Denmark 2020

A new law was passed recognizing sex without consent as rape. Abuse of minorities increased during the national COVID-19 lockdown. A discriminatory law on social housing remained in place. The authorities failed to protect the rights of children born with variations in sex characteristics.

Discrimination

In June, the Danish Institute for Human Rights published a survey which showed that members of minorities experienced increased verbal and physical abuse during the COVID-19 lockdown between March-June.

Housing

The 2018 Regulation L38 on social housing continued to be in force despite recommendations from 2019 by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) to reform the law. The CESCR raised concerns about stigmatizing categories such as “ghettos” and “hard ghettos” for neighbourhoods comprising more than 50% of residents with “non-western backgrounds”. The police had the power to temporarily designate these neighbourhoods as “increased punishment zones” in which residents and visitors could face double the criminal penalties for certain offences, including vandalism, assault, public order offences, arson, threats and extortion. At the end of the year, the law had yet to be reformed.1

In May tenants of one of these neighbourhoods, the housing project Mjølnerparken in the capital, Copenhagen, filed a lawsuit for discrimination against the Ministry of Transport and Housing in the Eastern High Court. In October, UN experts called on the government to suspend the sale of apartment houses in the area until courts determined whether laws permitting the sale violated residents’ human rights, including the high risk of forced eviction in violation of their right to adequate housing.

Violence against women and girls

In September, the government and coalition parties put forward a cross-party agreement to introduce consent-based rape legislation. Parliament passed the proposed bill into law on 17 December.2

In March, the national hotline “Live without violence” saw a doubling of requests for safe spaces after the COVID-19 lockdown. In April, the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Interior responded by creating 55 emergency shelter places.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people

Despite specific recommendations from the CESCR in 2019, the authorities failed to protect the rights of children with variations in sex characteristics. Infants and children continued to be at risk of non-emergency, invasive and irreversible genital surgery or hormone treatment.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

In January, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture called on the government to take steps to improve the conditions at Ellebæk, a detention centre where migrants, asylum-seekers and rejected asylum-seekers are held based on Denmark’s immigration laws. At the end of the year, no substantial improvements had been made.

Corporate accountability

In January, the government committed to respond to the CESCR 2019 recommendation that Denmark adopt a legal framework requiring business entities to exercise human rights due diligence in their operations. The CESCR also recommended that businesses be held liable for human rights violations and that victims be enabled to seek remedies. By year’s end, the government had yet to take steps to introduce the required legal framework.


  1. Denmark: Human rights must be ensured for all (EUR 18/3229/2020)
  2. Denmark: First reading of “sex without consent is rape” bill brings historic moment for women’s rights closer (Press release, 20 November)