Gender equality policy in Sweden
Equality between women and men is a fundamental constitutional norm and an explicit policy objective in Sweden. Gender equality issues became a separate policy domain in the early 1970s and have had a central position in the public debate ever since. The ultimate aim of Swedish gender equality policy is for women and men to have the same opportunities, rights and responsibilities in all areas of life.
The objectives and methods utilised in the national gender equality efforts have changed and evolved over the years. Gender mainstreaming has been a core strategy in Swedish gender equality policy since 1994. Gender mainstreaming means that all decisions in all policy areas and at all levels shall be characterised by a gender equality perspective.
In 2006, a number of gender equality objectives set out in a government bill entitled The Power to Shape Society and Your Own Life: Towards New Gender Equality Policy Objectives (2005/06:155, only available in Swedish) were adopted with broad political consensus.
In November 2016, the cabinet handed over a document entitled Power, Aims and Authority – Feminist Policy for a Gender-Equal Future (2016/17:10, only available in Swedish) to the national parliament. The document set out the future direction of Swedish gender equality policy with an organisation for policy implementation, a system for follow-up, a ten-year national strategy for the prevention and elimination of men’s violence against women and two new policy sub-goals.
Gender equality policy goals
The overarching goal of the gender equality policy is that women and men are to have the same power to shape society and their own lives. To this end, six sub-goals have been specified:
Equal division of power and influence. Women and men are to have the same rights and opportunities to be active citizens and to shape the conditions for decision-making.
Economic gender equality. Women and men must have the same opportunities and conditions as regards paid work, which give economic independence throughout life.
Equal education. Women and men, girls and boys must have the same opportunities and conditions with regard to education, study options and personal development.
Equal distribution of unpaid housework and provision of care. Women and men must have the same responsibility for housework and have the opportunity to give and receive care on equal terms.
Equal health. Women and men, girls and boys must have the same conditions for a good health and be offered care on equal terms.
Men’s violence against women must stop. Women and men, girls and boys, must have the same right and access to physical integrity.
Important years for gender equality in Sweden
Compulsory elementary school is introduced for girls and boys.
Unmarried women (widows, divorcees) are allowed to work, but only in crafts and trade.
The demand for universal and equal suffrage had been a major issue in politics since the end of the 19th century. The first motion for equal political rights for women and men was raised in the Riksdag in 1884 but was rejected. The issue kept resurfacing, but without result.
The first bill on suffrage and eligibility for women in parliamentary elections was presented in 1912 but was voted down in the conservative-dominated first chamber. Outside the Riksdag, there was a strong campaign for women's suffrage i.a. through special associations.
Historically speaking, the right to vote is one of the major issues of the women's movement. On 24 May 1919, the Riksdag decided on universal and equal voting rights for women and men. The reform was carried out following proposals from a coalition government consisting of liberals and social democrats. In 1921, the first election is held where women could vote.
After the 1921 election, five women took a seat in the Riksdag. In the first chamber, Kerstin Hesselgren was elected by liberals and social democrats. In the second chamber, four women were elected: the liberal Elisabeth Tamm, the social democrat Agda Östlund and Nelly Thüring and Bertha Wellin, the Lantmanna- and borgare party. Women's representation in the Riksdag increased rather slowly in the following years. This was especially true in the first chamber, with its eight-year terms of office and indirect election method. In the second chamber, which was directly elected by voters every four years, the increase was somewhat faster.
The law stipulated that women, with certain specified exceptions, would be equal to men in terms of eligibility to hold office (civil service). The Act was passed in June 1923 and came into force in July 1925. The services exempted were mainly military and police. Special regulations applied to clerical positions. Many women's organisations had participated in the long-term pressure work that led to this reform, but particularly large efforts were made by the Association of Academically Formed Women, founded in 1904.
Since 1905, girls could only take real exams at the state educational institutions. In 1927 a new school reform came that made it possible for girls to receive public education on the same terms as boys. More and more girls came to transfer to the new co-educational schools, but many girls' schools still survived, especially in the larger cities. Since the girls' schools now received municipal support and became free of charge, many girls remained in them. In 1962, in connection with the introduction of the primary school, the state decided that the girls' schools would be closed.
The Swedish Contraceptive Act from 1910 prohibited the information and sale of contraceptives. It was called in the press the Lex Hinke, as the enactment was brought about in part by the agitation that the young socialist Hinke Bergegren carried out, i.a. through the campaign Love Without Children. For this he was sentenced to a shorter prison term.
A real turning point in advocacy came with Elise Ottesen-Jensen and the RFSU which was formed in 1933. The law was repealed in 1938 with the only restriction that contraceptives could only be sold in shops for medical supplies.
In Sweden, voluntary homosexual relationships between adults were criminalised in 1864 and this criminalisation was only lifted in 1944. But up until 1978, the so-called age of protection was higher for homosexuals, i.e. the ban on having sex with someone under a certain age. In the case of homosexual intercourse, the age of protection was 18 years, or 21 years in the case of dependent status, compared to 15 and 18 years respectively in the case of heterosexual intercourse. This shows that they still had a notion that young people must be protected from homosexual seduction, as it was still believed that young people could be seduced into becoming homosexual. This special law for homosexuals was only abolished in 1979. At that time, homosexuality as an expression of "mental disorders" was also deleted from the National Board of Health and Welfare's disease register.
A woman can now retain her Swedish citizenship upon marriage to a foreign citizen.
Statutory paid parental leave of three months for working women is introduced.
Sex education becomes compulsory in Swedish schools.
The Women's History Archive, now KvinnSam – National Resource Library for Gender Studies, is founded on the initiative of Eva Pineus, Rosa Malmström and Asta Ekenvall. The activities were set up along three main lines: special cataloging of Swedish and foreign literature, collecting manuscript material for Swedish women's history, and publishing a series of women's history and scientific works. In 1996, the Women's History Archive was appointed as the National Library for Women's, Men's and Gender Research.
Women's right to their own sexuality was an important theme for the women's movement during the 1970s. When birth control pills were introduced in the 1960s, in Sweden in 1964, they represented the first principled innovation in the history of contraceptives. The first birth control pills were significantly stronger than today's and produced more side effects. The demand for safe contraceptives came from the women's movement. It also demanded that the research invest in contraceptives for men, something that has not yet happened to any greater degree. New variants have been added continuously and research is still working to reduce hormone levels to the minimum possible.
1965 (1984) - The 1962 Criminal Code comes into force, replacing the 1864 Criminal Code. This new legislation, in which marital rape was now covered, really lacked practical significance. A relationship between victim and perpetrator was seen as a mitigating circumstance and the crime classification became violent instead. It was only with the 1984 law, when the relationship of the parties was no longer taken into account, that the first verdicts on marital rape could come.
Grupp 8, a non-partisan women's organisation, was founded in 1968 by eight women as a study group in Stockholm and became an open women's organisation in 1970. Current issues were, among other things, a. right to work, nursery place for all children, free abortion, right to pain relief during childbirth and ban on exploitation of part-time workers.
In 1971, a separate taxation was introduced, an income law term that indicates that a person is taxed without regard to any other person's income circumstances. This meant that married women became financially independent individuals, and women's self-evident right to support themselves took a big step forward.
Previously, the women's income had been placed on top of the man's (joint taxation) and tax-wise there was not much left of the woman's income. The married woman thus became dependent. The special taxation led to a considerable increase in women's employment.
Group 8 revived the awareness of International Women's Day on March 8. This day was instituted in 1910 at the socialist world organisation Second International on the initiative of Clara Zetkin. In 1977, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending a general celebration of International Women's Day, which led to the participation of politically neutral women's organisations in March 8 programs as well.
In 1974, parents were given the right to share the leave at the birth of a child with the introduction of the parental benefit. Parental benefit is money you can get to be able to be at home with your child instead of working, looking for work or studying. The parental benefit replaced the maternity benefit which was only aimed at mothers. Now both parents could be at home with their children.
In the 1970s, the right to abortion was one of the demands most actively pushed by the women's movement, and many of the established women's organisations were deeply committed to an amendment to the 1938 Abortion Act, which only allowed abortion for medical, humanitarian and eugenic (hereditary) reasons .
In Sweden, since 1975, we have had the right to free abortion according to law. This means that a woman can decide to have an abortion up to and including the eighteenth week of her pregnancy, without having to state why she wants to have the abortion. A special permit is required for later abortions.
In 1979, the first gender equality law was passed in Sweden, which came into force in July 1980. Men and women were formally given the same conditions in Swedish social life. The Gender Equality Act aims to promote equal rights for women and men in terms of work, employment and other working conditions and development opportunities. The law is gender neutral. However, it primarily aims to improve women's conditions in working life.
The Women's Convention CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) was adopted by the UN in 1979 with the goal of eliminating all forms of discrimination against women. The convention must ensure that women worldwide have the same rights as men.
Sweden ratified the convention in 1980 and was thus among the first countries to undertake to follow the convention.
JämO (The Ombudsman of Gender Equality) is introduced as an independent authority under the Ministry of Labour. The authority would monitor compliance with the Gender Equality Act – a law that prohibits gender discrimination in the workplace but also obliges employers to actively promote gender equality. On January 1, 2009, JämO ceased to be an authority and was merged with the Ombudsman against ethnic discrimination, the Ombudsman against discrimination based on sexual orientation and the Disability Ombudsman into the Discrimination Ombudsman, DO. At the same time, the old laws were replaced with new legislation.
The first state grant to women's organisations was established in 1982, when the regulation on state grants to women's organisations' central activities came into force. The state subsidy was introduced as a mark of the importance of women's organisations in improving women's position in society and in increasing equality between women and men. Both women's organisations affiliated with political parties and other women's organisations could receive support according to the regulation. The regulation applied until 2005.
The purpose of the ban was to discourage prostitution, as many street prostitutes had previously been active in sex clubs.
From 1981 it had been possible for women to be recruited to commanding positions in all branches of the armed forces. But it was not until 1989 that they received formal access to all parts of the Armed Forces.
In 1988, the Riksdag decided on a five-year national action program for gender equality. A Nordic action plan with the same purpose was added in 1989.
Within Swedish legislation, gender mainstreaming is already mentioned as a strategy in the gender equality policy bill Shared power – shared responsibility (Prop. 1993/94:147). It was presented by Minister for Gender Equality Bengt Westerberg and adopted by the Riksdag in the spring of 1994.
Here it is established that a gender equality perspective must be applied to all policy areas. This means that "proposals and decisions must be analysed from a gender equality perspective to clarify possible consequences for women and men respectively. This applies particularly in education, labor market, economic and social policy and in economic policy. This applies in particular to structural changes in society".
Stödstrumporna was a feminist network that was formed in 1991 on the initiative of Maria-Pia Boëthius. Other prominent figures were Agneta Stark and Ebba Witt-Brattström. Before the 1994 parliamentary election, Stödstrumporna put pressure on existing parties to increase the percentage of eligible women by "threatening" to form their own women's party. The slogan was "Full salary, half the power". After the 1994 election, Sweden's Riksdag became the world's most equal, out of 349 members, 144 were women.
The UN's fourth world conference on women took place in Beijing in 1995. Despite changes in legislation worldwide, the goal of actual gender equality was still a long way off. The 189 nations that participated in the conference unanimously adopted both a declaration and a comprehensive action plan for gender equality work at national, regional and international level until the year 2000.
On Swedish initiative, gender mainstreaming was advocated as a strategy in the action plan, the so-called the Beijing Platform for Action, and in the declaration, the Beijing Declaration. In the final document from the Women's Conference, it was stated that it was the responsibility of governments to ensure that the decisions of the conference were implemented in all nations that supported the document.
In January 1995, a reserved month was introduced in the parental benefit, which means that 30 days are reserved for each parent, if the parents have joint custody of the child. The month cannot be given up to the other parent. In 2002, the reserved days are increased to 60.
At the same time as the reserved month is introduced, the parental allowance is also individualised, which means that half of the days go to each parent. In order for one parent to be able to use more than half of the days, the other parent needs to approve this by signature.
The Women's Empowerment Inquiry submits its final report "Because the power is yours... The myth of rational working life and equal Sweden." It was a comprehensive survey of men's and women's conditions in working life, at home and in the "welfare state". The investigation claimed that certain sections of the Gender Equality Act should be clarified.
On January 1, 1999, Sweden, as the first country in the world, introduced legislation that criminalised the purchase, but not the sale, of sexual services. The penal provision - ban on the purchase of sexual services - can now be found in ch. 6. Section 11 of the Criminal Code. The ban on the purchase of sexual services was introduced because it was considered an urgent societal interest to combat prostitution.
The ombudsman against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, HomO, is established by the government. HomO ceased to be an authority and merged with DO, HO and JämO to form the Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) on 1 January 2009. At the same time, the old laws were replaced with new legislation.
The Riksdag decides that the overarching goal of equality policy should be that women and men should have the same power to shape society and their own lives.
In 2008, a new discrimination law, SFS 2008:567, is adopted, which replaces the previous equality law and other discrimination laws. At the same time, the four discrimination ombudsmen (JämO, HomO, HO and DO) are merged into one authority, the Discrimination Ombudsman, DO.
Through amendments to the Marriage Code, according to SFS 2009:253, it becomes possible for two people of the same sex to enter into marriage.
An amendment to the law on compulsory military service makes conscription gender neutral.
Sweden signs the Council of Europe's convention on preventing and combating violence against women and violence in close relationships.
More cases of sexual exploitation are criminalised as rape by the concept of "helpless state" being replaced by the broader concept of "particularly vulnerable situation".
Nordic Forum on Women's Rights and Equality is held in Malmö. Read the demands from the final document.
The government decided to earmark another month of the parental benefit for one parent. This means that there are now 90 days reserved for each parent. The decision applies to children born or adopted from 1 January 2016.
Two new equality policy sub-goals are added. One is that women and men, girls and boys must have the same opportunities and conditions when it comes to education, study choices and personal development. The second is that women and men, girls and boys must have the same conditions for good health and be offered care and care on equal terms.
In autumn 2016, the government decided that a new Swedish Gender Equality Agency should be established and located in Gothenburg. In January 2018, we started our operations.