LGBT rights in the Netherlands

LGBT rights in the Netherlands

Location of  the Netherlands  (dark green)

 in Europe  (light green & dark gray)
 in the European Union  (light green)   [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1811
Gender identity/expression Transgender persons allowed to change legal gender, only after a diagnosis but without surgery or hormone therapy
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protections (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
Registered Partnership since 1998
Same-sex marriage since 2001
Adoption Same-sex couples may jointly adopt

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights in the Netherlands have been some of the most progressive in the world. Same-sex sexual activity was legalized in 1811 after France invaded the country and installed the Napoleonic Code, erasing any remaining sodomy laws and no more were enacted after the country received independence. During the late 20th century, awareness surrounding homosexuality grew and society became more tolerant of homosexuals, eventually leading to its declassification as a mental illness in 1973 and ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation in the military. The Equal Rights Law was enacted in 1993, which bans discrimination on sexual orientation on the grounds of employment, housing, public accommodations, and more. After the country began granting same-sex couples domestic partnerships benefits in 1998, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001. Same-sex joint and step adoption are also permitted. Lesbian couples can get access to IVF as well. Although transsexuals are allowed to change their legal gender, discrimination protections on the grounds of gender identity or expression have not been explicitly enacted countrywide yet.

The Netherlands has become the most culturally liberal country in the world,[1] with recent polls indicating that more than 90% of Dutch people support same-sex marriage, despite only 30% and 25% of Turks and Moroccans are accepting of homosexuality, respectively.[2] Hindus of Indian origin are reportedly in line with ethnic Dutch in terms of acceptance.[3] Most opposition and violence against LGBT citizens stem from the Christian and Muslim communities,[4] which make up less than a quarter of the country's population.[5] Amsterdam has frequently been named one of the most LGBT friendly cities in the world,[6] famous for its many accommodations specifically pertaining to the LGBT community, including its many gay bars, bathhouses, hotels, and venues as well as Pink Point, which provides LGBT friendly information and souvenirs, and the national Homomonument, which was completed in 1987 and was the first monument in the world to commemorate homosexuals who were persecuted and killed during World War II.[7]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity

Between 1730 and 1811, sodomy was considered a capital crime by the Dutch Republic, resulting in widespread panic throughout the Netherlands and the persecution of hundreds of homosexuals.[8] After the French invaded and installed the Napoleonic Code in 1811, all laws against same-sex sexual activity between consenting in adults in private were repealed. After the Dutch received independence in 1813, no new sodomy laws were enacted. The Christian based political parties enacted Article 248bis of the Penal Code in 1911, which raised the age of consent for same-sex sexual activity to 21 whilst the age of consent remained for heterosexual activity remained at 16. Laws citing public indecency were also often used against homosexuals.

During World War II, the German Nazis introduced Paragraph 175 into Dutch law, which prohibited any same-sex sexual activity once again. The law was repealed after the end of the war.

During the mid-20th century, Dutch psychiatrists and clergy began viewing homosexuality less critically and in 1973, homosexuality was no longer treated as a mental illness. Article 248bis was repealed in 1971 and the age of consent for same-sex sexual activity was equalized.

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Two men marrying in Amsterdam, in the first month after the possibility to marry was opened to same-sex couples (2001).

The Dutch parliament began granting same-sex couples domestic partnerships benefits on 1 January 1998 as an alternative for marriage, which were also allowed for opposite-sex couples.[9] The Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001, with the law coming into effect on 1 April.[10] During that day, Job Cohen, the Mayor of Amsterdam, married four same-sex couples after becoming a registrar specifically to officiate weddings.[11] The bill had passed the House of Representatives by 109 votes against 33.[12] Although same-sex marriages can be performed in the European territory of the Netherlands and the Caribbean Netherlands territory including Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, same-sex marriages performed in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, which are constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, are not officially valid. As a result of article 40 of the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands, same-sex marriages performed anywhere else in the Kingdom must be recognized in all territories,[13] however, they are not authorized to guarantee equal treatment of same-sex couples with valid marriage licenses.

Before 2014, civil servants (marriage officiant) could refuse to marry gay couples as long as the municipality ensured that other civil servants were available to solemnize the marriage. In 2014 a law was passed that made it illegal for all marriage officiants to refuse their services to gay couples.[14]

Public opinion

According to a poll conducted in May 2013, Ifop indicated that 85% of the Dutch population supported same-sex marriage and adoption.[15] A European Union member poll conducted in 2015 indicated that 91% of the Netherlands supported same-sex marriage, which was the highest amount of support during that time.[16] In the Caribbean territories of the Kingdom, the citizens are mostly religious, resulting in larger opposition of same-sex marriage in comparison to the European territories.

Discrimination protections

The Dutch parliament enacted the Equal Rights Act in 1993, which bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in employment, housing, and both public and private accommodations. Transgender people are protected under the category 'gender'.

In 2014 the Ministry of BZK started exploring how the ban on discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression can be made explicit in the Equal Rights Act. The results where published on June 23, 2016.[17] The report states that although discrimination against transgender people is forbidden, it is recommended to explicit prohibition in the Equal Rights Act, in order to raise awareness of this ban. The report also recommends to ban discrimination of people with an intersex condition. On August 6, 2016 the political parties D66, PvdA and GL announced that they are working on a bill to amend the Equal Rights Act. This bill will ban discrimination on the grounds of sexual characteristics (intersex condition) and explicit the ban on discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression. The bill will also replace the term "heterosexual or homosexual orientation" with the term "sexual orientation" to include all orientations including bisexual and asexual people. The bill will be discussed in September with various interest groups, before it will go to the Council of State.[18]

Recently a loophole was fixed in the Equal Rights Act. Before this religious schools financed by the government, were not allowed to fire or deny teachers on the "single fact" of someone's sexual orientation. However, some schools had interpreted this, that they could fire a teacher for behaviours outside of the facility that went against the ethos of the school. This resulted in the termination of a teacher in 2005 for being in a same-sex relationship.[19] This law was called 'de enkelefeitconstructie' (the 'single fact' construction). A bill that removed the 'single fact' rule and ensures that LGBT students and teachers can not be fired because of their sexual orientation, was debated in parliament.[20] On May 27, 2014 this bill was approved by the vast majority of the House of Representatives (141-9) and on March 10, 2015 the bill was approved by the Senate (72-3). The bill went into full effect on July 1, 2015. [21]

Adoption and parenting

Same-sex adoption was legalized alongside same-sex marriage in 2001, which includes joint and step adoption. The Dutch parliament also began allowing same-sex couples to adopt children overseas in 2005. Lesbian couples can get access to IVF treatment, as well as parentage rights for their children.

Blood donation

In the Netherlands, as in many other countries, men who have sex with men (MSM) were not allowed to donate blood.[22] The MSM population in developed countries tends to have a relatively high prevalence of HIV/AIDS infection,[23] so a blanket ban was enforced until 2015. In April 2012, the House of Representatives voted on a motion that would make an end to this ban and would make sexual risk behaviour the criteria for blood donation; in response the government has asked the blood bank Sanquin and Maastricht University to investigate whether there is a possibility to allow MSM to donate blood.[24] On March 6, 2015, the report was presented. It showed that there are medical scientific grounds to adjust the donor selection policies around men who had sex with other men. This takes away the main argument of safety risks. On 28 October 2015, the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport announced that a 12-month deferral on donating blood would replace the existing lifetime ban.[25][26]

Living conditions

The Netherlands has frequently been referred to as one of the most gay friendly countries in the world,[27][28] on account of its early adoption of LGBT rights legislation, and tolerance perception.

Amsterdam has been referred to as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world by publications such as The Independent.[29] The annual gay pride festival has been held in Amsterdam every year since 1996.[30] The festival attracts several hundred-thousand visitors each year and thus one of the largest publicly held annual events in the Netherlands. Amsterdam has also been host city of the Europride twice, in 1994 and 2016. With the latter attracted more than 560,000 visitors.

Summary table

Right Yes/No Note
Same-sex sexual activity legal Since 1811
Equal age of consent Since 1971
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Since 1983
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech)
Same-sex marriage(s) Since 2001; first country in the world to legalize
Recognition of same-sex relationships Domestic partnership benefits since 1998
Step adoption by same-sex couples
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Introduced with same-sex marriage in 2001
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military
Right to change legal gender
Access to IVF for lesbians
Automatic parenthood for both spouses after birth Unknown sperm donor only for lesbian couples
MSMs allowed to donate blood Since 2015, subject to 1 year deferral from sexual activities.(Blood cells only,no blood plasma) [31]

See also


  1. "Ministerie van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  2. "Lesbians flee Amsterdam for Bible Belt". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  3. "Homophobia among Hindus in Holland". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  4. "Country Report on Human Rights Practices in the Netherlands". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  5. "CBS StatLine - Bevolking; Islamieten en hindoes in Nederland, 1 januari". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  6. "Amsterdam In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to". The Independent. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  7. "Gay Amsterdam". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  11. "BBC News - EUROPE - Dutch gay couples exchange vows". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  12. "Dutch Legislators Approve Full Marriage Rights for Gays". 13 September 2000. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  13. " - Wet- en regelgeving - Statuut voor het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden - BWBR0002154". Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  16. "Special Eurobarometer 437: Discrimination in the EU in 2015" (PDF). European Commission. October 2015.
  19. "Leaked Dutch report says schools can ban gay teachers". PinkNews. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  22. "Hiv: risicofactoren voor mannen" (in Dutch). Sanquin Bloedvoorziening. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  23. "5". 2006 Report on the global AIDS epidemic (PDF). UNAIDS. December 2006.
  24. "Equal rights for LGBTS". Government of the Netherlands. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  25. Ban Lifted On Gay Male Blood Donations, Advocates Critical Of New Restrictions
  26. McDaid, Mark (20 May 2013). "The Netherlands is one of Europe's most gay-friendly nations". Netherlands: IamExpat. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  27. Baird-Remba, Rebecca. "13 Countries That ArMore Gay Friendly Than America". Business Insider. Business Insider Inc. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  28. Field, Marcus (17 September 2008). "The Ten Best Places In The World To Be Gay". The Independent. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  29. "Amsterdam Gay Pride". Retrieved 9 January 2011.
  30. Williams, Joe (2015-10-29). "Netherlands ends liftime blood ban on gay and bisexual men". PinkNews. Retrieved 2016-02-07.

External links

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