Sweden fancies itself as having the first feminist government in the world. In fact, Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin, in an op-ed published in Londons Guardian (Feb. 11), contrasted the Swedish style of governance with that of U.S. President Donald Trump, claiming that unlike Trumps America Sweden is providing strong leadership for womens rights and will have an increasingly important role to play in this.
So, what is a feminist government? As Lövin told Cosmopolitan, it means always having consciousness of gender equality at the heart of your policies (Feb. 21). As you would expect, abortion plays a large role in a feminist government. Sweden is home to some of the worlds most liberal abortion laws. It legalized the practice in 1938 and currently provides taxpayer-subsidized abortions for any reason whatsoever during the first eighteen weeks of pregnancy (after which, special permission is required). Swedish authorities recently ruled that foreign women, including asylum applicants, are eligible for free abortions.
But free and easy abortion within Swedens borders isnt enough. In her Guardian piece, Lövin even promised a feminist foreign policy in which equality between women and men is a fundamental aim. Naturally, then, Sweden was one of eight European nations that joined an initiative this February to raise millions of dollars for international family-planning organizations to replace the funding shortfalls expected in the wake of President Trumps reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, which bans U.S. aid to nongovernmental agencies that provide or promote abortions overseas. The Mexico City policy could prove very dangerous for so many women, Lövin said (Reuters, Feb. 9). If women dont have control over their bodies and their own fate, it can have very serious consequences for global goals of gender rights and global poverty eradication.
For all its bluster about womens rights and gender equality, it was an odd sight when this self-touted feminist government sent a delegation of eleven women and four men to Iran to sign a trade deal: The Swedish women donned hijabs and wore loose-fitting heavy coats in capitulation to the Islamic republics regulations of female dress. Led by Swedens self-proclaimed feminist Trade Minister Ann Linde, the women in the delegation defended their compliance with the extremely patriarchal Muslim system by saying they didnt want to violate the law in Iran, where it has been mandatory since 1979 for all women to wear headscarves.
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