Humanist Relationships: The Work of Member Organisation the Dutch Humanist Association

Humanist Relationships: The Work of Member Organisation the Dutch Humanist Association

Posted on the 16/08/21

Many Humanist organisations are dedicated to the advocating for the recognition of all relationships in society, but few have a history of this subject as extensive as the Dutch Humanist Association, or Humanistisch Verbond. As a tradition that goes back over 50 years, with gay and lesbian working groups organised by the Humanistisch Verbond, and the fight for gay marriage, of which the Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize in 2001.

It therefore makes sense that, with many battles for the acceptance of different relationships won, and with a new generation of people coming up in society, that now the Humanistisch Verbond advocates for the acceptance of different types of relationships as well. The person leading this program in the organisations is Hannah Hamans, who has organised campaigns for the rights of single people, and the rights of multi-parent families. When it comes to these campaigns they are absolutely necessary, Hamans says, first and foremost, of course, for the rights of the people involved.  For single people, Hamans points out how expensive it is to be a single person in the Netherlands. Inheritance is not taxed when given to a partner, but heavily taxed when given to a close relationship like a friend. And when it comes to multi-parent families, it’s important to acknowledge how hard it is for families to not be given parental rights over their child, simply because the law only allows two parents to have parental rights.

But besides the rights of the people involved, it is also important to acknowledge why Humanist should advocate for these different types of relationships. “It’s about self-determination first and foremost” Hamans says. “We see this in medical ethical questions, questions about life and death, and in family matters such as marriage, inheritance rights, abortion, these are areas that in the past have been guarded and controlled by religion, and therefore often involve specific religious regulations. When these unfairly hinder the individual, it is important for humanists to question them and fight against them.” “Besides this,” she says, “there’s also the issue of humanist values. Humanists believe in human dignity, that all people are equal and should be allowed to live in freedom, and that we should show solidarity towards vulnerable groups of people.” For Hamans, this shows the need to advocate for those who are arbitrarily punished for not following the traditional relationship model, of a two parent different-sex household with kids, because it is important to advocate for those who need it. She also mentions the importance of human connection within Humanism, Humanist value the idea of loving all humans, not just those we are in a romantic or familial relationship with, and this should be acknowledged by society as well.

There are many examples of different types of relationships, and some of them are represented in popular media. Hamans recommends tv shows such as I May Destroy You and Sex Education, both shows portray many different types of relationships and connections to others outside of the traditional relationship context. She also recommends Pose, to show family relationships that are not based on biology.

For children’s books, this is harder, as there are not many books that show non-traditional relationships. However, the book Bedtime stories for Rebel Girls is something she would recommends for many who would like to show their children the many ways someone can shape their lives, as well as the books by Dutch writer Mylo Freeman, to show the diversity of family, love, and friendships.


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