In the last presentation Gender Gap Index Report The Netherlands take 28th place. This list ranks countries according to their (in)equal treatment of men, women and everyone else. Above us are countries like Burundi, Albania and Costa Rica. At the very top is Iceland.

And let’s talk about it right away. Because this country is often considered the Valhalla of gender equality. “But things are still not good there, of course,” says Associate Professor Alexandra Timmer of Utrecht University, who specializes in human rights and gender equality.

Application of rights

“But what they do well there and better than in the Netherlands is enforce laws that monitor gender equality,” says Timmer. “Essentially, the laws that guarantee equal treatment don’t even differ that much between Iceland and the Netherlands. But Iceland really does a better job of enforcing that, they take it much more seriously.”

While many Dutch people may have thought that our country was doing well when it came to gender equality, Timmer believes that there are still many steps to be taken in our country. “We do well in education. But several countries do. So it’s not that exceptional. We do quite poorly on many other factors.”

What Timmer notices positively is the time fathers spend with their children in the Netherlands. “Research shows that Dutch mothers still spend much more time caring for their children, but the difference between fathers and mothers is much smaller in the Netherlands than in many other countries. There is more balance there.”

Mediocre European

But other than that, we only excel in a few areas, says Timmer. “The gender gap index also shows that, from a European point of view, we are just mediocre.”

According to the associate professor, this is due to our own self-image. “It bothers us. We think we are very progressive, but it prevents us from really acting like Iceland does for example. We don’t like to hear that things are not going as well here as we thought. We are still stuck in stereotypical gender roles.”

Top female executives

An example of this, according to Timmer, is that there are still few women in the places where decisions are made. “Think of senior executives in business or politics. In all these years we have never had a female prime minister. Women who are active in politics are once again subject to a lot of sexism. There is still a world to win there.”

However, there are also places where things are even worse. At the bottom of the list is Afghanistan, a country that has been falling further and further behind in terms of human rights since the Taliban takeover.

“The situation of women in particular has deteriorated enormously,” said Elke Kuijper of Amnesty International. “All the women who worked for the government have been fired. Many women are not allowed to work. Girls are not allowed to go to school. But there are also child marriages in which young girls are married to older men.”

“A lot of women can no longer make their own choices. All their personal will has been taken away from them,” says Kuijper. “For example, women are no longer allowed to go out without a male escort.”

Just because a lot of things aren’t allowed doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. “We know there are brave people out there who take classes and learn to read and write as best they can. There’s a lot going on underground,” says Kuijper. “Fortunately, there is still resistance. For equality, women must have equal opportunities. In this way, the Taliban are trying to silence all women. They are not allowed to develop.”

“We must do more”

“It’s terrible for the individual, but also for the country. In this way, half of the population cannot contribute to the development of the country. Internationally, much more needs to be done to counter this. We, as Amnesty International, call “We therefore call on the United Nations Human Rights Council to open an investigation into the situation in Afghanistan. Everyone’s rights, especially women here, must be respected.”

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