s achievements in gender equality policy and point out areas where further action is needed.
Gender actors in civil society are well networked through the umbrella associations of women’s and men’s organisations at national level. As in Sweden, men’s policy is more institutionalised; including the government’s broaching of the issue of men and parenthood as part of the debate on the work-life balance. Generally speaking, Denmark’s implementation of the Community acquis in the area of gender equality is satisfactory, even though a few (small) gaps are apparent – Denmark especially lacks gender equality bodies with the types of powers required under the gender equality directives.
Being a Scandinavian welfare state, Denmark provides incentives through its welfare system for both genders to be able to pursue gainful employment: the system is less oriented towards the man being the breadwinner of the family and more towards the principle of the individual. On a European scale, Denmark currently boasts the highest employment rate for women. However, even in a country like Denmark, having children and a career is not a matter of course for women, and the gender pay gap is increasing further (the last study is 10 years old, however: Danish women still a long way from equal pay). Despite having employment, women are still primarily responsible for performing unpaid work for their family and household.
Government structures for gender policy have been in existence in Denmark since the 1960s. In 1965, the government at that time set up a commission for the “status of women in society”. Its task was to examine the situation of women in “modern society” with a view to proposing legislative initiatives to promote gender equality. In its final report published in 1974, the commission recommended that a permanent council for equal opportunities be set up at governmental level.
The government followed this recommendation and established the Equal Status Council in 1975 following pressure from Denmark’s women’s movement. This cross-party Council was made up of employers, trade unions and women’s associations. As a body located directly under the remit of the Prime Minister, the Council had high symbolic status but no specific means of imposing sanctions.
Gender Equality Act 2000
The Gender Equality Act of 2000 led to a fundamental restructuring of the governmental “gender machinery”. In passing this law, the national parliament followed the recommendations of a commission comprising representatives from the ministries, trade unions and NGOs, who, in the aftermath of the World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995) and its vote in favour of gender mainstreaming, examined the institutional mechanisms of women’s policy in Denmark. The Gender Equality Act resulted in the Ministry of Equality and a complaints body in the shape of the Gender Equality Board replacing the Equal Status Council. Coinciding with this, the gender mainstreaming strategy became entrenched in law (5th CEDAW Report 2000: 8f.).
Responsibility for the activities of overriding importance in the field of gender equality policy rests with the Minister for Gender Equality. A gender equality department is under the minister’s direct control. The post is currently held by Lykke Friis who is also the country’s Minister for Climate and Energy. Coordinating the gender equality initiatives of other ministerial departments is also the responsibility of the Minister for Gender Equality.
Anyone with a complaint relating to gender-based discrimination can contact the Gender Equality Board free of charge. The board, which comprises a judge and two other jurists, reaches decisions that are binding on the public administration. The Gender Equality Board can order the payment of damages or declare dismissals invalid if they are in breach of the country’s valid laws. Half of the complaints dealt with by the Gender Equality Board are filed by women who were dismissed during pregnancy or parental leave (www.ligeuk.itide.dk (offline/05.01.2011) 6. CEDAW Report 2004: 13).
The Gender Knowledge Centre was established as the third institutional pillar of the gender equality institutions and was initially funded by the government. In addition to conducting research, the Centre served as a platform for NGOs, social partners and the science community to exchange views and opinions. It reported to the Ministry of Gender Equality (5th CEDAW Report: 10). Following a change in government in 2001, the funding was withdrawn again as early as 2002 and the Gender Equality Act amended accordingly. As a third-party-funded institution under the auspices of the University of Roskilde, the Danish Research Centre on Gender Equality continued its work until 2007, when parts of it were absorbed into the Department of Society and Globalisation at the University of Roskilde as part of the structural reforms undergone by this university. There is no uniform address or website, however.
In passing the Gender Equality Act, Denmark’s parliament prohibited direct and indirect gender-based discrimination in public administration. Boards and committees set up by the government are supposed to have equal numbers of women and men provided that they are vested with the task of reaching decisions of relevance to society. Women and men should also have equal representation on executive and management boards in public administration. The same applies to independent institutions or companies in which the state holds a majority stake and/or is the primary funder. Exceptions to these rules require approval from the responsible minister.
"Public authorities shall, within their portfolio, work for gender equality and integrate gender equality in all planning and administration (mainstreaming)", § 4.
In March 2001, the then minister for gender equality, Henriette Kjaer (Conservative People’s Party), initiated an inter-ministerial gender mainstreaming project. Each ministry dispatched a high-ranking representative to the inter-ministerial steering group, which has since assumed the overall responsibility for the inter-ministerial project.
The steering group established the concrete steps to be taken between the years 2002 and 2006 in an Action Plan entitled “The new gender equality strategy”: each ministry was charged with the task of specifying gender equality goals in its own sphere of work, of developing pilot projects and thus of assuming responsibility for integrating the gender perspective in its own policy area: “Denmark has 18 ministers for gender equality policy”, is how the Ministry of Gender Equality outlines the ideal of the Danish GM process on its website.
Coinciding with this, a supporting “network” emerged at the working level of the federal administration for those specifically working with gender mainstreaming. The network serves as a forum for exchanging experiences and knowledge and meets between four and six times a year.
The ministerial departments are required to submit a status report to the steering group on an annual basis. In turn, the Ministry of Gender Equality reports to parliament every year on the work conducted in the previous year and presents its areas of focus for the coming year.
Concrete gender equality legislation first came into effect in 1976 (in the 1953 constitution: equal treatment)
There are five parliamentary equality acts:
- Equal Opportunity Act,
- Equal Payment Act,
- Equal Treatment Act,
- Act on equality in appointing members of public committees,
- Act on equality in appointing board members of the civil services
- The Act on Gender Equality (2000) (Lov om ligestilling af kvinder og mænd, Lov nr. 388 af 30.5.2000): Action Plans on Gender Equality have existed since 1987 and are evaluated + updated every three years.
- Most recent Action Plan (PDF, in English)
Laws on quotas, above all in the political and economic fields.
No laws on quotas
1996 – abolition of the quota in all political parties (internal quotas existed in the Socialist People’s Party (1977), the Social-Democratic Party (1983), the Left Socialist Party (1985); at national level, there has never been a quota for nominating candidates for election, and there has only seldom been one at other levels.
Other laws/statutory regulations
In accordance with Denmark’s Gender Equality Act, the responsible minister may, within his/her realms of responsibility, endorse measures that promote gender equality if such measures prevent or offset unequal treatment based on gender. The minister for gender equality has the authority to pass regulations specifying those cases where measures to promote gender equality may be taken without approval first having to be granted. The Ministry of Gender Equality has passed an order establishing rules governing initiatives that promote gender equality.
By the same token, measures promoting gender equality may be passed that seek to foster equal opportunities among women and men – especially by eliminating absolute inequalities with respect to accessing employment, vocational training, etc.
The provision within the EU directives that includes instructions with regard to discrimination has been transposed into Denmark’s implementation laws. The definitions of harassment and sexual harassment contained in the EU directives have been transposed verbatim into the country’s implementation laws.
- Equality Bodies and Special Measures – can be found at Ligestillingsafdelingen (in English) – see there: “7th Periodic Report by the Government of Denmark”, p. 18 et seq
Plan of Action for Mainstreaming 2002-2006 (through the Steering Group on Mainstreaming); new Plan of Action for Mainstreaming 2007-2011
- Action plan for the inter-ministerial gender mainstreaming project 2007-2011
- Action plan to stop men’s domestic violence against women and children 2005-2008
- Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings 2007–2010
Implementation of core terminology from the EU directives
The definition of direct discrimination used in the EU directives has been adopted verbatim in Denmark’s national legislation through which the directives are transposed. The definition of indirect discrimination has also been adopted, though not with exactly the same wording found in the recast directive. According to the directives, “indirect discrimination” may be justified if a lawful (in the Danish version of the directives, the word ‘legitimate’ is used) objective is pursued and the means of achieving this objective are appropriate and necessary.
Danish gender equality law offers two definitions of “indirect discrimination”: one in the Equal Treatment Act and the Equal Payment Act, which, in contrast to the pertinent directives use the word ‘saglig’ (good and appropriate) instead of ‘legitim’ (lawful), and another definition in the Equal Opportunity Act, which, in keeping with the underlying directives uses the word ‘legitim’ (lawful). Under Danish labour law, the working conditions are usually deemed to be saglige (good and appropriate) if they are the outcome of collective bargaining and can be perceived as an expression of an outcome that the labour market organisations on both sides believe to be reasonable.
Access to employment; working conditions
In 2005, the scope of application of the principle of equal treatment was extended by virtue of an amendment to the Equal Treatment Act to include membership and participation in trade unions and employer organisations. Until recently, this had posed a problem in Denmark, as the country used to have a women workers’ union. This problem no longer exists as the women workers’ union has ceased to operate as an independent trade union after over one hundred years. On 1 January 2005, it merged with the primarily male-oriented General Skilled Workers’ Union to form the so-called 3F, Denmark’s largest trade union.
Danish legislation has not been adapted adequately to the new form of exceptional rule which refers to working activities where gender-related attributes represent a major and decisive requirement. Under the Equal Treatment Act, the responsible minister may, within his/her realms of responsibility, exempt jobs from the discrimination ban whenever the gender of the person to be employed represents a decisive job requirement. This exceptional rule surpasses the one anchored in the directive, which merely allows member states to permit exceptions to the discrimination ban when these relate to accessing employment, including to the vocational training held for this purpose.
In Denmark, this problem has a certain practical significance with regard to women priests in the Danish National Church (Folkekirken). The Church Ministry has given recognised religious communities (including the Catholic Church and the Islamic community, for example) permission to reach their own decisions as to whether they accept gender equality or not.That no safeguards for women are permitted is a long-standing, strong tradition in Denmark. Until the pregnancy directive was transposed into national law in 1994, there was no such thing as mandatory maternal leave, for example, only a voluntary form. When transposing the pregnancy directive into national law, Denmark adopted the minimum requirements and nothing else. Danish law does not recognise safeguards on any other grounds, i.e. anything that does not relate to pregnancy or motherhood.
Maternity protection and protection during pregnancy; parental leave
Legal regulations on discrimination in connection with pregnancy and maternity protection, maternity leave, parental leave, adoption leave and paternity leave can mainly be found in the Equal Treatment Act, which contains a ban on discrimination related to pregnancy and maternity protection, maternity leave, parental leave, adoption leave and paternity leave, as well as in the Act on Entitlement to Leave and Benefits in the Event of Childbirth (Barselloven). In addition, the provision contained in the Council Directive 96/34/EC on the Framework Agreement on Parental Leave governing requirements on parental leave and time off work on the grounds of force majeure has been transposed into the national Law on the entitlement of employees to leave on special family grounds, which came into force on 1 April 2006.
The Equal Treatment Act prohibits discrimination on grounds relating to pregnancy and maternity protection, maternity leave, parental leave, adoption leave and paternity leave. This includes a ban on dismissal from work on grounds relating to pregnancy and maternity, etc. The Act furthermore entitles those returning to work following such circumstances to be given their previous or a comparable job.
Prior to the Equal Treatment Act being passed in 1978, which transposed the equal treatment directive of 1976 into national law, it was legal under Danish law and common practice among employers to dismiss or otherwise discriminate against pregnant women. The improved safeguards for pregnant women, which came into effect with the passing of the Equal Treatment Act, marked an important change in Danish law. The pregnancy directive was transposed into national law in 1994 by virtue of an amendment to the Equal treatment Act.
Since 2006, regulations on entitlements to leave and benefits in the event of childbirth have formed part of a specific Act on Entitlement to Leave and Benefits in the Event of Childbirth (Barselloven), which deals exclusively with this issue.
Until recently, the provision contained in the Council Directive 96/34/EC on the Framework Agreement on Parental Leave governing requirements on parental leave and time off work on the grounds of force majeure had only been transposed into a few collective agreements which entitled parents to stay at home on the first day a child fell ill. A Law on the entitlement of employees to leave on special family grounds was passed in 2006.
The right to equal pay for women and men in Denmark is governed by the Equal Payment Act, which was passed in 1976 in order to transpose the directive of 1975 relating to the application of the principle of equal pay for men and women . The Act has been amended on several occasions, most recently in 2008 in connection with the recast directive (2006/54/EC). The Act states that women and men must receive the same pay for doing the same or equivalent work. Originally, Denmark’s Equal Payment Act only specified equal pay for equal work as this was the wording which prevailed in the collective agreements.
Company pension schemes
The principle of equal treatment of women and men in company pension schemes in Denmark is regulated in the equal treatment act for men and women in occupational social security schemes.
One or two generations ago, most pension schemes were still applying actuarial calculations which were gender-based to the extent that ultimately women received lower payouts than men although they had paid the same premiums. During renegotiations on the collective agreements in the years 1989 and 1993, a few new pension schemes were created. Most of these schemes apply actuarial calculations, which pay out the same monthly amounts to women as men provided that they contribute the same premiums.
The most important provision in the act prohibits clauses in pension schemes which treat women and men differently based on their gender with respect to determining and calculating their premiums and payouts. Of particular significance is the fact that the act prohibits the setting of different premiums and different payouts, including in cases where such unequal treatment is based on actuarial factors.However, the ban on gender-based differentiation due to actuarial factors only applies to employees joining a pension scheme after 1 July 1999.
Statutory social security schemes
While transposing Council Directive 79/7/EWG into national law, Denmark also reviewed its social security legislation in order to make it gender-neutral as of 1984. Prior to this time, the minimum age for drawing a state pension (folkepension) was 67 for men and married women or 62 for unmarried women. This age limit was set at a gender-neutral 67 years for everybody and subsequently lowered to 65.
The provisions relating to shared burden of proof contained in the underlying directives have also been transposed into Danish equal treatment legislation. Under the Equal Treatment Act, sanctions in the shape of damages are imposed on any infringements against the ban on gender-based discrimination. These are typically in the form of compensation, which can range from financial to non-financial damages.
In legal matters relating to equal pay, the typical legal remedy is to pay the difference between the pay the woman received and that of her male counterpart. The payment of interest on the suffered loss may also be awarded. In principle, fines may be imposed for infringements against the Equal Treatment Act. In practice, however, this only occurs in the case of classified advertisements that discriminate based on gender. The Payment Equality Act does not provide for any form of prosecution.
The provision contained in the recast directive (2006/54/EC), which specifies that one or more gender equality bodies must be set up, as well as similar requirements of the equal treatment directive and the directive governing the provision of goods and services in relation to bodies, which deal with the equal treatment of women and men, have not been transposed into Danish law. Under Article 20 of the recast directive, member states are required to designate one or more bodies with the task of promoting, analysing and supporting the equal treatment of all people with no gender-based discrimination. Member states are required to ensure that these bodies are vested with the following powers: (a) to assist independently victims of discrimination in pursuing their discrimination complaints; (b) to conduct independent investigations on the subject of discrimination; and (c) independent reports. Denmark does not have any gender equality bodies with the powers described in the directive – merely a board of equal treatment (Ligestillingsnaevnet), which is charged with the powers described under (a).
When Denmark was transposing the equal treatment directive (2002/73/EC) into national law, this aspect was criticised by a number of organisations, including the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO). In response, the government states that there were many institutions capable of analysing gender equality: the universities, for example. The government holds the view that, over and above the board of equal treatment – which merely deals with individual complaints of alleged discrimination whenever an individual application is filed and is not empowered to conduct independent investigations on the subject of discrimination, to publish independent reports or to file lawsuits on its own initiative – there is no need for a specific gender equality body.
Generally speaking, the social partners on Denmark’s labour market play a predominant role. If an entitlement is founded on a collective agreement, the social partners are the only ones able to enforce such an entitlement. Most EU member states have a system in place to broaden the scope of validity of collective agreements with a view to making them binding on employers who have not signed such an agreement, and thus to have these collective agreements become universally applicable. This possibility does not exist in Denmark as collective agreements here cannot be extended to employers who have not signed them. In contrast to collective agreements, which have comparable protection to that of a law, statutory provisions on gender equality are subsidiary. those governing gender equality are subsidiary. Source: Sacha Prechal and Susanne Burri, Gender equality Law in 30 European Countries, European Commission 2009, p. 16 et seq.
Current political discourse
Priorities: stereotyping of gender roles and prejudices (CEDAW: 7th Periodic Report by the Government of Denmark, PDF, in English) p.17 et seq.
The government’s gender equality work is spread across three fields: gender equality, gender mainstreaming, international gender work. In this context its prioritised activities lie in the areas of: domestic violence/violence against women/trafficking in women, gainful employment (women in executive positions, gender-differentiated labour market, equal pay) and the work-life balance, but also the area of social and cultural inclusion (women and men subjected to discrimination, gender and ethnic minorities).
Non-governmental actors equally broach the issues in the aforementioned fields. Here, greater focus is placed on the gender perspective on migration and ethnic minorities (above all, on the aspect of arranged marriages, but also on intercultural understanding).Danish gender equality policy is very strongly oriented to gender equality and gender mainstreaming; in contrast, affirmative action/the promotion of women is one of the more hotly debated gender equality issues.
Denmark has a long history of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) actively participating in the work to promote gender equity between women and men. In particular, the Danish Women’s Society and the National Council of Danish Women strive to secure women’s rights and influence throughout society.
of the main tasks of NGOs is that of a “watchdog”, acting on behalf of
public initiatives as well as actively engaging in the public debate in
order to promote gender equality.
NGOs and experts often act as consulting bodies for new government initiatives. In this context, the aim is especially to direct attention to the government’s initiatives to combat violence against women and trafficking in women. The execution of projects in the national action plans, with the intention of combating these problems, is realised to a very high degree by the NGOs and experts.
Every three months, the “Department of Gender Equality” holds meetings with a number of women’s organisations and other NGOs.
The NGOs are members of official Danish delegations to United Nations conferences and meetings and they take part in main conferences and meetings under the auspices of the EU and Nordic countries.
Women’s Council in Denmark (Kvinderadet):
Is an umbrella organisation for 51 women’s organisations with close to 1 million members. Women’s organisations have played a key role in enforcing democratic and human rights. They have fought for equal rights and against discrimination in every area of society.
Member of the government delegation at international conferences.
Niels Hemmingsens gade 10
1008 Kbh. K
Tel/fax.: 3312 8087/3312 6740
The Danish Women’s Society (Dansk Kvindesamfund, in Danish):
Member of the government delegation at international conferences.
KAD (unskilled and semi-skilled workers’ union) until 2005, then merged with SiD (unskilled and semi-skilled workers’ union) and RBF (hotel workers’ and catering trade union) to form “Fagligt Fælles Forbund”, in short: “3F” – also committed to the issues of equal opportunities and gender mainstreaming.
Minister for Gender Equality:
The ministry is responsible for all of the government’s activities in the field of gender equality and coordination of gender equality work. The mainstreaming strategy has been formulated as a principle, i.e. there are now 20 ministers for gender equity – each one in their respective fields of competence – who are responsible for including gender and the equity perspective into all policies and activities.
The ministry is also vested with the task of implementing the gender mainstreaming principle in other areas (e.g. public administration). It is required to submit an annual report.
- Seventh Periodic Report by the Government of Denmark on Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (PDF, 139 pages, 1.35 MB, in English)
Department of Gender Equality (in English):
The department services the Minister for Gender Equality and acts as a secretariat for the minister. The department is responsible for government initiatives in the field of gender equity inasmuch that it coordinates, develops and implements government policies and submits recommendations on gender equality to the ministry and parliament.
In addition, there are several gender equality advisors in cities and local labour boards as well as gender equality committees in organisations, universities and companies. This has not changed with the passing of the Gender Equality Act.
- Gender Mainstreaming (in English) on the ministry’s website
Members of the Steering Committee (in English):
Set up in 2001 on the initiative of the Ministry for Gender Equality to manage the inter-ministerial GM project and pilot projects in individual ministries; 10 female and 10 male executive managers from the ministries; task: to exchange views and opinions, to transfer outcomes, monitoring, to test new ideas; GM Action Plan for 2002-2006 and 2007-2011; support network at work level: network of coordinators working on GM in the individual ministries as a professional forum for exchanging knowledge and experience.
Network (in English):
The Minister for Gender Equality has created a network under the auspices of the inter-ministerial gender mainstreaming project.
Gender Equality Board (in English):
Complaints body handling gender-based discrimination matters and comprising three jurists (1 judge); binding decisions with respect to public administration, court-like decisions; where applicable, imposition of damage payments; advises citizens, organisations, companies, public institutions; publishes decisions and an annual report.
The Board of Equal Treatment (in English):
The Board of Equal Treatment deals with discrimination-based complaints. Decisions reached by the Board are final and absolute and binding for both parties. In certain instances, the Board may determine that the bereaved party is entitled to compensation (e.g. in the event of unlawful dismissal).
· Legislation covered by the Board (in English)
The International Gender Equality Committee:
The government’s International Gender Equality Committee was set up by the Prime Minister in 1987.
The Committee comprises a chairperson,
who is appointed by the Minister for Gender Equality and
representatives of the elected political parties in the Folketing, the
relevant ministries (Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and
the Department of Gender Equality) as well as NGO representatives
(Danish Women’s Society, Women and Development, Women’s Council in
Denmark, UNIFEM Denmark).
The Committee is a coordination forum, which, since its establishment, has dealt with the majority of aspects related to international gender equality work conducted in the United Nations, the Nordic countries, the EU and the European Council.
Nordic Council of Ministers - Sector Programme Gender Equality (in English):
The Danish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers 2010
The Danish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers 2010 (NCM) will focus on identifying measures in order to address the gender departments on the labour market and evaluate the gender-specific effects of the financial crisis. Another of its priorities will lie in examining how traditional gender roles, which prevail in some immigrant communities, curtail the individual rights of women and men to freely choose a job, career and family type.
In addition to the routine gender equality activities, a new multi-year strategy will be developed for 2011-2014.
Kvinfo/Frauinfo – all about gender in Denmark (also available in English):
Is a foundation and extensive database covering every women’s and gender issue in Denmark. Is constantly updated and provides valuable information on campaigns.
The Centre for Gender Studies (in English):
The Department of Scandinavian Studies and Linguistics
DK-2300 S, Denmark
Phone number: +45 35 32 83 11
The Centre for Gender Studies is part of the Department of Scandinavian Studies and Linguistics. The purpose of the Centre is to apply an inter-disciplinary perspective to work with respect to the importance of gender within the research fields of humanities. The Centre has broadened its perspective to also include other spheres of inequality such as race, class, sexuality, masculinity, specific identity and ethnicity.
Through analyses, verbal and written dissemination, history lectures and the instrument of a broader perspective, they aim to provide students with a theoretical, practical and academic foundation to enable them to analyse gender in various contexts.
- Coordination for Gender Research – University of Copenhagen (in English)
- FREIA The Feminist Research Centre in Aalborg/Iniversität Aalborg (in Danish)
Description of state of source material:
Internet sources with information on governmental and non-governmental actors; mostly also in English; detailed website from the Ministry of Gender Equality;
But few case studies in Denmark in the literature.
Citing of relevant sources
Internet: see relevant institution for references to sources
Ministry of Gender Equality:
Detailed information in English; also reports/publications available for download, e.g. Annual Gender Equality Report (with perspective + Action Plan).
UN Report: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (PDF, 31 pages 146 KB, in English)