The Netherlands: 15 years of gay marriage

This week it is 15 years since the Netherlands introduced same-sex marriage, the first country in the world to do so. On April 1, 2001, the first gay couple was joined in holy matrimony. Since then, (parts of) 20 other nations across the globe followed the Dutch example.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, more women than men married a partner of the same gender in the 15 years since then. At the same time, a larger portion of female same-sex marriages ended in divorce than those between two men.

Same-sex marriage in the Netherlands

In the first two years after the legalisation, more men than women married someone of the same gender. That trend changed in 2003, when more women than men married a partner of the same sex.

In 2015, 765 marriages between two women were registered, while for men that number was 644. That’s a slight increase compared to five years earlier.

Same-sex divorces in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, slightly more than 40 percent of hetero marriages end in divorce according to the CBS. Since 2011, more than 32.000 hetero couples filed for divorce per year, after being married for an average of 14,5 years.

Since 2011, more than 200 marriages between women and 100 between men ended in divorce annually.

Dutch women divorce more often

Statistics show that the chance of divorce is greater between two women than two men.

Out of the 580 marriages concluded between two women in 2005, more than 30 percent ended in divorce 10 years later. For two men that number is 15 percent, and for the traditional hetero marriage it’s 18 percent.

In general, chances of divorce are the greatest when people marry before their 20th birthday or between the ages of 40 and 50. The higher the age difference between partners, the higher the chance the marriage will end prematurely.

Number of same-sex marriages per year. Light blue represents men, dark blue women. Source: CBS

More discrimination towards lesbians

According to the COC, the Dutch LGBT rights organisation, part of the reason that women divorce more frequently is that the social acceptance of lesbians in the Netherlands lags behind that of gay men.

The gay rights organisation indicates that more attention is paid to discrimination towards homosexual men, and that discrimination against lesbians is less visible but very much present in Dutch society. Women, including lesbians, also deal with sexual violence much more than men.

Dutch men marry older

Same-sex partners in the Netherlands tend to marry older than hetero couples. Men who marry another man are an average of 43 years old, while men who marry a woman are an average of 37 years old. Almost 20 percent of men in a same-sex marriage were 55 years or older when they married.

The average age of women when they marry a man is 34. When they marry another women, they’re slightly older on average at 39.

Greater age difference among males

In 2015, when two men married they were an average of 7,5 years apart in age. In more than 25 percent of cases, the difference was more than 10 years. For women, the age differential was 4,6 years, and for hetero couples that got married the average difference was 4,3 years.

Thomas Lundberg


Thomas Lundberg

Born as a Swede in the Netherlands, this life-long expat has spent his time in Belgium, the United States and Amsterdam. He began his professional career as a regional news...

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