Today’s Opinion: Woe men

POSTED: 06/9/11 1:02 PM

Behind every successful man there is a woman. You wouldn’t expect this to be the case for the leaders of the ultra-orthodox Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij SGP in the Netherlands, but the reality is different.

The SHP is under fire for its policy towards women. They are allowed to become a member, but they are not entitled to be elected on behalf of the party.

The Clara Wichmann Institute, an organization that initiates test trials to improve the position of women, is behind the drive to force the SGP to give women in the SHP voting rights. Home Affairs Minister Donner has already indicated that he does not want to take any measures to guarantee this right, even though the Supreme Court ruled more than a year ago that the government had to do this. Donner’s hands are tied, because the government needs the support of the SGP in the senate.

But we diverge. The SGP-faction leader, Kees van der Staaij, defended his party’s position on women’s rights in the Second Chamber yesterday with a text from his own wife. (Apparently SGP-members do get married to somebody of the opposite sex).

Van der Staaij said that he had discussed the issue at home, “like a good SGP-member should.” Is there a contradiction here? Women have no voting rights but at home they get a say in what their spouses are going to say in the Parliament?

Anyway, Van der Staaij told the Parliament that his wife said something like this: “Say it loud and clear there, and not in that legal mumbo jumbo of yours, that it is absurd that for instance the Clare Wichmann Institute thinks it has to take it up for us.”

Van der Staaij said that the institute’s initiative that led to the Supreme Court ruling makes women in the SGP feel like pathetic characters that are unable to fence for themselves, while they are man enough.”

The faction leader noted that the interest of women to become a member or to actively do something for the party is not overwhelming. It is not so that we need to put up barriers, he added. We’re not surprised: who wants to go the extra mile for a party that denies women equal rights? And what about a party leader who has the gall to say that the women that are in the party are man enough?

Donner does not want to do anything with the Supreme Court ruling until the European Court of Human rights has given an opinion. That could take years and that suits Donner just fine. The Labor Party, GreenLeft and D66 object to this course of inaction, but the parties have no majority in the Parliament. Therefore, the SGP will continue with its life in the dark ages. Out of sheer gratefulness the religious party will support the wobbly VVD-CDA minority cabinet. What a wonderful world we live in.


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