European Constitutional Law Review

Case Notes

The Netherlands

(Thou Shalt Not Discriminate Against Women: Public Subsidies to Religious Parties Condemned in Clara Wichmann foundation v. The Dutch State. Court of First Instance, The Hague. Judgment of 7 September 2005)

Gareth Davies  a

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The court in this case decided that state subsidy to political parties that discriminate against women is prohibited by international treaties, notably the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

This raises a number of issues. Where the discrimination is for religious reasons, does sex equality need to be balanced against religious freedom? Both are usually seen as fundamental rights. What about discrimination against men, in favour of women; is that also against the law? Finally, is the obligation not to discriminate only binding on the state, or also on the party itself? Could such a party be banned from politics? Some of these issues were touched on by the court, although not convincingly, and some of them, such as religious freedom, were scandalously ignored.

(Published Online March 20 2006)

Key Words: Discrimination Against Women; Netherlands; SGP; Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij; Political Party; Public Subsidies; Sex Equality; Religious Freedom; CEDAW; Conflicting Fundamental Rights; Balancing Fundamental Rights; Positive Discrimination; Freedom of Speech.


a Faculty of Law, University of Groningen. I am grateful to Channa Samkalden for thought-provoking comments on an earlier draft of this note. That is not to suggest that she agrees with any of the views here expressed. Faults of course remain exclusively mine.