This content was published in the period between 3 October 2014 and 20 January 2019

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 21 January 2019 and 5 February 2021 she was Minister for Environment and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister.

Between 25 May 2016 and 21 January 2019 she was Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister.

Between 3 October 2014 and 25 May 2016 she was Minister for International Development Cooperation.

Between 3 October 2014 and 10 September 2019 she was Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Between 3 October 2014 and 8 March 2018 she was Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality.

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 21 January 2019 and 5 February 2021 she was Minister for Environment and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister.

Between 25 May 2016 and 21 January 2019 she was Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister.

Between 3 October 2014 and 25 May 2016 she was Minister for International Development Cooperation.

Between 3 October 2014 and 10 September 2019 she was Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Between 3 October 2014 and 8 March 2018 she was Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality.

We will fight in the EU for women's rights

Published

First published in Svenska Dagbladet 26 May 2015

Although the fight for gender equality is gaining ground globally, in many parts of the world we are seeing a growing resistance to women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). This is why Sweden is working down to the wire to ensure that the new Council conclusions on gender equality to be adopted today take a clear stance.  The EU ministers gathering in Brussels this afternoon have the opportunity to put their differences behind them and stand up for the fundamental right of all individuals to have control over their own bodies – at a time when a strong EU voice is needed more than ever.

In the vicinity of the EU, violent fundamentalist groups are emerging that want to deprive women of the opportunity to participate in political life, achieve economic empowerment and gain access to health care. The desire to control women’s bodies is expressed in its most extreme forms in fundamentalist groups such as ISIL, which uses sexual abuse to instil fear and gain ground. But it is not just on the battlegrounds that the fight for women’s rights is being fought. Resistance to and questioning of the rights of women and LGBTQ people are also seen in international negotiation rooms and among conservative forces making headway in Europe. A study by the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation and the magazine Expo shows how right-wing extremist and nationalist parties that are on the rise in the EU see the rights of women and LGBTQ people as a threat to the nation state and thus to their vision of society.

We are living in a time of great change in which women’s economic and political influence is being strengthened and there is a growing consensus in the international community in favour of gender equality. Current resistance can be seen as a reaction to the successes achieved and proof that the fight for women’s and LGBTQ people’s rights must be relentless.

The most controversial issue is also the most fundamental one – the right to exercise control over one’s own body, sexuality and reproduction. Women’s rights activists say that they can go and vote, but they cannot decide who to marry, who to have sex with or when to have children. This oppression restricts women’s and girls’ lives and opportunities to fully participate in society on the same terms as men. In Sweden, we know that measures for gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights pay off. A century ago, more women died during pregnancy and childbirth in Sweden than in Namibia today. Today, maternal mortality in Sweden is among the lowest in the world. Forty years ago, Swedish women gained the right to free, legal and safe abortions. Over the last 30 years in Sweden, no woman has died from the complications of an abortion. These are successes that have helped to build the Swedish welfare society that we all benefit from today.

This year, 2015, is a year of unique opportunities to move forward on gender equality, including sexual and reproductive health and rights. The ground-breaking UN Conference on Women in Beijing celebrates its 20th anniversary, UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security celebrates its 15th anniversary, and the world is set to agree on new development goals to ensure sustainable development and eradicate poverty and injustice. The EU plays an important role in this work.

While there is a great deal of support for gender equality in the EU, opinions on the SRHR issue are divided. Unfortunately, a small number of countries have so far blocked a strong and united position, which has weakened the EU’s voice on these issues in the world. Ahead of today’s meeting, the Government has been working hard with likeminded countries in the EU to bring about a change. During the six months we have been in government we have managed to push through changes. At our initiative, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, recently announced that she plans to appoint a high-level representative for 1325 issues, in accordance with Sweden’s proposal. This will strengthen the EU’s work to combat sexual violence in conflict and to promote women’s participation in peace-building efforts.

We are hopeful that our hard work will bear fruit today as well. Our feminist foreign policy is yielding results. By joining forces we will continue to push for the EU to be at the forefront of the fight for human rights, gender equality, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. This requires clear leadership at all levels in the EU, strengthened accountability and greater knowledge about gender equality. Cooperation with civil society must be deepened and the action plan for the EU Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Development that is currently being drawn up must cover all areas of EU external action, which is not the case today.

Sweden has an important voice internationally, but if we can get the entire EU on board we will increase the impact of a feminist policy that fundamentally challenges oppression, injustice and violence.

Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs
Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation
Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 21 January 2019 and 5 February 2021 she was Minister for Environment and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister.

Between 25 May 2016 and 21 January 2019 she was Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister.

Between 3 October 2014 and 25 May 2016 she was Minister for International Development Cooperation.

Between 3 October 2014 and 10 September 2019 she was Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Between 3 October 2014 and 8 March 2018 she was Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality.

Ministers on this page who have left the Government

Between 21 January 2019 and 5 February 2021 she was Minister for Environment and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister.

Between 25 May 2016 and 21 January 2019 she was Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister.

Between 3 October 2014 and 25 May 2016 she was Minister for International Development Cooperation.

Between 3 October 2014 and 10 September 2019 she was Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Between 3 October 2014 and 8 March 2018 she was Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality.