Stone Age Discrimination

Three things made me think this week I still live in the Stone Age in the Netherlands. First was the story of a woman I know, who nearly died while giving birth on Sunday. She had eclampsia – and it wasn’t detected when she had premature labor in the 27th week of her pregnancy. I’m not saying doctors cannot miss a diagnosis, but this is a very common high risk condition for all women while pregnant. It should be on the top of their list to check. They admitted they screwed up big time.

Second, going through my health insurance policy today I noticed that if I would wish to give birth in a hospital without immediate medical indication I have to pay X amount per day. A home birth with a midwife however is fully covered. I have a Swedish friend who just had a baby with her Dutch boyfriend. They decided to go back to Sweden, as A. She didn’t want a home birth. B. They didn’t wish to pay. C. She didn’t trust the care offered here.

Now if you think I’m pregnant, I can assure you I wouldn’t inform the world via my blog. I have another point to make, which comes in with a third experience a friend of mine went through today.

After months of applying she finally had a job interview. We were both excited as it certainly isn’t easy in the current job market and I helped her prepare. The interview was going fairly well, when towards the end of the conversation the woman(!) interviewing asked: ‘And, are you planning to have children soon?’ My friend is 32, but was totally taken by surprise and didn’t know what to answer. She said something about wanting to build a career first etc. After the interview she called me and my jaw literally dropped when she told me what happened. She asked with clear disappointment in her voice: ‘What should I have said?’

I can think of a few funny answers you could give of course: ‘No, my lesbian partner is planning to carry our children,’ or ‘No, I really hate children, what are you thinking?’ But, I nearly went into a rant against my friend, as this is pure discrimination and companies are not allowed to ask this. My friend is not originally from the Netherlands, and didn’t know this.

In addition, I felt really bad for her that this happened to her – and had the sad realisation myself that I should promote myself as ‘happy single’ on my resume, otherwise my age might also prevent me from even being selected for an interview. ‘When you cannot ask, you may make assumptions.

Either way the point of this all, is that for some reason Dutch society considers pregnancy in relation to work a ‘disease’ that better is prevented from having if you can avoid it by hiring women in the childbearing age. At the same time, the ‘condition’ is not considered serious enough to offer the care necessary and promoted as a natural process that can happily happen at home. Neither is realistic, in particular when you want to promote women to work more and countering the trend that Dutch women in general are the oldest ‘mothers’ in the world, which increases the chances of complications at birth. And then I haven’t even started on effects of cutting down on childcare facilities. Let’s be honest the above shows that women are still discriminated against in Dutch society. So much for progress since the Stone Age.

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