Women's rights should begin at home

Women's rights should begin at home

30th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Netherlands may enjoy a reputation as a haven of liberalism and emancipation – but when it comes to women’s rights the Dutch still have some work to do.

53 NGOs have produced a report containing some stinging criticism of The Netherlands’ implementation of the UN women’s treaty.

The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women was adopted in 1979 and since then, researcher Leontien Bijleveld told RNW, The Netherlands has failed to implement fully its recommendations.

The Dutch government is preparing its own report for the UN, but Bijleveld represents one of the 53 groups who have compiled their own ‘shadow report’ to present to Dutch Human Rights Ambassador Arjan Hamburger.
Action not words

The Netherlands is very active in defending human rights, and women’s rights, abroad – but when it comes to domestic policy successive governments have dragged their feet.

The 53 NGOs are urging The Hague to reference the UN convention in every piece of legislation and policy paper – instead of the current practice of only referring to it when drafting legislation specifically relating to women.

One example is sexual violence: one in three women in the Netherlands is exposed to sexual violence and, says Bijleveld, “We are still waiting for a national plan of action to combat sexual violence against women”.

Photo Flickr © mikebaird

Policies that focus on preventing such violence are long overdue she believes.


Inequality at work

The UN convention makes governments responsible for fighting all forms of discrimination – even when it’s not the government itself that’s doing the discriminating.

The labour market is a prime example. Women occupy very few top jobs in The Netherlands and the pay gap between Dutch men and women is one of the widest in the world.

The government’s failure to address these problems goes against the spirit of the Convention according to Bijleveld .

Political violation

Bijleveld also points to the Dutch political party the SGP. This small Christian party, which has two seats in parliament, bans women from becoming members or running for any kind of public office – in direct violation of the UN Convention.

It received the same subsidy as other political parties in the Netherlands until a court case ruled that this should be withdrawn.

Another court case is now under way which aims to force the government to take action against the SGP’s discriminatory policies.

Recognising the contribution women’s rights organisations can make to developing societies, the Dutch government does make money available to such groups abroad.

Photo Flickr © Roel

Bijleveld praises this – but notes that there’s no government support available for such groups within The Netherlands itself, something she strongly believes should be redressed.


Louise Dunne
Radio Netherlands

Photo credit:  Roel; aprilzosia; mikebaird

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