Gender equality is about equality between the sexes. It means that women and men have to have the same rights, opportunities and obligations.
There are many examples of a lack of gender equality in society. Some of them are clear, while others are harder to see. Clear examples include the fact that women often earn less than men. More women than men are subjected to sexual abuse. Women also take time off work more often than men in order to look after children. This leads to women often having lower pensions than men.
All societies have norms that affect people's lives. Norms are ideas and unwritten rules about how people are expected to be, how they are expected to live and what they are expected to look like. Norms are needed in societies. They govern how we behave in the supermarket, for instance, or how we queue up and greet each other. Norms are hard to see, and are usually only discovered when someone breaches them.
Norms can also limit people and cause discrimination. For example, there are norms for how women and men should dress, what jobs they should do, who is allowed to use makeup and who is allowed to cry when they are sad.
There are norms about all people being either women or men. But not everyone identifies as a woman or a man. There are also people who have a different gender from the one they were assigned at birth. Regardless of gender, everyone is affected by norms for women and men as groups.
Norms can be influenced and changed. Sweden is working in different ways to change norms that limit people and cause discrimination. An example of this work is the gender equality policy adopted by the Swedish Riksdag.
Sweden's gender equality policy
Like many other countries, Sweden is working to make society more gender equal. Sweden's Riksdag has decided that Sweden is going to have a gender equality policy that includes six goals:
- Women and men must be able to influence political decisions in the same way.
- Women and men must be able to earn money on the same conditions.
- Women and men must be able to get education on the same conditions.
- Women and men must share household tasks and caring for their children equally.
- Women and men must have the same opportunities for good health and good medical care.
- Men's violence against women must end.
Gender equality and feminism
People's circumstances are affected by other factors than gender. This means that not all women among women as a group, or all men among men as a group, have the same life experiences and living conditions.
Feminism is an umbrella term for the movement whose view is that women in general are subordinated to men in society, and that gender equality therefore needs to be promoted. Practical examples of promoting gender equality include changing discriminatory rules and stopping sexualised violence. Promoting gender equality can also involve getting more women into decision-making positions and drawing attention to how other forms of oppression are linked to gender.