In 2015 Denmark will celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote. However, this landmark achievement was only reached after decades of debate and struggle. The oldest women’s rights organization, Dansk Kvindesamfund (Danish Women’s Society) is close to 150 years old.
Often seen as one of the role model countries in gender equality, much has been achieved in Denmark, and for a large part due to the welfare state model. However, reduced inequality doesn’t mean no inequality and in several important fields the struggle for gender rights and equality is ongoing.
After the fierce public debate over gender equality issues in the 1960’s and 70’s and the popular feminist movement gaining ground with women entering the labour market in high numbers and obtaining essential reproductive and sexual freedom with the legalization of abortion and easier access to various means of contraception, feminism seems to have suffered a backlash. So while gender equality is the official policy of all political parties, advocates are often struggling to counter the notion that all is fine and there is no reason for any further debate or legislation on gender issues. Measures like mandated quotas in politics or business boards have been strongly opposed.
After the 2011 election 39,1 % of the members of parliament are women. Though still a way from 50%, this is a high share internationally and it has been slowly but steadily rising. Several parties have women leaders and Helle Thorning-Schmidt is the country’s first female prime minister. On the municipal level, though, the development has been following a remarkably slower track. At the last held round of local elections, the percentage of women mayors dropped from 17 to 13 % and the total number of women in local councils is down to 29,7%.
In general women and men enjoy equal rights within all areas of the law and discrimination based on gender is prohibited. Discrimination cases, though, have been hard to prove and few have resulted in court verdicts. Other measures like the provision that all new laws have to be screened for gender inequality effects are often overlooked.
In terms of family law, men have actually had their rights strengthened in recent years as the parents now as a general rule retain shared custody over their children in case of divorce. Previously the standard outcome was that the mother got full custody.
Danish women have one of the highest labour market participation rates in the world, and are closing in on the men. 77 % of women are on the labour market versus 83% of men.
The labour market is per tradition, however, quite segregated with women dominating jobs in childcare, health and care for the elderly in the public sector and men dominating in construction and many production industries. Women are severely underrepresented in top level academia and managerial positions, particularly in the private sector, while the public sector has proven a steady progress in this regard over the recent years. By law, men and women have to be paid equally for equal work, but due to the segregated labour market and a number of other factors, women on average earn 15-20% less than men.
Among the younger generations there is a clear tendency to women being better educated than men. This is a reverse of the trend from previous decades.
Parents have the right to a combined 52 weeks of paid parental leave, with the first 18 weeks set aside for the mother and two weeks immediately following the birth for the father. The remaining 32 weeks they can share between them as they desire.
Denmark is KVINFO’s home base with library, documentation center and several other activities. KVINFO’s activities in the Middle East and North Africa are supported by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Danish-Arab Partnership Programme.
Read about the thematic areas for KVINFO’s work in the Middle East and North Africa
KVINFO’s projects generally fall in two categories. Partnership projects we implement ourselves, and projects where we facilitate partnerships between other organizations, including projects financed under our mini pool.