Law and Order in Focus for new Gender Equality Project

Gender equality through legislation is the topic of discussion when Nordic researchers meet in Umeå, Sweden. The legislative approach has proved successful in the Nordic region, but not all countries have chosen the same path.

NIKK spade symbolSwedish and Norwegian politicians have been active in legislating gender equality. Their colleagues in Finland and Denmark have been more hesitant.

‘The Nordic countries differ in this respect,’ says Monica Burman, senior lecturer in criminal law at Umeå University.
Burman and her colleagues at Umeå Forum for Studies on Law and Society are the lead hosts of a Nordic conference on the role of the legal sector in the work for gender equality.

The conference will be held in the spring. How is the planning going?
‘We’re just about to start sending out the invitations, so we’re well underway. We’re going to have two Nordic panels featuring professors from different countries. All of them are researchers in law with a clear gender profile. I think we’re going to have some very interesting discussions.’

Can you describe the role of legislation in Nordic gender equality?
‘It actually plays a very important role. There are several examples of how politicians have used legislation to create or encourage gender equality. One is that all the Nordic countries have abolished joint taxation of married couples in order to promote women’s participation in the labour market. Sweden did it already in the 1970s, and at the time it was considered a very radical thing to do. Many EU countries still haven’t given up joint taxation.’

Monica Burman. Photo: Press image

Monica Burman. Photo: Press image

Can you tell us more about the differences between the Nordic countries?
‘The legislation on domestic violence is one example. It used to be that the police wouldn’t start an investigation unless the victim reported the perpetrator to the police. Sweden changed this in 1982 while Finland kept the old law much longer. There are many similar examples and it all comes down to the value the countries place on gender equality. To what extent do they believe legal intervention is required? Norway in particular has strong faith in legislation as a means to achieve gender equality. Their gender quotas for company boards are one expression of this.’

 

Which themes will be addressed at the conference?
‘That will partly depend on the abstracts we receive. We’ll have two international keynotes. Rosemary Hunter from Queen Mary University in the UK focuses on family law and domestic violence. Kathleen Lahey from Kingston University in Canada will talk about economic issues such as how we collect and distribute tax money. One of the panel discussions will also give special attention to gender and law in the Arctic.’

Why is it important to meet other Nordic researchers?
‘We need input from each other. That’s how we can advance the research in our different areas.’

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.


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