Speech by Åsa Lindhagen at the UN Commission on the Status of Women
New York, March 12, 2019. Check against delivery.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Sweden aligns itself with the statement made on behalf of the European Union. I am honored to lead Sweden’s delegation, as a member of a feminist government, and happy that the Swedish delegation includes a variety of expertise from the civil society in Sweden.
Gender equality is a fundamental matter of human rights, democracy and social justice. Women and men must have the same power to shape society and their own lives.
We stand up for the equal rights of all LGBTI-persons. All persons are of equal value, and must be able to enjoy all human rights and share the same responsibilities and opportunities, regardless of sex, gender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation or age.
Sweden welcomes the UN Secretary General’s report on the need for well-designed and integrated social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure that can advance gender equality.
The pursuit for gender equality has been a guiding principle in developing the Swedish welfare state. Individual taxation, child care and the right to paid parental leave, combined with access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, are key reforms in improving women’s earnings, well-being and the equality at home.
But still, even with significant progress, gender gaps remain in Sweden. Women earn lower wages and take a greater responsibility for the unpaid work at home. Women are physically and sexually abused also in my country. We have not completed our work in Sweden. We have a lot more to do.
Around the world, democracy is in decline. Journalists, elected representatives and human rights defenders are being harassed, persecuted and even killed. Women are being suppressed and their human rights neglected. Civil society organizations representing LGBTI-rights, are under attack. This is a threat to democracy and unacceptable.
In response to this, Sweden is now launching a drive for democracy. Fully functioning democracy is impossible without the promotion and protection of human rights. All states have an unquestionable responsibility to fulfill these rights. Sweden is committed to this.
An important part of our democracy drive is to continue pursuing a feminist foreign policy.
We will continue our extensive support to sexual and reproductive health and rights. For example, Sweden is funding initiatives for contraceptives, safe and legal abortions and comprehensive sexuality education. We will work against trafficking in human beings and share our experience of the Swedish Sexual Purchases Act, which prohibits the purchase of sexual services.
We will share information on our new sexual offence legislation based on consent and the obvious notion that if sex is not voluntary it is illegal. Stopping men’s violence against women is a priority for my government. We are also happy that the Forum on Gender Equality held in Stockholm last year, will be followed up in Tunis in April this year.
Our times are troubling times. There is a cold wind blowing over parts of the world. Destructive forces are pushing to roll back many land-winnings on gender equality. Climate change is threatening our civilization and the rights for women and girls. New voices are being raised questioning the importance of gender equality.
Therefore, it is urgent and utterly important that we stand up for the equal value of all people and for the rights of women and girls. In these times it is no longer enough to push gender equality forward, we must now also defend what has already been accomplished. The message from Sweden is clear: gender equality must move forward, not be rolled back.