Quick facts

Qualitative facts

1.  Electoral system and party system and their impact on women

2.  History of Women's suffrage

3.  Legal framework for the promotion of a balance between men and women in political decision-making
   a.  Infrastructure responsible for EO
   b.  Policy to increase women in politics
   c.  Actions initiated to promote women's participation in politics

Portrait:
Hedy D'Ancona


Europäische Datenbank: Frauen in Führungspositionen

Report from the Netherlands by our transnational partner
Milja A.C. Bos

Quick facts
Women in Politics:
Women's suffrage active: 1919
Women's suffrage passive: 1917
1st Women in parliament: 1946
1st Women in government: 1956-1963 Dr. Marga Klompè,
Ministry of Social Affairs
1st Ministry on women's issues: 1975 Ministry of Culture, Leisure Time and Social Work with the Department of Emancipation Policy
% women in national Parliament: 36,0% Lower House (2000); 28,0 Upper House (2000)
% women in national Government: 31,0% (2000)
Electoral System:
Proportional: 2nd Chamber:
150 members elected by party list vote (0,67% barrier) from 18 multi-seat districts;
1st Chamber:
75 members indirectly elected by party list vote of 12 provincial councils.
Quota:
Quota Law: No quota regulation legislation.
Party Quota: No quota system on party level.
Education:
% women with secondary degree: not available
% women with degree in higher education: 51,0% (1995/1996)
% women in senior management: 6,1% (1999)
Women's employment rates:
Full time: 35,0% (1998)
Part-time: 67,9% (1998)
Activity rate: 59,8% (1998)
Unemployment: 5,2% (1998)
*sources: Employment in Europe 1999 and Schlüsselzahlen zum Bildungswesen in der Europäischen Union, Amt für amtliche Veröffentlichungen der Europäischen Gemeinschaft 1997, Luxemburg; European Database - Women in Decision-Making and data by transnational experts.

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Qualitative facts

1. Electoral system and party system and their impact on women

The Netherlands and Israel are the only two countries in the world with direct elections with a pure proportional representation system for the Lower House. The result is that the Netherlands has many political parties, and that the election lists of the larger political parties are very important- especially where it concerns equal representation of women and men. Although the political parties themselves are not bound to any legal measurement as to how to compose those lists, most political parties have some kind of quota for (a more) equal representation of women and men. The political parties will not risk being portrayed as unfriendly to women by putting 'not enough' women on the lists (except the SGP, which is opposed to women in all of the public sphere- including politics and the work force). This attitude spreads over all elections and election lists, being direct and proportional or indirect.

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2. History of Women's Suffrage

In 1882, a female doctor, Aletta Jacobs, wrote a letter to the mayor of Amsterdam, asking why she was not registered as a voter, although she paid the legal required amount of taxes to be eligible to vote. The mayor answered that although the law did not say explicitly that women could not vote, the intentions of the law could not be discussed. The result of a long judicial fight was that the parliament changed the law and added 'male' to the article of the law. It was very clear now- women had no right to vote.
In the early days of the twentieth century, the debate of universal suffrage divided the Socialists and the Liberals. The Socialists put emphasis on suffrage for the lower classes, and thought that once the men had suffrage, the women would follow. The Suffragettes, being mostly upper class women, opposed this idea fiercely. Eventually, the question was solved in a very Dutch manner. The right to stand for election for both women and men was granted in 1917 and the right to vote for all women and men was granted in 1919. At the same time, subsidized Catholic and Protestant schools were erected. The Socialist, Liberal, Catholic and Protestant political parties all got what they wanted.

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3. Legal framework for the promotion of a balance between men and women in political decision-making

There is no legal framework for the promotion of women in political decision-making in the Netherlands. The Dutch government did not take an official position in this matter before they had to, due to the ratification of the European regulation on discrimination against women. The Dutch government says it cannot and may not force or even ask the political parties to increase their number of women. Dualism, the clear division between government and parliament, is very important in Dutch politics. Because the political parties differ widely in their opinions of how to reach equal representation, there has not been an initiative from the Lower House either. In 1992, (sic!) the government signed the policy to increase the number of women in politics, but that consists of recommendations to the political parties to increase women's representation. The only legal framework whatsoever on women in politics, is the First Article of the Constitution that prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender.

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a. Infrastructure responsible for EO

At this moment (02-00), emancipation is a policy area that belongs to the Department of Social Affairs and Employment. The Junior Minister of Emancipation is Annelies Verstand, a rather unknown politician, both in national politics and in the women's movement. The Department has an advisory body, the 'Directie Coördinatie Emancipatiezaken' (Board of Co-ordination of Emancipation), and has set up an independent consultancy called 'E-Quality'. The main subject of the policy on emancipation of women is mainstreaming- to take care that emancipation is increasingly integrated in the regular policies of all departments. It seems that, besides these intentions of mainstreaming, the only goal of emancipation at this moment is to increase the participation of women in the workforce. Although very useful and necessary, it confines emancipation to the goal of the combination of labour and care- and only for women.
In 1974, the women's organization Man Vrouw Maatschappij (Man Woman Society) set up an action to send postcards to the social democratic Prime Minister Den Uyl, to tell him that it was time for an overall policy for women. As a reaction, the Department of Culture, Recreation and Social Work set up two committees, one to prepare for the Year of the Woman (1975) and one to be the Advisory Committee for Emancipation. In 1977, a Junior Minister was appointed, and later that year the Department for the Co-ordination of Emancipation Policy was founded. From that day, the goal of emancipation policy was mainstreaming all policy concerning women and/or equality, although at that time it was called 'multi facet policy'. In 1981 the Advisory Committee for Emancipation was renamed the Emancipation Council, and the department was closed again. The Junior Minister of Emancipation has moved to the Department of Social Affairs and Employment. This is seen by some as a political move due to the larger importance of the Department. In the meantime, the Emancipation Council has been abolished, and the Board of Co-ordination of Emancipation examines all policy concerning gender and emancipation.

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b. Policy to increase women in politics

In 1980, the policy proposal for emancipation of women passed in the Lower House. The intention to increase the number of women in political decision-making is one of the objectives of this policy. In 1989, eventually, the law for equal opportunities for women and men changed into the law for equal opportunities in the workforce. The increase of the number of women in political decision-making receded into the background. It took until 1992 before the government made policy with the aim to increase of the number of women in politics. The initiative for the policy is a side effect of a resolution from the European Union that states that every EC country has to have policy to increase the number of women in political decision-making. By that time, the Netherlands had over 25% women in Parliament. The main measurement of the policy is quota: raising the percentage of female politicians in all decision-making bodies with 5% every election, until parity is reached. There are no laws or penalties to force the political parties to increase their number of women, mainly because the government is of the opinion that it cannot interfere in party politics. The number of women in political decision-making is rising with every election. The difference between the percentage of women in local politics (22%) and the Lower House (36%) is very large. In the Lower House, it seems that the percentage of female representatives has risen to a saturation point of about 35%.

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c. Actions initiated to promote women's participation in politics

During the second wave of feminism, there was surprisingly little attention to the increase of women in political decision-making. The attention of the women's movement concentrated on sexual violence, abortion and equal rights. The conviction of the radical parts of the Dutch women's movement was that pressure from outside politics was the best way to change society. Besides, the radical members were convinced that it was impossible for women to participate in party politics without adaptation to the male standards. Consequently, measurements from the governmental side have been introduced very late. The NGOs in the Netherlands that campaign for more women in politics consist of the more conservative women's groups, co-ordinated by the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Vrouwenbelangen (the Dutch Society for Women's Interests). This society goes back to the first wave of feminism, and has now been active for more than a century. The society organizes campaigns like M/V 50-50, which strives for equal participation and preferential votes for women candidates.
The official action programme to increase the number of women in political decision-making is rather meagre. The government passed a policy to promote women in politics in 1992, which was updated in 1996 and 1999. The government set quotas for the number of women in politics, but there are no penalties for the political parties when the quotas are not met. The political parties were provided with a small subsidy for an 'equality officer'. At this moment, the political parties receive a subsidy for education for their members. Increasing the number of women candidates is one of the objectives of this education. Actually, this does not mean that the political parties themselves have no policy to increase the number of women on their election lists. At this moment, the research and policy initiated by the government concentrates on local politics. In the Netherlands, the percentage of female representatives is much lower on the local level than on the national level.

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Portrait: Hedy D'Ancona

Hedy D'Ancona has had an impressive career- both in and outside politics. In the sixties, Hedy D'Ancona was one of the founders of 'Man Vrouw Maatschappij' or MVM (Man, woman, society), a mixed feminist group that put fundamental questions concerning gender relations to the forth. She is one of the few active members of the feminist groups of the second wave that pursued a political career. She was a member of the Dutch Upper House, the junior minister of Emancipation, the Minister of Welfare, Public Health and Culture, a MEP, and the chair of the Dutch Social Democrats of the European parliament. The fact that Hedy D'Ancona has combined feminism with both a professional and a political career has contributed positively to the image of women's issues as an important and accepted political issue. Although during the second feminist wave activities concerning women's issues mostly took place outside the political realm, D'Ancona has a history of pulling feminism into (social democratic) politics. During her (unfortunately) short period of junior minister of Emancipation, she changed the idea that 'women had still a lot ground to cover' to 'gender as an issue of power'. She started to design policy to avoid violence against women and girls, and the gender based division of labour. The device of the second feminist wave -the personal is political- describes Hedy D'Ancona in all of her aspects.

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