LGBT rights in the Netherlands

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LGBT rights in the Netherlands
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Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1811
Gender identity/expression Transsexual persons allowed to change legal gender
Recognition of
Same-sex marriage since 2001
Adoption Same-sex couples may jointly adopt
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protections (see below)

The Netherlands is known for its liberal policies on personal matters such as sexual orientation. The public widely supports tolerance and equal rights for LGBT people,[1] although conservative Christians and Muslim immigrants tend to be more traditional in their beliefs about gender and sexual equality.

History pre-1980s

Sodomy was a capital crime and a crackdown on sodomy was started in 1730, during which hundreds of people were executed for homosexuality. Homosexual relations between consenting adults in private were first legalized in 1811 when France invaded and installed the Napoleonic Code. After the Dutch received independence in 1813 no new sodomy law was enacted. However in 1911 the ruling Christian-based political parties enacted "article 248bis" that raised the age of consent for homosexuality to 21, while the age of consent for heterosexuality remained at 16. Along with the unequal age of consent were various laws against "public indecency" that were often used against gay men.

In response to this new law, a Dutch chapter of the Scientific Humanitarian Committee was organized under the leadership of Jacob Schorer. The organization was shut down by the German Nazis during the Second World War, and the German law that prohibited homosexuality, Paragraph 175 was introduced into Dutch law. The Dutch LGBT rights movement was revived in 1945 when the Center for Culture and Recreation was created in the Hague by Niek Engelschman[2] which published the "Right To Live" publication (Levensrecht).

In the late 1940s into the 1960s several Dutch psychiatrists and clergy began to see homosexuality as a minor mental illness. During the sexual revolution of the 1960s, this more open-minded point of view resulted in a less repressive attitude towards homosexuality and the legalization of adultery, abortion, and pornography. Prostitution was legalized in 1993. In 1971, Article 248bis was repealed and in 1973 Dutch mental health institutions stopped treating homosexuality as an illness and the military lifted its ban on homosexuals. More Dutch LGBT people started to "come out", gay publications such as "Gay Krant" started to be published and the liberal and left-wing Dutch political parties started to support LGBT rights as part of an overall support of social tolerance and liberalism.

1980s – present

The AIDS-HIV pandemic prompted most Dutch LGBT people to change their sexual habits to practice safe sex, and comprehensive sexual education was introduced into the public schools that resulted in a low rate of infection.

In 1993 the Dutch parliament enacted the "Equal Rights Law" that included sexual orientation as a category legally protected against discrimination. In 1998 the Dutch parliament granted same-sex couples domestic partnership benefits, and in 2001 the Netherlands granted legal recognition to same-sex marriage, becoming the first nation to do so.[3]

Isolated verbal and physical attacks on LGBT people tend to come from the socially conservative leadership of the Muslim community and their followers[4][5][6] (more than 5% of the population[7]). Political leaders of the conservative Christian parties (accounting for another 5%) oppose gay-rights legislation, however, they do recognise the gay community and all oppose discrimination against LGBT people.[8] Furthermore, the ChristenUnie (ChristianUnion), who, together with the CDA and PvdA forms the fourth Balkenende cabinet, doesn't want to reverse the same-sex marriage law (while in the Balkenende IV cabinet), for they recognise it as something that has a large social basis, and thus "a given fact".[9] They remain, however, against same-sex marriage. For the Netherlands, it is a conservative point of view, but compared with other Christian parties in the world, it is rather progressive.

The two autonomous overseas territories within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, reject the Netherlands' liberal legislation regarding sexual orientation, and have not legalized same-sex marriages. However, the Netherlands Supreme Court in 2007 declared that all marriages contracted in the different parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands should be accepted in the other parts of the Kingdom as well, forcing Aruba to recognize same-sex marriages concluded in the Netherlands. This does not mean however that Aruba or the Netherlands Antilles are bound to introduce laws legalizing same-sex marriages to be concluded within their countries, since the constituent countries of the Kingdom have separate private law (see Same-sex marriage in Aruba). While homosexual relations between consenting adults in private are legal, most of the people in the island territories affiliate with the socially conservative Roman Catholic Church. As a result, many Antillians and Arubans do not support LGBT rights.

Recent history

In 2002 Dutch Red Cross Society started to participate in the annual gay pride festival to promote AIDS-HIV education.[10]

In 2005 American journalist Chris Crain and his boyfriend were the victims of a gay-bashing while in the Netherlands by two men described as having "Moroccan features".[11]

In 2005 the Dutch government started allowing married same-sex couples to adopt children from overseas.

In 2005 Aruba, a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, refused to recognize same-sex marriages, although it has legalized homosexual relations between consenting adults in private.[12] In 2007, the Dutch Supreme Court declared that all marriages contracted in the different parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands should be accepted in the other parts of the Kingdom as well, forcing Aruba to recognize same-sex marriages (see Same-sex marriage in Aruba).

In 2006 the Dutch government acted to deport several Iranian LGBT immigrants who claimed that they would be killed if they were sent back, but after protests from the Dutch population, the government let them stay.[13]

A recent 2006 European Union member poll showed the Dutch to be the strongest supporters of same-sex marriage at 82%.[14]

In 2007 the Dutch Equal Treatment commission confirmed the policy of Sanquin (the Dutch organisation that regulates blood donation) to not allow MSMs (Men who have Sex with Men) to donate blood. It had previously done so in 1998.[15]

In 2010 a Catholic priest in Reusel denied the openly gay Prince Carnaval the sacramental bread. The gay community turned out in large number during the subsequent mass, leading the preacher to cancel the Eucharist[16]. The bishop of s'Hertogenbosch backed the priest, after which the gay community, backed by the chair of political party PvdA, announced a protest at the bishops mass.[17] While much of the Dutch discourse about acceptance of homosexuality within religion was focussed on the problems with Islam, this case showed that the acceptance of homosexuality in some Christian churches remains problematic as well in the Netherlands.[18]

LGBT community

The Netherlands is a popular destination for gay tourism especially Amsterdam where an LGBT gay pride festival occurs in mid-August.[19] Several gay-owned or gay-friendly hotels, nightclubs and cafes operate in the city.

Summary table

Homosexuality legal Yes (since 1811)
Equal age of consent Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes
Same-sex marriage(s) Yes (since 1 April 2001)
Recognition of same-sex couples Yes
Both joint and step adoption by same-sex couples Yes
Gays allowed to serve in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also



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