LGBT local policies

How can society become more welcoming to Dutch lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people? Movisie expertise in LGBT local policies focuses on issues and practical examples that contribute to making society more inclusive to the LGBT group.

Local LGBT policies in The Netherlands

The Netherlands have a long tradition of tolerance, or even acceptance, of sexual diversity. Several laws protect the rights of gays, lesbians and transgenders, the first same sex couples got married in 2001 and several so-called Gay&Straight Alliances are working for social acceptance on a national level. The last two Dutch governments have been very concerned with raising awareness for safety and social acceptance of LGBT people in the public space, in the educational system, in healthcare, on the work floor and in sports.    

Municipalities sign memorandum
In the national policy document Simply Gay (2008) the Dutch government explicitly mentioned municipalities as a partner in developing and executing LGBT policies. In 2008, 18 municipalities signed a memorandum with the Dutch minister of Education, Culture and Science in which they agreed to explicitly include LGBT persons in their local policies. Municipalities would involve their municipal services and service providers and would work closely together with local LGBT advocacy groups and other civil society organisations.

Rainbow cities
In 2011 the then new government decided to continue the national LGBT policy and invited the 50 largest Dutch municipalities to join in a nationwide network of so-called Rainbow Cities. The municipalities were offered a financial incentive by the Ministry. Eventually 40 municipalities decided to join and to draw up a local action plan. In all these cities, LGBT specific measures should be anchored in mainstream local policies by the end of 2014. Meanwhile, in all 40 cities, policy initiatives and/or activities have started. Local coalitions are working on the following themes: safety; social acceptance; youth and education; formal and informal care; sports. The Dutch Rainbow Cities work closely together with civil society, the police force and LGBT advocacy groups. Movisie, as the national expertise centre on LGBT policy issues, is appointed as an advisor to all the participating cities. The Dutch Rainbow Cities participate in an active network, where they exchange good practices and share chances and challenges. Successful methods can be shared and even implemented in different cities in order to make the most out of the local efforts.

Role of local government
Local governments have an important task in taking care of their LGBT citizens: people go to school in a city, go to work, walk on the streets and go to a doctor or social worker there. So it only seems logical that measures are taken on that local level to ensure safety and acceptance of LGBT citizens. The most ideal role for the local government or municipality would be to be a coordinator, a ‘director’ of both policies and activities. This way, they can work on all levels needed: at policy level by mainstreaming LGBT issues into local policies, as well as coordinating the local action plan in which activities are organized and research is being conducted.

Movisie advisor
There is no blueprint way of doing this; it all depends greatly on the local situation and infrastructure. But Movisie, as the expertise centre on LGBT policy issues, does advise to involve a broad platform of governmental and non-governmental, LGBT and non-LGBT organisations. This will increase the effect of the action plan within the city as a whole, involving all citizens and not just LGBT’s.

Changing attitude in rural areas
The 40 participating Rainbow Cities are amongst the largest 50 cities in The Netherlands. Some of them are situated in a rural area and fulfil an important role for the surrounding region. Whereas LGBT issues are often seen as an issue of larger cities, this is of course not true. If we stick to the official figure as used by the Dutch government of 6 to 8% of the population having LGBT feelings, this does not rule out the more rural areas. Some smaller cities still argue that there are no LGBT persons living there and therefore, this groups does not have to be taken into account in policy matters. Luckily, this attitude is changing, also because of the national government approach. The example of 40 Rainbow Cities taking up their responsibility did not go unnoticed and some of these Cities are trying to involve their neighbouring cities and villages as well.

European Rainbow cities
The success of the Dutch Rainbow Cities project led to interest from all over Europe; the Dutch approach to LGBT issues has not gone unnoticed. With not only Dutch cities developing LGBT policies, it seems logical to encourage international exchange. We at Movisie took the initiative to form a network of European Rainbow Cities. By now, several European cities are involved. The international network of Rainbow Cities will exchange different local approaches and highlight good practices. This way the wheel does not have to be reinvented, cities can be inspired by different approaches and methods or be the inspirer themselves by sharing their innovative initiatives.

This way, international good practices in the field of social acceptance of sexual and gender diversity can have a snowball effect in the Netherlands, vice versa and beyond. Read more in de the article 'European Cities start Rainbow Cities network'. Subscribe to the Rainbow Cities Newsletter.

Network we are involved in

ILGA - International Lesbian & Gay Association Europe

Our projects

Examples of projects we are involved in:

Publications on LGBT

Do the Right Thing: What works for the emancipation of LGBT’s?
Factsheet Pink Seniors
Young immigrants being gay

You can also download our factsheet on LGBT policies.

Contact us

Juul van Hoof, +31 (0)30 789 22 67