Fundamentalist Christian party must let women become MPs

The fundamentalist Christian party SGP must stop refusing to allow women to stand for parliament as MPs, the high court ruled on Friday.


Women have the right to be included on the party’s official list of candidates and the state has a duty to ensure they have this right in practice, the court said in its ruling.
The state must now impose ‘effective measures’ on the party, the court said, without making recommendations.
However, the court said it was not in a position to order the government to stop giving subsidies to the party – some €800,000 a year – until it had been found guilty of discrimination in a criminal court.
The high court’s decision upholds a lower court ruling which found that the state can not turn a blind eye to the SGP’s ban on female activism.
Equal opportunties
The state itself had appealed against that decision, arguing that the court had placed equal rights legislation above that of freedom of religion.
The SGP operates according to a strict interpretation of the Bible and believes that the country should be governed ‘entirely on the basis of the ordinances of God’.
The SGP said in an initial reaction it found the court’s ruling that the party cannot treat men and women differently as ‘incomprehensible’.
Later, at a press conference, SGP chairman Wim Kolijn said the party would wait and see what steps the government would take against it. In addition, the party is considering an appeal to the European court of human rights, he said.
Earlier, justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin had said the government would wait with its reaction until the SGP responded.

Voting

While women are now allowed to join the party, they are still banned from voting, taking office or becoming MPs. The party has two seats in the 150-seat Dutch parliament.
Arie Slob, of the orthodox Christian party ChristenUnie, which does allow women to be active in politics, said the state cannot force a political party to follow its instructions.
‘Every Christian woman who wants to get involved in politics can do that in this country,’ he was quoted as saying. ‘Which woman is the state going to force to join the SGP list’
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