Speech by Ann Linde, Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the Biarritz Partnership event on gender equality and women's empowerment September 23, 2019

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Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to start off with a couple of questions:

Today, there is an ongoing global debate on so called “moral issues”. But what is moral? Is it that someone else decides over your body? Or should you yourself be in charge?

I see it as good moral when every man, boy, woman and girl have the same right to decide over their own lives and bodies.

In 45 economies, there are no laws protecting women against violence in the home. In 104 countries around the world there are laws preventing women from carrying out certain jobs.

In almost all aspects of life there is a gender perspective;

Before becoming Minister for Foreign Affairs, I was Minister for trade. Could there be a gender difference in trade? To my surprise there are.

For example, there are higher tariffs on sportswear for women than for men. And a silk blouse for a woman has a higher tariff than a silk shirt for a man.

Trade has great effects on women, as well as men.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a feminist Government, Sweden warmly welcomes the important initiative by the G7-group to establish the “Biarritz partnership”.

The 25th anniversary of Beijing offers an opportunity for us all to reaffirm our political will and commitment for the empowerment of all women and girls.

But I would like to make use of this opportunity to talk about something else.

I would like to talk about the difficult times that we find ourselves in at the moment.

To illustrate what I mean, let me remind you of UN resolution 2467 on sexual violence in conflict, that was adopted earlier this spring.

It is a resolution that advances the agenda of conflict-related sexual violence, by focusing on the survivors. Because of that it was needed and welcome.

But remember what happened during the adoption of this resolution. Sexual and reproductive health and rights was not mentioned. Some countries blocked such language.

In other words: In front of Nobel prize Laurates Dennis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, the international community could not agree on stating the need for basic sexual and reproductive health and rights of survivors of sexual violence in conflict.

Should we deny the victims emergency contraceptives? Safe abortions? Sexual education? The right to know about their bodies? To know about HIV and AIDS?

Apparently, this is what this new movement of ultra-conservative moralists want.

But let me assure you, we are many that will not accept this.

When some countries say that women should dress differently, should behave differently, should live differently, our response is:

Let girls and women decide for themselves. It is their human rights.

It’s that easy. 

Let women chose their own lives and the world will be a better place.

How do we do it?

By making sure that women get a seat at the table. By supporting women’s organizations. By proving that female participation in the labor market increases economic growth. By fighting child marriage, female genital mutilation and the use of sexual violence as weapon.

By refusing to let anybody else decide what we do with our bodies and with our lives. 

While a few seek to restrict the rights of half of the world’s population, we represent a global movement for the empowerment of women and girls and their full enjoyment of human rights.

I call on everybody who supports us in this cause, to join me in spreading the message and making your voices heard under the hashtag #EmpowerWomen

Thank you.