Legislative and policy framework

The principle of gender equality is not enshrined in The Danish Constitution of 1953. Instead, the European Union (EU) has influenced the idea of gender mainstreaming in Denmark, in particular with the Amsterdam Treaty, which came into force in 1999. The Act on Gender Equality (first introduced in 2000 and amended in 2006, 2009, 2013; LBK nr 1678 af 19/12/2013)[1] is the fundamental law on gender equality in Denmark. Its first paragraph states that ‘The purpose of the law is to promote equality between women and men, including equal integration, equal influence and equal opportunities in all functions of society based on the equal value of women and men. The purpose of the law is also to counteract direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of gender and to counteract harassment and sexual harassment’. The law also provides a legal obligation for gender mainstreaming as it stipulates that, ‘Public authorities shall, within their portfolio, work for gender equality and integrate gender equality in all planning and administration (mainstreaming)’.

Other laws have impacted gender equality in Denmark, including the Law on Equal Pay,[2] the Law on Equal Treatment,[3] and the Law on Maternity/Paternity/Parental Leave.[4]

In policy terms, the Act on Gender Equality requires the Danish government to publish a yearly ‘Perspective and Action Plan’ on gender equality, as well as on LGBT+ issues. These plans have been published annually since 2002 and act as both a national strategy and action plan. The 2021 ‘Perspective and Action Plan’[5] presents four focus areas: equal opportunities in education, work and the family; freedom and equal rights for all; security, well-being and equal opportunities for LGBTI persons; and global gender equality efforts. The ‘Gender Equality Action Plan’ presents initiatives and interventions to be undertaken within these four focus areas and follows up on initiatives implemented in the previous action plan. The document does not contain clear targets, only general aims or objectives, and, as such, is not monitored.

Denmark has several other policies to promote gender equality within a range of sectors.Denmark also has a policy document - ‘Equality Assessment Strategy in the Public Sector’ (Strategi for ligestillingsvurdering i det offentlige) – which was published in 2013, without an end date. The overall goal of the strategy is that gender mainstreaming assessments, where applicable, will be included in public management and planning, and thereby contribute to better use of public resources, increase quality and diversity, and promote equality between women and men.


Governmental equality bodies

The Department of Gender Equality (Ligestillingsafdelingen) is the governmental body responsible for the promotion of gender equality within the Danish government. It is responsible for all government activities in the field of gender equality, as well as other equality-related functions, particularly regarding opportunities for LGBT+ persons. It is part of the Ministry of Equal Opportunities and Employment and was designated for the first time in 1999.

The department oversees the promotion of gender equality nationally and internationally and coordinates the equality work of other ministries. Chapter 5 § 14 of the Act on Gender Equality sets out the department’s functions, which states that it is responsible for ‘Promoting, evaluating and monitoring, and supporting equal treatment of women and men without discrimination on the grounds of gender’.

The Department of Gender Equality (Ligestillingsafdelingen) Functions

  • Conducting independent investigations into discrimination
  • Publishing independent reports
  • Making recommendations on any issue relating to discrimination
  • Providing victims of discrimination with independent assistance regarding their complaints

The Department of Gender Equality has 15 employees who work almost exclusively on gender equality; although four have a focus on LGBT+ issues. Other departments or ministries regularly consult the Department of Gender Equality about new existing policies, laws, or programmes.

Moreover, almost all ministries contribute to the annual ‘Perspective and Action Plan on Gender Equality’, thus the Department for Gender Equality works closely with all relevant ministries. In 2021, the action plan contained more than 50 initiatives across 15 different ministries.

Reporting to the parliament on the progress of gender equality efforts primarily consists of the annual reporting obligations included in the ‘Gender Equality Action Plan’. Various commissioned reports are issued to all members of parliament, while public hearings on gender equality topics are arranged on an ad-hoc basis.

Independent equality body

The Danish Institute for Human Rights is the independent body that works to promote gender equality in Denmark.

In 2011, the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) was appointed as the national equal treatment body, with the responsibility to promote, evaluate, monitor, and support equal treatment of women and men, without discrimination based on gender. The DIHR also covers discrimination based on race and ethnic origin, age, disability, LGBT+ identities, religion and beliefs.

The Danish Institute for Human Rights Functions

  • Supports victims of discrimination in filing complaints
  • Conducting research on discrimination
  • Publishing reports
  • Making recommendations on matters regarding discrimination

The legal basis for the DIHR is regulated by the Law on the Institute for Human Rights. The Institute is an independent national human rights institution (NHRI), modelled on the UN Paris Principles. The DIHR is regularly consulted about new or existing policies which lead to relevant adjustments in some cases.

The DIHR has six employees who spend around a quarter of their time on projects specifically focused on gender equality, given its broad mandate.

Parliamentary body

Although the existence of a parliamentary committee on gender equality is not regulated in the Danish Constitution, such a committee (Ligestillingsudvalget) has been present in the Danish Parliament since 2011. The purpose of a special committee on gender equality is to ensure a cross-cutting and overarching parliamentary perspective on gender equality. The main responsibilities of the committee are to examine and treat legislative proposals that may influence gender equality and to ascertain that the government respects the laws regulating gender equality. The committee asks questions of various ministries regarding the influence of new legislation or proposed policies on women and men, for instance. It also arranges public hearings and written hearings on legislative proposals, etc.

Regional structure

Since 2000, gender mainstreaming obligations have been implemented at all levels of public administration and in all decision-making processes. According to the Law on Gender Equality (Part 3-5a),[6] municipalities and regions are compelled to report at least every two years to the Minister for Gender Equality the situation regarding gender equality among the municipal and regional employees.

Consultation with civil society

Civil society actors are regularly involved in the government's work on gender equality through a variety of means.

Civil Society involvement

  • Participating in consultations when drafting new policies or action plans
  • Participating in expert groups and committees working towards gender equality, for instance regarding the gender-segregated labour market or sexual harassment
  • Attending meetings held by the governmental body for gender equality
  • Inclusion in official Danish delegations to international meetings, such as the Commission on the Status of Women
  • Participating in consultations concerning international negotiations on gender equality
  • Participating in relevant conferences, seminars, etc.
  • Receiving information and publications related to gender equality

Methods and tools

Note: the methods and tools listed under this section were the focus of EIGE's 2021 assessment. If certain methods and tools are not mentioned in this section, this does not necessarily mean that they are not used at all by Denmark.

Gender mainstreaming is a core principle of the Act on Gender Equality. It is achieved with gender impact assessments and specific training modules.

Gender impact assessment and gender budgeting

According to the current Danish gender-mainstreaming strategy, the objective of the ‘Gender Impact Assessment’, as set out in the 2013 ‘Equality Assessment Strategy in the Public Sector’ (Strategi for ligestillingsvurdering i det offentlige), is to ensure that the public sector takes gender and equality into account in all administration and planning. This means, for instance, carrying out gender impact assessments of law proposals, campaigns and services directed at citizens. The fourth paragraph of the Act on Gender Equality states that ministries are required to perform gender impact assessments of bills before they are proposed to parliament. Gender impact assessments of the public sector take place every three years, and gender impact assessments of legislative proposals occur annually.

Gender budgeting is not practised and remains largely unknown in Denmark.

Training and awareness-raising

Training of governmental staff on gender equality is not regulated by law. Employees of the Department for Gender Equality and employees from some other ministries/departments are involved in gender equality training regularly but it is not mandatory.

Gender statistics

Statistics Denmark[7] is the body responsible for producing data on various aspects of society and is regulated by the Law on Statistics, Denmark. Although the Law does not explicitly state that statistics must be sex-disaggregated, they are in practice.[8]

The statistics collected by Statistics Denmark are easily accessible to the public via the Stat-bank, an interactive website, where users can create custom-made tables and charts based on statistics in various areas. Statistics Denmark also has a website (Ligestilling i Danmark, Gender Equality in Denmark)[9] devoted to statistics on gender equality. The site presents indicators on nine domains (democracy and women in decision making, family, education, work, wages, income, health, safety, and culture). Each indicator is linked to the relevant page on the Stat-bank website. The statistics are updated annually. The page also contains links to international statistics on gender equality provided by EIGE and the OECD, among others. Most of the data on Stat-bank can be disaggregated geographically, by region or municipality, for example.

In Denmark, states, regions and municipalities are obliged to collect data on equal treatment disaggregated by sex. This data is collected and analysed in the latest 2020 Report on Gender Equality.[10]

Monitoring progress

Indicators for monitoring progress on institutional mechanisms for the promotion of gender equality and gender mainstreaming in the EU, under Area H of the Beijing Platform for Action

This section analyses the scores achieved by Denmark for data collection in 2021 for the four officially agreed-on indicators on institutional mechanisms for the promotion of gender equality and gender mainstreaming in order to monitor progress on Area H of the Beijing Platform for Action. It also analyses scores under an expanded measurement framework which includes the role of independent gender equality bodies and assesses the effectiveness of efforts to disseminate statistics disaggregated by sex. Institutional mechanisms refer to national machineries that implement, monitor, evaluate, and mobilise support for policies that promote gender equality and gender mainstreaming. All indicators and sub-indicators are available on the Gender Statistics Database here, including metadata about how the scores are calculated.

For Indicator H1 on the status of commitment to the promotion of gender equality, and taking into account only the governmental commitment in line with the officially adopted indicator, Denmark scored 8.0 out of a possible 12, above the EU average of 7.2. It scored particularly low on sub-indicator H1e on the accountability of the governmental gender equality body where it lost 2.0 points out of a maximum possible score of 5 because the national strategy and action plan both cover gender equality together with other equality and non-discrimination issues, and the action plan is not regularly monitored.

Under an expanded measurement framework, which includes sub-indicator H1f on the mandate and functions of the independent gender equality body, Denmark scored an additional 1.5 points, out of a possible 3. It lost 1.0 point because the mandate of the independent gender equality body is gender equality combined with other non-discrimination areas, rather than exclusively focused on gender equality. The overall score for the expanded H1 indicator was 9.5 out of a possible 15, above the EU average of 9.1.

Indicator H2 analyses the personnel resources of the national gender equality bodies. For sub-indicator H2a, regarding the governmental body, Denmark scored 1.0 out of a possible 2, which was the same as the EU average, because there were 10-25 employees working on gender equality in the governmental body. For sub-indicator H2b, regarding the independent body, Denmark’s score was 0.0, against an EU average of 0.8, as there are 0-5 employees in the independent body working on gender equality. For both sub-indicators, the maximum 2 points was awarded where the number of employees was over 100 as an indication of the body being sufficiently resourced.

Indicator H3 relates to gender mainstreaming. Here, Denmark scored 6.0 out of a maximum possible score of 12, which was above the EU average of 5.1. Denmark lost 4.5 points, out of the maximum possible score of 6, on sub-indicator H3c on the commitment to and use of methods and tools for gender mainstreaming, because of the limited use of gender budgeting and gender equality training among government staff.

Under an expanded measurement framework, which includes sub-indicator H3d on consultation of the independent equality body, Denmark scored 7.0 out of a maximum of 14, which was higher than the EU average which increased to 5.4. Under this sub-indicator Denmark lost 1.0 point because consultation with the independent gender equality body on the gender impact only leads to relevant adjustments in some cases.

For Indicator H4 on the production and dissemination of statistics disaggregated by sex, Denmark scored 3.5 points, which was just above the EU average of 3.4. It scored 0.0 points, out of 4 available, for sub-indicator H4a on government commitment to the production of statistics disaggregated by sex, because of missing data. However, Denmark scored 3.5 points, out of a maximum of 4, for sub-indicator H4c on the effectiveness of efforts to disseminate statistics disaggregated by sex. This score included 2.0 points because the national statistical office website has a section on gender statistics which facilitates dissemination. It lost 0.5 points because their publications to disseminate statistics disaggregated by sex are on ad-hoc, not regular basis.