Volume > Issue > Note List > The Femi-Swedes' Hijab Détente

The Femi-Swedes’ Hijab Détente

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 London’s Guardian (Feb. 11), contrasted the Swedish style of governance with that of U.S. President Donald Trump, claiming that — unlike Trump’s America — Sweden is “providing strong leadership for women’s 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 world’s 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 Sweden’s borders isn’t 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 Trump’s 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 don’t 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 “women’s 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 republic’s regulations of female dress. Led by Sweden’s self-proclaimed “feminist” Trade Minister Ann Linde, the women in the delegation defended their compliance with the extremely patriarchal Muslim system by saying they didn’t want to violate the law in Iran, where it has been mandatory since 1979 for all women to wear headscarves.

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