In 2007 the overall responsibility for coordinating Norway’s efforts to promote equal rights and prevent discrimination was assigned to the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion. The ministry administers the acts mentioned in §196-211. Unifying the administration of the various acts under one ministry is a step in the Government’s long-term efforts to combat discrimination, as it makes it easier to view the various forms of discrimination in relation to one another.
The Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion plays a leading role in the efforts to promote an equal rights perspective in all policy areas and at all administrative levels. However, each ministry is responsible for promoting equal rights and preventing discrimination within its sector, in accordance with the principle of sector responsibility. Over the last few years, the competence of the Directorate of Children, Youth and Family Affairs has been strengthened in the field of equality and anti-discrimination, and some operational tasks have been delegated from the ministry to the directorate.
The Norwegian Gender Equality Act prohibits discrimination on grounds of gender in all areas of society.
In Norway today, almost as many women as men have completed higher education. Welfare benefits such as paid parental leave, flexible working hours and well-developed childcare facilities have made it easier to combine family life with paid employment. However, conditions for women and men in working life still differ. For example, far more women work part-time and, adjusted for working hours, women’s average monthly pay is approximately 86.5% of men’s.
In order to achieve gender equality both in the workplace and at home, it is important for fathers to take a larger share of responsibility for childcare and family life. Since the introduction of parental leave earmarked for fathers, an increasing proportion of fathers have taken a greater share of parental leave. From 1 July 2013, 14 weeks of parental leave are earmarked for fathers. Fourteen weeks are similarly earmarked for mothers. It is up to the parents to decide how to share the rest of the period between them. The total period is 49 weeks with 100% pay or 59 weeks with 80% pay.
In 2003, it was decided that Norway would be the first country in the world to require balanced gender representation on the boards of public limited companies. This means that the boards of private and public companies must include a minimum of 40% of each gender. On 1 July 2008, 40% of board members were women. Overall, the figure has risen from approximately 7% in 2003 to approximately 44% in 2009.
There have been significant developments in gay and lesbian rights in Norway over the last few years. Under the amended Marriage Act (Act of 4 July 1991 No 47), which entered into force on 1 January 2009, same-sex couples are entitled to get married. Registered partners may also apply for their partnership to be legally recognised as a marriage. Same-sex couples have the same rights as others to adopt children. Lesbian couples are also entitled to IVF treatment. The Act on prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression will enter into force 1 January 2014.
The LGBT Government action plan 2009–2012, “Improving the quality of life for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people”, has been extended through 2013. The national LGBT Centre evaluated the implementation and impact of the measures in this plan in May 2013. The conclusion, based on input from actors from civil society, ministries and relevant service providers, is that the plan has set a new standard for this field of government policy – through its clear visions and goals and the subsequent ambitious set of measures across sectors. For example, the plan has secured stronger support and core funding both for the existing LGBT NGOs and for the establishment and development of “Skeiv Verden” (“Queer World”), an organisation for LGBT persons with immigrant background. From being completely invisible only a few years ago, Skeiv Verden now provides a safe environment where LGBT immigrants can meet others who are in a similar situation. Skeiv Verden also has strong spokespersons who now give this group a very important voice in the public debate. As another example, the improvement of LGBT rights and related law and policies has over the last few years become one of the topics Norwegian politicians and officials usually insist on including on the agenda for bilateral and multilateral dialogue and cooperation. Another important milestone was passed in 2011, when the national LGBT Knowledge Centre was established under the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion. A number of important research and data collection projects have also been finalised as part of the implementation of the present Government LGBT Action Plan. The findings from these projects will be used as a foundation for the further development of the national LGBT policies.
From 2011 until 2013 Norway supported the Council of Europe LGBT project, both with a seconded project manager through the first year of the project and with project funding throughout the project period. The project aims to support the implementation of CM/Rec 2010/5, the Council of Europe LGBT recommendation, in six states (Montenegro, Albania, Italy, Poland, Latvia and Serbia).