Netherlands LGBTI Resources

(See Below for Case Law, Evidence of Public Attitudes, NGOs that Assist or Advocate on LGBTI issues, and Country of Origin LGBTI Specialists)



Same-sex sexual contact has been legal in the Netherlands since 1811. In the Dutch Constitution, Article 1 of Chapter 1 (“Fundamental rights”) stipulates: ‘All persons in the Netherlands shall be treated equally in equal circumstances. Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex or on any other grounds whatsoever shall not be permitted.’

This article is implemented in Dutch law through the ‘1994 Equal Treatment Act’. It lays down ‘general rules for protection against discrimination on grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race, sex, nationality, heterosexual or homosexual orientation or civil status’ (unofficial translation).  Article 90 of the Dutch Penal Code gives a definition of discrimination: ‘Discrimination or discriminating shall be defined as any form of distinction, any exclusion, restriction or preference, the purpose or effect of which is to nullify or infringe upon the recognition, enjoyment or exercise on an equal footing or human right and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social or cultural fields or any other field of social life.’

The Netherlands recognized registered same-sex domestic partnership in 1998. In December 2000, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, it also allowed adopting children. These laws about this latter issue came into effect on 1st April in 2001.  In 2006, the Dutch government changed its policy to explicitly recognise the persecution of gay and lesbian asylum applicants fleeing from Iran.

Since July 1985 it is possible for transgender persons to change the names assigned to them on their birth certificates. As stated in this 2014 Human Rights Watch article, on 1 July 2014 a new law on transgender rights went into force which simplifies the process of changing the stated gender. Taking hormones and undergoing surgery are no longer necessary requirements, but a medical expert statement is required. The minimum age to request a change is 16.



On 23 April 2013, the asylum application of three gay people from Trinidad and Tobago was denied by the State Secretary for Security and Justice. Before the tribunal, the three appellants were able to persuade the court that they were gay, and court acknowledged the danger they faced in their country of origin, including a lack of protection from the state. The court concluded on 16 June 2014 in favour of the appellants that the asylum claims should be reassessed.

On 5th November 2000, the asylum application of a male from Somalia was denied by the Minister for Immigration and Integration. The Somali applicant mentioned that his boyfriend and mother were murdered when his village found out that he was gay, and that he subsequently fled his country.  The appeal is successful and the appellant’s case is returned to the lower tribunal for reassessment.



Incidences of violence and discrimination: Even though the Netherlands is known to be a liberal country, and legally the LGBTI community has equal rights to the rest of the population in the Netherlands, violence against the LGBTI community is present.  There is an average of three incidents per week that involve anti-gay violence, with 60% of these incidents located in Amsterdam. Statistics show that homosexuals and bisexuals feel more unsafe than heterosexuals and they are 50% more likely to be victims of criminality. Moreover, in comparison with heterosexuals, homosexuals often report feeling disrespected. This report did not take into consideration transsexuals and intersex persons.

Public attitudes: The ‘Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex People’ states: ‘A survey on sexual health in the Netherlands, published by Rutgers WPF in January, showed that more than half of the respondents want people to be clearly male or female; 57.3% of the respondents said they dislike uncertainty over someone’s gender or sex. A further 20% would not want to have contact with trans people, and for 9% someone’s trans status might be a reason to break a friendship. According to Eurobarometer 2012, 54% of the Dutch believe sexual orientation discrimination is widespread.  This is slightly above the EU27 average (46%). 50% believe gender identity discrimination is widespread. This is slightly above the EU27 average (45%).’

State’s capacity to protect: The government has presented the Security Programme (Veiligheidsagenda) for 2015-2018, wherein homophobia is one of the main priorities for the upcoming years within the police force.  This goal of the programme is to create more safety for the LGBTI community, because as the COC, a Dutch organization that has been advocating LGBTI rights since 1946, pointed out, almost a quarter of the Dutch gay community has experienced anti-gay violence. The emphasis of the Safety Programme will also lie on reporting to the police after discrimination/ violence occurred, because, the police points out, this is the only way they can help, and only 15% of the LGBTI community report incidents of violence and discrimination to the police.



COC Netherlands

Address: Nieuwe Herengracht 49, 1011 RN Amsterdam
Tel. (020) 623 45 96             

COC Netherlands has been advocating the rights of lesbian women, gay men, bisexuals and trans people (LGBT’s) from 1946 on. COC strives for the decriminalisation of sexual orientation and gender identity and for equal rights, emancipation and social acceptance of LGBT’s in the Netherlands and all over the world. COC is one of the few LGBT organisations that has a special consultative status with the United Nations.



We have no specialist on LGBTI for the Netherlands, but would welcome suggestions.


Reserached by: Tamara van Doorn