The Norwegian gender equality policy aims to ensure equal opportunities and freedom to make own choices, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, functional ability and sexual orientation, among all people.
In October 2015, Prime Minister Solberg’s cabinet submitted a white paper titled Gender Equality in Practice: Equal Opportunities for Women and Men to the Norwegian Parliament.
The document proposes a gender equality policy that eliminates obstacles to the abilities of women and men to make their own choices. Women and men must have equal opportunities and rights, and society must enable girls, boys, women and men to exercise their rights.
The proposition addresses gender equality challenges in central areas such as childrearing and education, employment, protection against violence and violations, the business world, health and Norway’s international contributions to gender equality.
The Minister at the Ministry of Children and Equality is in charge of the Norwegian Government’s gender equality policy, and this Ministry has the overarching responsibility for gender equality issues and develops and coordinates the Government’s gender equality policy. It also guides other ministries in their gender equality work. The department within the Ministry that is in charge of Norway’s gender equality policy (The Department of Consumer Affairs and Equality) is divided into three sections.
The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs, Bufdir is an agency under the Ministry of Children and Equality. They specialise in matters related to children, adolescents and families. Bufdir also works to promote gender equality and prevent discrimination on the grounds of gender, functional ability, ethnicity, view of life, sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity.
Norway’s Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombudsman is tasked with promoting gender equality and working against discrimination. This is accomplished for example by ensuring compliance with the country’s anti-discrimination legislation and promoting gender equality. The Ombudsman is an autonomous unit operating under the Ministry of Children and Equality and is also responsible for ensuring that Norwegian laws and their implementation promote gender equality and anti-discrimination in line with international agreements. The Ombudsman recognises seven grounds for discrimination, of which gender is one. An independent body (the Equality and Anti-discrimination Tribunal) handles complaints and appeals concerning the Ombudsman’s recommendations.
The Government supports regional gender equality measures, partly via state subsidies. This is the case with the KUN Centre for Gender Equality and the Centre for Equality. Furthermore the Centre for Gender and Equality at the University of Agder receives project funding, all of which contribute to ensure gender mainstreaming in regional planning and development.
Gender mainstreaming was introduced in Norwegian gender equality policy in the early 1990s on the basis of the gender equality act from 1978, which lays down that gender equality must be integrated into all policy areas. Central parts of the Government’s gender mainstreaming work include activity and reporting requirements for state agencies, public organisations and trade unions established in the country’s gender equality and anti-discrimination legislation.
Each ministry must ensure gender mainstreaming within its respective domain.
Norwegian governments and public authorities have cooperated with labour market actors and gender equality organisations to promote gender equality policy since the late 1950s. A council for equal pay, Likelønnsrådet, was established in 1959. It consisted of representatives from the government and the central labour market actors who promoted gender-equal Norwegian salaries. In 1972, the Council for Equal Pay was replaced with a Council for Gender Equality (Likestillingsrådet), which continued the work for gender-equal salaries and served as an advisory and coordinating body for gender equality matters. In the 1970s, the institutionalisation of Norwegian gender equality policy was strengthened. In 1978, the Labour Party government introduced the Gender Equality Act, which today’s Norwegian gender equality policy is largely based on.
When the department for family and gender equality issues, Familie- og likestillingsavdelingen, was established in 1977 under the then Ministry of Consumer Affairs and Administration, gender equality became a separate policy area. When the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and Administration closed in 1990, the responsibility for gender equality was transferred to a new ministry – the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs. In 2006, this ministry was replaced with the Ministry of Children and Equality, which in turn was replaced by the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion in 2010. The ministry was once again, in 2016, replaced by the Ministry of Children and Equality.
The Gender Equality Act was revised in 2005 to incorporate sections from the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Another revision was made in 2009. The Gender Equality Act covers gender discrimination, while the Anti-Discrimination Act from 2005 covers discrimination based on ethnicity, nationality, origin, skin colour, languages, religion or other faith. In 2013, the Storting adopted a new law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. The Anti-Discrimination Act was revised in connection with the introduction of the new law.
A Gender Equality Committee, Likestillingsutvalget, has presented two reports: Structure for Equality in 2011 and Policy for Equality in 2012. These two documents lay the foundation for a uniform and knowledge-based gender equality policy that takes as its point of departure the life cycle, ethnicity and class.