Danish women joined the labour market in their hundreds of thousands during the 1960s. Women's rights came on the political agenda and in 1965 the Social Democratic government set up a commission to propose legislation ensuring equal rights between men and women
By Katarina Blomqvist
Commission on Women 1965
In 1965 the Social Democratic prime minister, Jens Otto Krag, set up a commission to examine the role of women in modern society, with the object of proposing new legislation to ensure equality between men and women in Denmark. The commission, based on an American prototype, was unusually large with 55 members, and was chaired by Edel Saunte, former member of parliament for the Social Democrats and chair of Dansk Kvindesamfund (Danish Women’s Society).
The commission produced many reports and studies during the 9 years of its existence. In 1974 the commission published its final report, which included a proposal to set up a permanent governmental equal opportunities council. The proposal was complied with in 1975, which was the UN International Women’s Year. Even though Ligestillingsrådet (Equal Status Council) was set up in 1975, it was not passed into law until 1978.
Danish Equal Status Council
1975 was the UN International Women’s Year; equal opportunity and women’s status in society were in the spotlight. Despite the proposal from the Commission of 1965, Denmark still did not have a governmental equal opportunities ruling body, but after pressure from international and Scandinavian quarters and from the Danish women’s movement, the Equal Status Council was established with the remit to:
- monitor developments in society generally, including legislation, and in the labour market; examine conditions that counteract gender equality; put together proposals that could rectify the imbalance of power between men and women.
- function as advisory organ for governmental and municipal authorities on issues of gender equality.
- submit proposals for areas of research on gender equality; provide information on gender equality issues by means of publications etc.
The Equal Status Council was composed of representatives from employers, trade unions and women’s organisations. The chairperson was appointed by the government.
When a new Equal Status Law was passed in 2000, the Equal Status Council of 1975 was disbanded and replaced by a Minister of Gender Equality, a departmental equality division, an Equality Board and a resource centre dealing with gender equality issues (which was closed down in 2002).
Minister of Gender Equality and the Department of Gender Equality
The Ministry of Gender Equality has overall responsibility for the Equal Status Law and policies to promote gender equality. According to the Law, gender equality policies should be inter-ministerial and integrated in all other policies and activities.
All government ministers are therefore responsible for gender equality in their own spheres of activity. This means that legislation relating to gender equality in the various spheres comes under the individual ministers. For example, the Minister for Employment is responsible for regulation of equal opportunities in the labour market, the Minister for Education must ensure gender equality in legislation pertaining to education, and so on.
The Department of Gender Equality is the secretariat for the Minister. The Department is responsible for Government initiatives in the field of Gender Equality through co-ordination, development and implementation of the Governments policies and councils and advises the Minister and Parliament in matters concerning gender equality.
The Gender Equality Board
The task of the Gender Equality Board was to consider complaints concerning unequal treatment on grounds of gender. All citizens were eligible to present a complaint to the Board; complaints concerning, for example, inequality of pay, dismissal on grounds of gender, or job advertisements calling exclusively for applicants of a specific gender. There was no charge for presenting a case to the Board. The purpose of the Board was to provide the individual citizen with an accessible process, free of charge, by means of which to settle a case of alleged gender discrimination.
The Danish Board of Equal Treatment
In 2009 The Gender Equality Board was replaced with The Danish Board of Equal Treatment. The goal was to further improve the complaint filing process, for the individual citizen. Also, the scope of the Board was broadened to include complaints related to discrimination regarding gender, race, colour, religious beliefs, political views, sexual orientation, age, disability or national, social or ethnic origin, within the labour market. Outside the labour market, the board deals with complaints and issues related to discrimination based on race, ethnic origin and/or gender.
In 2013 the Board reached verdicts in 263 cases. Of these, 129 cases were related to gender inequality. In comparison, there were 64 verdicts in 2009, and 32 of these were related to gender.