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Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women commend Sweden’s work on gender equality worldwide, ask about gender-based violence and multiple discrimination

22 October 2021

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the tenth periodic report of Sweden on how it implemented the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, commending Sweden on its work on gender equality worldwide, and asking about gender-based violence and multiple discrimination. 

A Committee Expert commended the Sweden for its leading role on gender equality.  It was also one of the world’s biggest doners and an Expert hoped it would ensure that gender equality would be at the heart of its global agenda in all areas.  Notwithstanding many positive improvements, both legally and strategically, there remained areas for concern.  A key area of concern was gender-based violence against women and girls.  Concerning discrimination, an Expert asked about data delivered by Statistics Sweden and how Sweden monitored strategies to prevent and overcome intersectional discrimination, considering the lack of data. 

Responding, the delegation said that the Swedish Discrimination Act aimed at counteracting discrimination as well as promoting equal rights.  Sweden had laws to protect women from discrimination, harassment and online violence, and was addressing the fact that violence against women had increased online through the framework of the national strategy to prevent and combat men’s violence against women.  As part of developing an institutional framework, Sweden had decided on permanent funding for the County Administrative Boards’ work to combat men’s violence against women at the regional and local level. 

Karin Strandås, State Secretary of the Minister for Gender Equality and Housing, Ministry of Employment of Sweden and head of the delegation, said the Swedish Government was committed to contributing to the development of gender equality world-wide.  Being a feminist Government obligated Sweden to do this.  The strategy of gender mainstreaming was crucial to achieve gender equality.  The Government’s view was that a comprehensive discrimination law was a prerequisite for effective work against discrimination.  Sweden was preparing for a new, modern gender affiliation law. 

Ms. Strandås, in concluding remarks, said the Committee had raised questions and concerns where Sweden needed to develop its policies further.  Sweden took pride in calling itself a feminist government.  It knew it still had a long way to go before it could say that it had reached gender equality, including huge challenges, not least men’s violence against women, and others.   

Gladys Acosta Vargas, Chair of the Committee, thanked Sweden for the constructive dialogue with the Committee.  It had allowed the Committee to be better acquainted with the situation of women in the country.  Sweden was encouraged to adopt all necessary measures to comply with the recommendations of the Committee. 

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eightieth session is being held from 18 October to 12 November.  All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.  The meeting summary releases prepared on the public meetings of the Committee can be found here.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at  http://webtv.un.org/.

The Committee will next meet in public at 4 p.m. on Monday, 25 October to meet with civil society representatives who will brief on the situation of women in Egypt, Yemen, Indonesia and Ecuador, whose reports will be considered by the Committee next week. 

Report

The Committee has before it the tenth periodic report of Sweden (CEDAW/C/SWE/10). 

Presentation of Report

KARIN STRANDÅS, State Secretary of the Minister for Gender Equality and Housing, Ministry of Employment of Sweden and head of the delegation, said the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was of great importance as there was still extensive discrimination against women and girls, in Sweden and all over the world.  The promotion and protection of human rights, not least gender equality, was a central priority for the Swedish Government in national, as well as in foreign policy.  The Swedish Government was committed to contributing to the development of gender equality worldwide.  Being a feminist Government obliged Sweden to do this.  Sweden had made progress over time, but it still had a long way to go before it could reach gender equality.  The Government was currently building a long-term, sustainable, and strong institutional framework for gender equality in Sweden.  In 2018, the Sweden Gender Equality Agency was set up by the Government.  With this agency in place, the Swedish Government had access to expertise and support both in the development and evaluation of gender equality policies and goals. 

As part of developing an institutional framework, Sweden had decided on permanent funding for the County Administrative Boards’ work on gender mainstreaming and men’s violence against women at the regional and local level. 

Other important areas such as economic equality between women and men and regional gender mainstreaming were also provided with new long-term funding. 

The strategy of gender mainstreaming was crucial to achieve gender equality. 

The Government’s view was that a comprehensive discrimination law was a prerequisite for effective work against discrimination.  Sweden was preparing

for a new, modern gender affiliation law.  The fight against discrimination targeted several grounds: sex, gender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation, or age.  Persons exposed to discrimination on multiple grounds were particularly vulnerable. 

The Government was committed to strengthening the Sami people and the national minorities in their right to their own language and culture.  It was also committed to ensure equal rights and the full and equal enjoyment of human rights of lesbian, gay, transgender, queer and intersex persons.  The Government supported that gender equality also applied to non-binary people.

The COVID-19 pandemic had increased the risk of women being subject to men’s violence as isolation increased the risk of violence and the possibility of control.  It also exacerbated the vulnerability of children and young people at risk at home.  As a response, the Government had increased funding to civil society organizations working with vulnerable groups and children.  Combatting men’s violence against women had been a priority for the Swedish Government for a long time.  The basis for the Swedish Government’s work was a 10-year cross-sectoral national strategy for preventing and combatting men’s violence against women, decided upon in 2016.  In June this year, the Swedish Government had presented a package with 40 measures to intensify work against men's violence against women.  Strong legal protection against men's violence against women, including sexual offences, was of the utmost importance.  In 2018, a new sexual offences legislation based on consent was introduced and it was now an offence to perform a sexual act with someone who was not participating voluntarily.  With the consent-based regulation in place, Sweden finally had a sexual offences legislation that clearly stated that sex that was not voluntary was illegal. 

Economic equality between women and men was crucial.  Sweden’s relatively high degree of economic gender equality derived from a high level of women participating in the labour market.  Reforms such as individual income taxation, parental insurance and access to affordable childcare had contributed to high levels of labour market participation for women since the 1970s.  Other important factors were the pay gap and the differences in working hours between women and men which had been steadily decreasing for many years.  The gender pay gap had also continued to narrow, reaching 9.8 per cent in 2020.  Women and men in Sweden were relatively equally represented in political assemblies even if there remained some differences.  Although gender balance had been reached in some areas, women’s possibility to fully perform their role as political representatives was hampered by gender-based violence in terms of threats, hate speech and harassment, online and offline. 

The Swedish Government worked to promote gender equality in schools.  The Government had modernised the comprehensive sex education and introduced the concept of “consent” to clarify the importance of reciprocity and voluntariness. 

The Swedish health system aimed to ensure good healthcare on equal terms for the entire population, regardless of the ability to pay.  It was publicly funded and accessible to all.  More needed to be done to achieve gender equal health and care.

Sweden’s feminist Government wanted women and men to have equal opportunities to shape society and their own lives.  This was also the goal for the Government’s foreign policy.  At a time when opposition to gender equality and the rights of women and girls continued to increase worldwide, and this interacted with the shrinking democratic space, it was more important than ever to pursue a feminist foreign policy.  Climate change was the defining issue of our time.  Women and gender equality needed to be at the centre of climate and environmental policies, both in Sweden and internationally. 

Questions of Committee Expert

CORINNE DETTMEIJER, Committee Expert, commended the Government for its leading role on gender equality and noted that the Swedish Institute for Human Rights would be established from 1 January 2022 according to the Paris Principles.  She also noted that on June 24, a package of measures was presented by the Government to stop men’s violence against women.  Notwithstanding many positive improvements, both legally and strategically, there remained areas for concern.  Key areas of concern were gender-based violence against women and girls, the situation of refugee and migrant women; the visibility of the Convention; the applicability of the Convention in the legal system; coordination of the strategies and data gathering; and also the Swedish arms trade. 

Concerning discrimination, Ms. Dettmeijer asked about data delivered by Statistics Sweden and how Sweden monitored strategies to prevent and overcome intersectional discrimination, considering the lack of data.  There was no separate article in the Criminal Code on femicide.  She asked what sort of national activities were taken to increase awareness of the Convention.  How was online sexual harassment included in the Criminal Code and were any statistics available on this phenomenon.  There was no training available for judges and prosecutors on the Convention so how could they interpret the law consistently with the commitments of the Convention.  The Equality Ombudsman had presented to the courts seven cases of discrimination on the basis of gender discrimination, but it was only seven cases and the Convention was not cited in any of them.  Was it true that less than 1 per cent of the complaints concerning discrimination on the basis of sex was taken on by the Equality Ombudsman?

In follow-up questions, Ms. Dettmeijer said it was disconcerting that only seven cases had been brought before the courts, stressing the importance of access to justice.  Data on the occurrences of femicide was requested. 

Replies by the Delegation

In response to the questions and comments, the delegation said the Government thrived to make gender visible in laws and other steering documents for governmental agencies and required that all statistics be disaggregated by sex and required intersectional analysis as part of the work to implement and follow-up the Government’s gender quality policy.  Sweden adhered to a dualistic system and ratified Conventions did not automatically become part of domestic law.  To be applicable, they must be incorporated by a special statute.  Since the Convention was adopted in 1981, many measures had been taken.  The Swedish Discrimination Act aimed at counteracting discrimination as well as promoting equal rights.  Sweden had laws to protect women from discrimination, harassment and online violence, and was addressing the fact that violence against women had increased online through the framework of the national strategy to prevent and combat men’s violence against women. 

On discrimination, the delegation said that the Equality Ombudsman had an independent role and worked to supervise both discrimination prohibition in the law and active measures.  Local agencies that received State funding could also help individuals if they felt they had been discriminated against.  In 2016, they received 1,564 complaints and acted on 479 of these cases. 

Statistics Sweden gathered statistics on many issues, but not on race and ethnicity as these were sensitive data.  The Gender Equality Policy Agency was tasked with following up the gender equality subgoals and they always integrated an intersectional perspective.  Statistics Sweden helped government agencies by providing them with statistical analysis. 

On the visibility of the Convention, in 2018, the Government commissioned the Swedish Gender Equality Agency to carry out national activities to increase awareness about the Convention, and actions included a website, a podcast, a brochure and a quiz.  It also carried out training courses.      

Concerning femicide, the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention published annual statistics on cases of lethal violence, including lethal violence against women, including by former or present intimate partners.  On monitoring of femicide, there was a system in Sweden of reviews of lethal violence performed by the National Board of Health and Welfare with the aim to provide the Government with a basis for decisions on further measures on preventing such violence.  The review also covered forms of violence that did not result in the death of the victim; gross, serious violence; and deadly violence.  In the last report in 2018, a key finding was that almost all women killed by former or present partners in 2016 and 2017 had been in contact with the healthcare system, often shortly before they died, and with the social services.  This finding had resulted in the effort to improve measures of active detection of persons affected by domestic violence, mostly women.  Concerning the occurrences of femicide in the last five years, in 2016, there were 29 registered cases of lethal violence against women, of which 18 were committed by a former or present partner.  In 2017, the corresponding figures were 27 and 10; in 2018, they were 33 and 22; in 2019, they were 25 and 16; and in 2020, they were 25 and 13.

On online sexual abuse of women, the Swedish crime survey included questions on victimisation due to online harassment and was published annually since 2006.  Concerning the training of judges and prosecutors on the Convention, their general training included courses on sexual offences and domestic violence.  There were appointed prosecutors assigned to crimes against children and crimes in close relationships.  The Convention was an integrated part of training on advanced work with victims of crimes and risk assessment. 

Sweden was highly committed to improve the living conditions of trans gender people, including work on equal rights and opportunities.  The Government’s ambition was to replace the current law on medical gender correction with two new laws on certain surgical procedures in the genitals and the law amending the gender state in the population register.  The work on developing these laws was ongoing and the ambition was to present the new legislation in 2022. 

On multiple discrimination, in 2019, out of a total of 2,661 complaints, 370 of these included discrimination on two or more grounds. 

Questions from Committee Experts

NICOLE AMELINE, Committee Expert, said Sweden was a model for the world and she commended the State party on its high-level achievement on equality.  Sweden was one of the world’s biggest doners.  Ms. Ameline asked if Sweden could assure the Committee that gender equality would be at the heart of its global agenda in all areas linked to international trade, supply chains, the fight against climate change, and child labour.  On extra territoriality through arms trade, Sweden had made commitments under the Arms Trade Treaty, but what initiative was the State party taking to ensure full respect of this commitment.  Concerning the 290 municipal councils, the results were somewhat unequal.  Ms. Ameline hoped the necessary competencies would be put in place, as well as lasting funding. 

Sweden was very committed to youth and Ms. Ameline asked if the Minister had competence over disseminating information on the Convention to youth.  Concerning statistics, it was true that the Committee needed to see strengthened surveys and assessments as statistics were truly an essential pillar of any policy.

ANA PELAEZ NARVAEZ, Committee Expert, said despite progress in Sweden to achieve effective equality between men and women, things had slowed down somewhat in recent years.  How was the Government planning to address this, particularly in light of the general rejection of the issue of quotas in parliament?  What had been done about addressing multiple and intersecting discrimination affecting vulnerable women?  How had Sweden taken into consideration the participation in parliament and other government organizations for such women, for example Saami minority women, Roma women, women with disabilities, and retired women.  Were special temporary measures envisioned, especially for groups of vulnerable women?

Response by the Delegation

On Sweden’s foreign policy, the delegation said that Sweden was the first country in the world to adopt a feminist foreign policy since 2015, which aimed at ensuring women’s rights and participation.  This feminist foreign policy was now well integrated in the general foreign policy, including Sweden’s foreign development aid and trade policy.  Since 2015, Sweden had an Ambassador for gender equality to coordinate the feminist foreign policy.  An Action Plan had been produced, which was updated annually, with six long-term external objectives.  As a part of the feminist foreign policy, the Government had made efforts to increase female representation in peace processes and legal systems and to strengthen protection for female journalists, human rights defenders, environmental activists, politicians, cultural workers and others who defended the enjoyment of girls’ and women’s human rights around the world. 

As for challenges during the pandemic, in relation to access to vaccinations, Sweden remained committed to effective and equal global access to COVID-19 vaccines.  The current inefficient and unequal distribution of vaccines was deeply worrying and Sweden had made additional provisions to the COVEX facilitation, amounting to a total of 2.45 billion Swedish krona, around $ 281 million, which made Sweden the world’s leading COVEX contributor per capita.  It was also donating Swedish doses of vaccines, close to 1.5 million doses.  A gender equality perspective was always integrated in the response. 

Concerning child labour, as part of the feminist foreign policy, Sweden had launched a global deal, together with partners, to fight for equal working conditions throughout the world.  On arms trade, Sweden had drawn attention to the effects of the utilisation and irresponsible proliferation of weapons on women, men, girls and boys.  Sweden had one of the world’s most elaborate and strict systems for maintaining control of the export of arms. 

On violence of men against women, there was a need to change norms.  A lot of things that were considered normal or tolerable were not acceptable anymore, so Sweden was changing legislation and making it stricter to stress that some norms were no longer okay and should not be legal.  Sweden was working on awareness raising.  Authorities always encouraged persons who had been abused to report it to the police.  There was a paradox and they had to be careful when looking at statistics and following up to see what was really a situation that was deteriorating and what was due to stricter legislation. 

Active measures against discrimination included prevention and promotion measures to combat discrimination and promote equal rights, and this should be carried out by all employers and education providers. 

In Sweden, women and men were relatively and proportionally represented in political assemblies.  An exception for this was the municipalities.  There were no gender quotas for political institutions, but political parties had adopted special measures.  According to a report, there were currently challenges in the Saami parliament as pertaining the representation of women.  There also existed gender-based violence within the Saami community.   

Questions by Committee Experts

BANDANA RANA, Committee Expert, commended the State party on its efforts and numerous measures to combat discriminatory gender stereotypes and address gender-based violence.  Sweden was top on the global scenario with a feminist government and was also the first country to adopt a feminist foreign policy.  The lessons learned could be informative to the State party as well as many other countries.  She appreciated Swedish efforts to enhance positive and non-stereotypical portrayal of women in the media.  Was there any data to assess whether the problem had decreased?  According to reports, there was a high backlog of domestic violence and rape cases and there was a need for an efficient system of emergency barring and protection orders embedded in a multi-agency approach in volving all relevant agencies.  She asked for statistics on rape and domestic violence cases segregated by sex, age, police investigations, prosecutions and convictions over the last five years.  Would Sweden increase its support to developing countries of technology sharing and address the disproportionate impact on women and girls in terms of gender-based violence.

ELGUN SAFAROV, Committee Expert, said that concerning human trafficking, Sweden was a country of destination for victims of sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced criminality, and forced begging.  More than 1,500 unaccompanied migrant children had gone missing in Sweden from 2013 to 2016.  The effects of the coronavirus had forced more girls and women to go into prostitution.  What had been done by the Government to combat this kind of increasing exploitation.  He asked about the investigation of trafficking cases; access of victims to healthcare, social and legal services; and shelters.  He also asked about cases of surrogate children abroad and trafficking of children and in organs.

Response by the Delegation

The delegation said that the Government’s goal was for unpaid household and provision of care to be distributed equally between women and men.  Stereotypes were at the core of the problem and Sweden was trying to change this.  On the national strategy to prevent and combat men’s violence against women, there was room for further improvement.  The Government should use the Swedish Gender Equality Agency more in the implementation of the strategy.  The Government proposed permanent funds to combat men’s violence against women and permanent government grants to women’s and girls’ shelters.  Extra government grants were provided to these shelters during the COVID-19 pandemic.  There was a national violence prevention programme. 

On cases of abuse of women, between 2015 and 2020, the number of cases had increased from 36,700 in 2015 to just over 39,000 in 2020.  On the person-based clearance rate (number of cases where the prosecutor had decided on indictment or provision of fine in waiver of prosecution of all handled cases), this had decreased from 14 per cent in 2015 to 11 per cent in 2020.  As for statistics on reported rape of women and girls, they had increased from 5,461 in 2015 to 8,686 in 2020.  The person-based clearance rate, however, had increased from 14 to 17 per cent. 

New legislation would be implemented in 2022 on cross violation of women integrity and the no-contact order.  It was now a crime to expose a child to witness certain criminal acts, such as assault in the domestic home, with a penalty of up to two years in prison.  New legislation covering travel bans for children to prevent forced marriage outside of Sweden were also in force. 

In 1999, Sweden introduced a ban on the purchase of sexual services but not on selling sexual services.  It had been successful and acted as an important tool to combat trafficking in human beings for sexual purposes.  In 2018, Sweden had implemented a national action plan against trafficking in human beings for all forms of exploitation, clearly stipulating the responsibility of all the State actors in identifying victims of trafficking.  There was enhanced protection for victims of trafficking.  The Government had provided additional funding to the national coordination in order to enhance the protection of victims of trafficking.  A Government Inquiry had proposed that the municipal social welfare committees should be able to apply for temporary residence permits in order to enhance the protection of victims. 

Questions by the Committee Experts

ELGUN SAFAROV, Committee Expert, said it would be interesting to get information on what were the main problems of the implementation of the Palermo Protocol and other instruments in Sweden, and the absence of court cases where the Convention was cited.    

CORINNE DETTMEIJER, Committee Expert, said there was a steady increase in the absolute number of police investigations in rapes, whereas the conviction rates of prosecuted cases remained more or less the same.  It was important to look at the relative numbers.  On surrogacy, according to a court ruling, Sweden allowed children born out of surrogacy in another country to be registered by the parents as their own in Sweden.  How would Sweden deal with this?  What was the percentage of Swedish nationals who became victims of trafficking? 

Response by the Delegation

Concerning the vulnerability of children to trafficking, the delegation said that capacity building and training was provided to relevant actors by the Gender Equality Agency, in its role as national coordinator, as well as by other authorities.  The Gender Equality Agency earlier this year presented an online tool to specifically identify child victims of trafficking.  In 2020, 350 potential victims of trafficking had been identified, with 50 children identified as potential victims of trafficking. 

On surrogacy, the delegation said that there was no consensus internationally on whether surrogacy arrangements should be allowed or not.  Surrogacy in any form was not permitted in the Swedish healthcare system.  Children in Sweden should be allowed judicial representation and protection, but this did not mean that legislation should be adopted to make it easier for Swedish citizens to carry through a surrogate arrangement abroad. 

On rape, the number of charges and convictions for rape had increased significantly, but it was also important to note that new types of cases had gone to court, for instance, where the victim was taken by surprise and lacked the possibility to protect herself from abuse.   

Concerning victims of trafficking who applied for asylum, according to legislative changes that came into force in July this year, all residency permits for victims of trafficking were temporary, and permanent residency permits could only be received if the victims had a temporary residency permit for at least three years. 

Questions by Committee Expert

ROSARIO MANOLO, Committee Expert, said the feminist foreign policy carried out six points in the action plan.  How did they help women?  As for the feminist trade policy, how effective was it?  Was gender mainstreaming carried out by Sweden effectively and systematically?  The Government was made up 12 women Ministers and 11 men Ministers.  However, in the highest management positions in the local and regional levels, most of these management positions were in the hands of men.  How could more women become involved at that level?  Was it true that women’s associations were underfunded, and if so, why?      

Responses by the Delegation

On the feminist foreign policy, the delegation said that women’s economic rights and empowerment were affected in policies conducted by the State, and this was a core mandate of all of Sweden’s Ambassadors.  The action coalition on economic justice and rights made policy advocacy and financial commitments in priority areas, including work for economic and social reforms and against discriminatory legislation, and a gender equal labour market.  On women negotiators in peace processes, it was important to see Sweden’s work on women, peace and security as a broad spectrum of activities, including of course formal peace processes but also work with civil society and supporting women at grassroots level to make sure that their voices were heard.  On Swedish development aid, 85 per cent of bilateral development aid contribution, around 2.3 billion euros a year, had a gender equality objective.    

There was still some women underrepresentation within the municipalities, and this was the prerogative of the political parties.  Many women and men were exposed to threats and violence when conducting their duties, and the Government had provided initiatives to deal with threats and hatred in the democratic discourse based on a specific action plan.  Slightly more females than males said they were exposed to harassment, threats or violence in politics, according to a survey carried out on political safety that was conducted in 2020.  As for the funding of women’s organizations, the Government granted funds to women’s organizations for gender equality projects.  The Gender Equality Agency was responsible for distributing these funds.  The Agency had notified the Government that the budget needed to increase.    
   
Question by a Committee Expert

ELGUN SAFAROV, Committee Vice-Chairperson, asked about problems concerning the right to acquire, change or retain nationality.  What were the plans of Sweden to provide equal access of stateless girls to the service?   What was being done to amend the citizenship act for stateless children in accordance with the Convention? 

Responses by the Delegation

On citizenship, the delegation said the Citizenship Act was amended this year to allow children and young adults born in Sweden and having lived in the country for a certain period to be exempted from the previous requirement of having a permanent residence permit before being able to obtain Swedish citizenship.  As for statelessness, it was determined as part of the asylum procedure.  Sweden had several provisions to facilitate access to Swedish citizenship for stateless persons.  Last year, over 3,200 stateless persons received Swedish citizenship.  An inquiry on whether Swedish citizenship should automatically be introduced to stateless children who had a parent with a permanent residence status in Sweden had concluded that it should not be introduced. 

Question by a Committee Expert

NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA, Committee Expert, said reports suggested that women and girls continued to face challenges in the education sector.  What modernisation steps had the State party taken to ensure that sexual reproductive health education and family planning education within the curriculum remained relevant.  There was a general degradation of skills on sexual education among educators.  What measures had been implemented to ensure that educators were trained on up-to-date best practise in sexual education.  Was there education on sexual harassment and assault, domestic violence, online sexual violence, and sexual abuse?  Would Sweden mandate an effective zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment in all schools.  Did all girls have access to support on mental health in schools, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic.  How would the State party ensure that more women were appointed to high-level decision-making positions in academia?

Response by the Delegation

The delegation said Sweden has a long tradition of comprehensive sex education and had recently revised the national curriculum concerning sex education, to include more focus on topics like trustful relations, norms, consent and pornography.  The National Agency for Education provided in-service training to ensure proper implementation of the revised curricula on sex education and improve teaching skills among school staff.  The Ombudsman for Children had been tasked to support authorities in their work to ensure the practical application of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  According to the Education Act, all school staff were obliged to act actively to prevent and counter all forms of discrimination and harassment in school, including on-line bullying and hate.  The percentage of women working had increased in recent years in all employment categories at higher education institutions.  Among professors, there was the least even gender distribution at 31 per cent for women and 69 per cent for men.  Between 2010 and 2020, the number of female professors had increased by 66 per cent while the number of male professors had increased by 3 per cent.  The delegation informed on the recruitment targets for the percentage of women among newly recruited professors and the work by the higher education institutions and research councils on gender mainstreaming.  On living conditions for persons with disabilities, the delegation said that figures were lacking.  Statistics Sweden had been tasked to ensure such figures.   

Questions by Committee Experts

NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA, Committee Expert, wanted to clarify the role of teachers in respect of sexuality education.  She also wanted some details on absenteeism from schools and about mental health. 

CORINNE DETTMEIJER, Committee Expert, said teachers were obliged to instruct pupils, but considering that one in every four or five women was a victim of sexual violence before the age of 18, that might apply also to teachers, and it might be difficult and painful for these teachers to instruct on this.  How was this dealt with?

Another Expert asked if women were trained to defend Sweden.

Response by the Delegation

On sex education, the delegation said it also covered issues like sexual violence, consent and sexual harassment.  Women were part of the defense forces and they could carry out military training.

Questions by Committee Expert

HIROKO AKIZUKI, Committee Expert, commended Sweden’s generally high rate of female labour force participation, which was proved by the ranking of eleventh among 156 countries in the field of economic participation and opportunity according to the global gender gap report 2021.  However, there was some room for improvement.  Could Sweden clarify the recent trend of the proportion of women in the management teams, on the managing directors and on members of Boards?  Also, was there any data showing an increase of women employed in male dominated forms of employment?  What were the findings of the annual salary mapping, and was there any tendency of narrowing the pay gap between women and men?  Did Sweden have detailed data on annual salary, segregated by gender, and on industries, careers and positions?  She also asked for details on addressing gender stereotypes and sexual harassment at the workplace. 

Response by the Delegation

On employed women in the labour market, the delegation said the Swedish labour market had for a long time been divided into male and female dominated occupations.  The share of women in male dominated occupations had, in the last decade, increased gradually but clearly.  The share of men in female dominated occupations had increased but less clearly.  Occupations were increasingly becoming more gender balanced, including at least 40 per cent of both genders.  Increasing economic equality between women and men was a focus of the Swedish Government and a commission had been appointed to make proposals for measures that contributed to equal pay, equal living income, equal distribution of public support measures, and equal workplaces.  There were soft measures regarding women’s participation on company boards, including a code of Corporate Governance.  Statistics showed that the proportion of women on the boards of listed companies was increasing and was now 34.5 per cent.  The proportion of women in executive management teams in listed companies continued to increase, from 24.3 to 26.0 per cent this year.  The gender pay gap continued to narrow.  The Mediation Office of Sweden had three tasks: to promote an efficient wage formation process, to oversee the provision of public data on wages and salaries, and to mediate in labour disputes.  The Government had appointed a government inquiry regarding the ratification of the International Labour Office Convention 190.

Questions by Committee Experts

LIA NADARAIA, Committee Expert, acknowledged the role of Sweden in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, but central to this was access to COVID-19 vaccines and medicines and other projects and the removal of policies and institutional barriers that blocked this access.  What was urgently needed was ramped up production through technology sharing.  Life expectancy in Sweden was increasing apart from women with low education, which was falling.  What was the reason for this decrease and for the situation of mental illness among women?  Roma groups in Sweden did not have access to the health system and Roma women had difficulty in accessing contraceptives and abortions.   

Response by the Delegation

Concerning COVAX, the delegation agreed on the need to scale up production and distribute vaccines globally and Sweden was ready to work with partners, including in the World Trade Organization, to find pragmatic solutions.  On the proposal put forward by India and South Africa to the World Trade Organization on a temporary waiver on certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the delegation said Sweden remained convinced that intellectual property agreement, in particular the TRIPS Agreement, was needed to meet the challenge of universal and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.  A waiver could undermine the current collaboration which was based on TRIPS and hamper incentives for research and innovation needed for manufacturing vaccines. 

On life expectancy, the delegation said that there were many contributing factors and that it was a complex issue not only affecting women with low education.  The Government aimed to facilitate public health work at all levels of society in Sweden, and paid particular attention to groups of people with risk of suffering ill health.  In order to access medical care, persons needed a so-called European Union card.  Those who did not have these cards had to pay for the healthcare. 

Questions by Committee Expert
GENOVEVA TISHEVA, Committee Expert, asked why the increase in full-time employment for women and the other measures for improving work-life balance for men and women, and even with the policy of quota for women on company boards, did not bring about a decrease of the gap in the disposable income.  What were the structural factors and barriers which hampered this process and how did Sweden intend to counter their effect?  How did Sweden intend to promote and support women for innovative business, especially in the new market opportunities emerging after the pandemic? 

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said the proportion of companies run by women had increased from 25 per cent in 1980 to 28 per cent in 2020.  This weak development was not unique to Sweden as similar developments could be found in other comparable countries as well.  There were still obstacles to women’s entrepreneurship that needed to be dealt with politically. 
Questions by Committee Experts

ANA PELAEZ NARVAEZ, Committee Expert, was concerned that the incorporation of gender in the overall public policy of the State party was not always linked in a way to put into place specific measures in favour of women.  How were issues resolved regarding the rights to land and resources of the Sami, and what measures had the State party taken to ensure this.  Did the Government help people who were caring for others, including through a pension? 

CORINNE DETTMEIJER, Committee Expert, asked about measures to keep Roma girls in school.

Responses by the Delegation

On women in rural areas, the delegation said that in 2021, the Government submitted the national strategy for sustainable regional development 2021-2030 to parliament, aimed at promoting gender equality integration and diversity.  Diversity of companies and entrepreneurs was important for business competitiveness, and women and people with a foreign background were stressed in the government policy.  The Swedish Forest Agency had a special focus on gender equality.  One challenge for rural policy was more women leaving rural areas for urban life.  Participation in distance education was more common among women than among men, which increased the probability that those who had trained would not move to urban areas after completing their education.

Regarding the inclusion of minorities and the Sami people, the delegation said that the Government would continue the work for inclusion of Roma and national minorities and indigenous peoples.  Permanent resources would be allocated.  Women and children were the main target groups.  Legislation supported all national minorities. 

On supporting caretakers, the delegation said the Government was commissioning the Family Care Competence Centre to carry out activities in support of family carers and was planning a new strategy for supporting family carers, including reinforced funding of the Centre. 

Questions by Committee Expert

ARUNA NARAIN, Committee Expert, asked to what extent was gender-based violence or domestic violence taken into account by a court deciding on visitation rights.  Had studies been held on the economic consequences of divorce for both spouses.  On child and forced marriages, concerning children were taken outside the country to marry them, and on victims of child marriages who came to Sweden, the Expert asked measures in place for the protection of child brides, whether the marriage involved coercion or not.

Response by the Delegation

The delegation said in Sweden, only persons who were 18 years or older could enter into marriage and the ban against child marriages had been strengthened in 2019.

Concluding Remarks

KARIN STRANDÅS, State Secretary of the Minister for Gender Equality and Housing, Ministry of Employment of Sweden and head of the delegation, said Sweden highly valued the process with the Committee.  The Committee had raised questions and concerns where Sweden needed to develop its policies further.  Sweden took pride in calling itself a feminist government.  Sweden knew it still had a long way to go before it could say that it had reached gender equality, including huge challenges, not least men’s violence against women, and others.  She was also grateful that the Committee had noted in many cases the hard work that Sweden was doing to constantly improve itself. 

GLADYS ACOSTA VARGAS, Chair of the Committee, thanked Sweden for the constructive dialogue with the Committee.  It had allowed the Committee to be better acquainted with the situation of women in the country.  Sweden was encouraged to adopt all necessary measures to comply with the recommendations of the Committee.  The Committee asked Sweden to particularly pay attention to the recommendations selected for follow-up.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/10/la-suede-joue-un-role-de-chef-de-file-en-matiere-degalite-entre

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For use of the information media; not an official record