The Danish Government’s action plan titled Redegørelse/Perspektiv- og handlingsplan 2016 lays down the planned work in the area of gender equality policy in 2016. It is the objective of the Government to ensure that all people, regardless of gender, have equal opportunities to participate in society and develop their potential and their talents. The ambition is for everybody’s resources to be utilised and that nobody will experience discrimination based on gender. Denmark has come a long way, but several gender equality challenges remain. It is therefore important that the development and promotion of gender equality continue.
The action plan declares objectives in three overarching areas:
- Rights and freedom for the individual
- Better utilisation of resources and talents
- Global gender equality measures
The Minister for Children, Education and Gender Equality has the overarching responsibility for Denmark’s gender equality policy and for ensuring gender mainstreaming in the Government and public administration. Since 2015, the Ministry for Children, Education and Gender Equality is the ministry responsible for gender equality issues. Each minister is in charge of gender equality matters within his or her respective domain. There is also a Department of Gender Equality under the gender equality minister. This department initiates special gender equality measures and develops legislation and administrative guidelines concerning gender equality.
In Denmark, the Danish Institute for Human Rights has served as the national body for equal treatment since 2002, and since 2011 the mandate also includes gender equality. The Institute is an independent state-funded institution tasked to promote equal treatment regardless of gender and other factors and ensure compliance with Denmark’s discrimination legislation.
In 2009, the independent committee Ligebehandlingsnævnet was formed to handle complaints regarding discrimination on any basis, including gender. Its decisions are final and binding in the administrative system. Ligebehandlingsnævnet also disperses information about gender-based discrimination to government agencies and the public.
The concept of gender mainstreaming was introduced in the Danish government’s third action plan for gender equality, 1994-1996, and has had a central role in Danish gender equality policy ever since. In fact, gender mainstreaming, which in the context of Danish gender equality policy implies that the gender equality perspective must be considered and integrated in all policy areas, is the Danish government’s primary strategy to achieve the national gender equality objectives.
Gender equality perspectives are integrated in proposed legislation as well as all public administration and service. The purpose of gender mainstreaming is not only to promote gender equality per se but also to ensure high quality of the public sector and its services. In accordance with the Danish gender equality legislation and the country’s international and European commitments, the gender equality perspective must be integrated across the board in policy development and the public sector. Each minister is in charge of the gender mainstreaming within his or her policy area.
In 1974, a gender equality debate was initiated in the Danish parliament. The debate was based on the outcome of the Danish commission on the status of women, appointed in 1965. In 1975, the government formed a gender equality council – Ligestillingsrådet. It was administratively placed under the prime minister and consisted of representatives from women’s organisations and the actors in the labour market. The role of the gender equality council was legislated in 1978, and the institutionalisation of gender equality policy was further reinforced through a new law on gender equality – Ligestillingsloven – adopted in 1988. When the gender equality law was revised in 2000, gender mainstreaming became mandatory in all public administration. Also in 2000, the gender equality council was replaced with three institutions: Ligestillingsdepartementet, Videncenter for Ligestilling and Ligestillingsnævnet.
The background to Denmark’s present gender equality legislation dates back to 1921, when the law on equal access to work for women and men was adopted. The law on equal pay was adopted in 1976 and was last revised in 2006. Together with the laws on equal treatment of women and men in the social insurance system (1998) and on equal treatment (1978, last revised in 2006), these laws form the legislative foundation for gender equality in Denmark. Danish law separates gender-based discrimination from other types of discrimination. The Danish constitution and gender equality legislation cover both the private and the public sector.
The exact job description of the gender equality minister has varied over the years, as the post has often covered other areas of responsibility as well. The first Danish gender equality minister was appointed in September 1999. In 1999-2001, the holder of the post also served as minister for housing, 2004-2007 as minister for social affairs, 2007-2009 as minister for welfare and 2009-2011 as minister for employment.
The first national action plan for gender equality covered the period 1987-1990. Since 2002, the minister in charge of gender equality issues has presented annual reports and action plans where the national gender equality objectives and interventions are evaluated and defined.