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Feminism in Sweden: the Most Women-friendly Country

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Sweden is seen as the most women-friendly country all over the world, where everyone deserves the same opportunities, regardless of gender or sex.

According to The Official Site of Sweden, this country reached the status of being one of the best welfare state, because it has as cornerstone the gender-equality: the progress is promoted in both qualitative and quantitative way, and in all the fields of society.The study run by Global Gender Gap Report committee among 144 countries investigates their development towards gender parity as a ‘fundamental to whether and how economies and societies thrive’: Sweden never got ranked lower than the fifth position, only after Iceland (first place) and the other Scandinavian countries, as its level of parity is about 0,816/1.For instance, Germany, an example for other states, is ranked at the twelfth place.

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As we can see, Sweden is one the spokesman of modern welfare state.This current weal has its roots since the 1700s, when some women began to be prominent figures in Swedish society, such as Sophia Elizabeth Benner and Beata Rosenhane, as well-educated women, something uncommon at the time.But only at the end of the 19th century people started to talk about women’s rights: they wanted to get rid of male oppression and patriarchy, and to make sure that this was not their only option for life.

Indeed, in 1873 the first association for women’s rights in Sweden was created (Association for married women’s rights to ownership). Their main purpose was to abolish the legal restrictions on property rights: only those who paid taxes on property could vote, even only municipally (although theoretically and legally they could have voted on equal terms with men since 1862).Once these goals were achieved, it would have been possible to use them as stepping stone to achieve universal suffrage.

However, only in 1921 women obtained the franchise at national level (earlier than other countries), also with the help of many politically active women belonging to associations such as ‘National Assosiation for Women’s Suffrage’, established in 1903. All this is due even to the first world war: despite Sweden remained neutral, it could not help but live the echo of the changes that were taking place across Europe.

Many women supported the country’s decision to remain neutral with pacifist feminist movements, demanding ‘women’s rights and more democracy in politics as precondition for peace’ .

Since 1903 the figure of the wife became more and more clear and emancipated: in the law there was nothing to indicate the married woman as incapacitated through marriage, so she could be considered mature; this point of view opened up to the achievement of other rights, until in 1918 it was presented the report for a New Marriage Code: the figure of man as the protector and owner of the woman was abolished, in favor of an equal policy that saw both spouses as owners of properties in equal parts.This led to universal suffrage as the feminist movements also became part of politics: with the collaboration between LKPR and Frederika Bremer Association, the new ‘Suffrage for Women’ card was obtained.Following Statistics Sweden (SCB) (1990), in 1921 Kerstin Hesselgren was the first woman in Parliament, while for the Government it did not happen until the end of the 1940s.

In the meantime, however, women obtained secondary education on a par with men (1927) and in 1937 maternity insurance benefits were introduced, and in two years the pregnancy was protected even at work, since it was not anymore a good reason to dismiss an employed woman (but only in 1980 a new law was introduced against sex/gender discrimination in employment).A very important factor nowadays is that Sweden is house to some of the world’s most liberal legislation in terms of abortion (within the first 18 weeks of pregnancy) since 1975, which therefore leaves women free choice, proposing the whole of options.

In conclusion, it is remarkable how every right has required struggle and pain, born from the bottom and conquered, not granted.If women today are free, it is because others have fought before them and for them, even when no one gave them importance, or when it was considered mere property of men.

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