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Dutch armed forces second in the world for LGBT inclusion24 February 2014, by Alexandra Gowling
The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS) has released the first ever global ranking of countries by inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) service members in the armed forces, with the Netherlands in second place.
The LGBT Military Index ranks over 100 countries in a comparable overview of policies and best practices, which is designed to help those interested in promoting greater inclusion of LGBT personnel within armed forces.
HCSS’s argument for producing this list is that advancing diversity is "critically important for defence organisations to survive and thrive in the 21st century security environment."
They say that while valuing people’s differences and integrating them into armed forces is a matter of dignity and human rights for those willing to risk their lives for their country, it is even more a matter of military effectiveness.
LGBT acceptance in armed forces
The Netherlands shares second place in the list with the United Kingdom, both of whom are behind the New Zealand armed forces.
The Kiwi forces rank attained the highest ranking because they have active campaigns to show that everybody is welcome in the military, regardless of their sexual orientation. Rounding out the top five are Sweden, Australia and Canada. Nigeria is at the bottom of the list, with Iran only slightly higher in second-last place.
LGBT people in the Dutch armed forces
Despite the high ranking, there is still a world to win in the Netherlands’ armed forces, according to Major Peter Kees Hamstra, president of the Foundation for Homosexuality and the Armed Forces (SHK).
Up until 1974 in the Netherlands, homosexuality was grounds for exclusion from the armed forces, under a classification that declared the person mentally unfit for military service. Even 20 years ago, if you were gay in the Netherlands, you were a pariah in the army, according to Hamstra.
That is definitely not the case now, he says, but qualifies that by saying it is still a case of "you can be gay as long as you don’t show it."
He says there are still many signs that people are not able to be completely themselves in the workplace. "It naturally depends on where you work, whether you're on a mission abroad or have an office job here, for example, but there is certainly still work to be done in terms of acceptance."
"As long as a foundation like this exists and is needed, there is still work to be done."
Lack of LGBT acceptance elsewhere
The Netherlands is, however, generally considered to be one of Europe’s most gay-friendly nations, far more so that other places in the world where even being homosexual or transgender is forbidden by law.
This of course means that the armed forces of these countries, such as Nigeria and Iran, are especially unwelcoming of LGBT service personnel.
Yet there are several European countries where acceptance is low, including Poland (41st), Italy (42nd) and Greece (55th), while United States military, considered the most powerful in the world, ranks 40th, due it only dropping its ban on homosexuals in the military (the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy) two years ago.
Take a look at a graph of the study’s results.