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Norway: Tight gender roles threaten equality

January 12th 2017

The Norwegian Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud has recently published a report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). In the report, the Ombud describes the main equality challanges in Norway, including harassment, violence, digital violence and rape. A main focus of the report is how stereoptypes and narrow gender roles affect the realisation of fundamental rights for women and girls. The remaing equality challenges in Norway are the hardest and requires considerable political mobilization, according to Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud Hanne Bjurstrøm

Harassment and digital violence

Bjurstrøm highlights that more and more, particularly girls and women, are harassed, threatened, forced and stalked through social and digital media. “This is not taken seriously enough, and there is a lack of knowledge about the most effective measures and resources. We are uncertain about whether legal protection is sufficient and are concerned that the law is reviewed in this area,” says Bjurstrøm.

“The gender roles forced upon us are narrower in many fields than they were before, and the sexualization of society and the body ideals women are bombarded with would have been considered ridiculous when I was young, but today it results in inequality.”

Violence and rape

“Preexisting attitudes lead to relatively few reports of rape, and very few reports result in condemning judgements,” says Bjurstrøm. She also highlights the unfairness of hundreds of women being forced to flee their homes when they are subject to violence and threats from their partner.

“A reverse violence alarm on the perpetrator must be used more, and the burden placed on the perpetrator.” She also wants to know what happened to the expert group the Minister of Justice had announced which was supposed to investigate partner killings.

Gender neutralizing

“We see a tendency that gender equality is sidelined when new policies, laws and administrative procedures are proposed by introducing gender neutrality which does not consider the inequality between women and men,” says Bjurstrøm.

A contemporary example is the new discrimination law which the government proposed last year, where the paragraph about bettering the situation of women has been removed. Another example is that the reporting duty of employers is has been proposed to be removed.

The Government recognises equality challanges

The report was handed over to the Minister of Children and Inclusion Solveig Horne at an event organised by the Ombud on January 10 2017. "We have come a long way in terms of gender equality in Norway, but we still have challenges such as domestic violence and a gender segregated labour market," said Minister Solveig Horne. "In addition, harassment and hate speech on-line is a major problem. The Government will look to the Ombud’s report in its future work. The input we get from the the Ombud and civil society through their reports is also important for achieving the UN’s sustainability goals."

Read more on the website of the Equality and Anti-discrimation Ombud (in Norwegian)