We still struggle with patriarchy: Swedish Ambassador to India Klas Molin

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 26-03-2022 13:45 IST | Created: 26-03-2022 13:45 IST

We still struggle with patriarchy: Swedish Ambassador to India Klas Molin
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Sweden, a beacon for gender equality across the globe, is still struggling with “patriarchy, norms and values”, demonstrating that countries are more alike than we think, says the country’s ambassador to India Klas Molin.

It is unfortunate the world has not yet reached real equality, agreed ambassador of the European Union to India Ugo Astuto. He described Sweden as ''a shining example'' of the progress that Europe has made in the field over the past few years.

On March 10, Sweden took over from Estonia the rotating mantle of EU Gender Champion, a global initiative that seeks to promote the empowerment and full enjoyment of human rights for women and girls. This is for a six-month period.

In 1974, the country rechristened maternal leave to parental leave instead. About a decade ago, a high school in its capital Stockholm started the custom of three toilets – for females, males and others.

Asked if there were any similarities between India and Sweden in terms of gender inequality, Molin said, ''Not just India and Sweden... more countries are more traditional than and in some ways more alike perhaps than we tend to think.'' ''We have certainly struggled with that and are still struggling with traditional norms that are not to our benefit. Basically, it's easy to throw very value-laden terms around, but we still struggle with patriarchy, norms and values,'' Molin told PTI in an interview here.

The first step is to be made aware of that fact and of the benefits of gender equality, he said. ''We must realise the structures and that we are actually working in pretty rigid and traditional ways more often than not still. This is true for Sweden as well. We can do much better. Because it has been a conscious effort by successive governments.'' Those who may not be persuaded by human, moral or ethical arguments need to be made aware of the benefits of gender equality in economic and rational terms, Molin added.

Information and education are key features in this process of making people aware.

“How do you defend policy that leads to discrimination because there's no other word for it if you have 50 per cent of the population not sharing in the equity?'' he asked.

Talking about taking the baton from Estonia as the EU Gender Champion, the Swedish ambassador said the title highlights the government's active efforts in eliminating gender inequality.

According to the Swedish government website, women comprise 47 per cent of the total workforce in the country. The maternal mortality rate in Sweden is 4 out of 100,000 (numbers from 2017), in line with World Bank figures.

Under Swedish law, higher education institutions should always promote and take account of gender equality in their activities. In addition, the Swedish government has assigned over 30 universities and university colleges to work with gender mainstreaming to contribute to achieving the national targets for gender equality. ''By highlighting what one member state does, it focuses our thinking so that we don't take things for granted but we also know that what we do is being showcased. Having said that, we are only showcasing what we do anyway. We might do it a little more vocally,'' Molin said.

''Gender, innovation and sustainability'' are the three salient features of Sweden's feminist foreign policy since 2014 which have been adopted by other EU states like France, Germany, and Spain, he added.

Laying out the challenges, EU’s Astuto said women represent half the world’s population but not half its wealth. Nor do they have proportionate representation in leadership positions, be it in politics or the economic world.

“We still have a lot of work to do, be it in Europe or the rest of the world. The European Union is trying to get its member states to advance an agenda for gender equality,'' the EU ambassador told PTI.

There is need for legislation, education and awareness to solve many gender-related issues such as gap in equal pay, pension schemes, maternity and paternity leaves, added Astuto.

''Gender equality is a matter of fairness, justice, but you can also make a very good business case for it. Unless you invest in half of humanity you will never be able to achieve sustainable goals. Unless you invest in half of humanity, Europe will never reach its full potential,'' the EU ambassador pointed out. A patriarchal frame of mind or any stereotype is detrimental to the free development of human spirit, he stressed.

The EU Gender Champion is an initiative the European Union has launched worldwide, said Astuto. Finland was the first gender champion last year, followed by Estonia.

''Every six months, a member state takes the lead in promoting gender issues and showcasing what the individual member state does and putting that into a European framework,'' the EU ambassador said.

Astuto also expressed solidarity with Ukraine, the EU state under attack by Russia.

Calling the war ''an unprovoked and unjustified aggression'' by Russia on Ukraine, the EU ambassador said it is a situation of extreme gravity where the international community should come together and defend democratic values.

''Our thoughts are particularly with the women of Ukraine facing this aggression and brutality unleashed against a civilian population against all laws of war... My heart goes out to the women, children and men who in Ukraine are now defending our democratic values and are facing the brutality unleashed by Russia's aggression,'' Astuto added.

Molin echoed him, saying Sweden stands behind Ukraine, a neighbouring country to many European member states and assert many of those of course are taking the brunt of the initial flow of refugees, again most of whom are women and children.

''We are conveying our very strong feelings to the government and others in India to have them also participate as much as possible in the condemnation and upholding of norms and international law because that's what it comes down to,'' he said.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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