Eva Solberg is a Swedish politician, a proud feminist who holds an important post as chairwoman of the party Moderate Women. Last year she was presented with her government’s latest strategy for combating domestic violence. Like similar reports across the world, this strategy assumes the only way to tackle domestic violence is through teaching misogynist men (and boys) to behave themselves.
The Swedish politician spat the dummy. Writing on the news site Nyheter24, Solberg took issue with her government’s “tired gendered analysis”, which argued that eradicating sexism was the solution to the problem of domestic violence. She explained her reasoning: “We know through extensive practice and experience that attempts to solve the issue through this kind of analysis have failed. And they failed precisely because violence is not and never has been a gender issue.”
Solberg challenged the government report’s assumption that there was a guilty sex and an innocent one. “Thanks to extensive research in the field, both at the national and international level, we now know with great certainty that this breakdown by sex is simply not true.”
She made reference to the world’s largest research database on intimate partner violence, the Partner Abuse State of Knowledge project, which summarises more than 1700 scientific papers on the topic.
She concluded that her government’s report was based on misinformation about family violence and that, contrary to the report’s one-sided view of men as the only perpetrators, many children were experiencing a very different reality: “We must recognise the fact that domestic violence, in at least half of its occurrence, is carried out by female perpetrators.”
One of the key patterns that emerged from PASK, Solberg said, was that violence in the family was an inherited problem and children learned from watching the violence of both their parents. “To know this and then continue to ignore the damage done to the children who are today subjected to violence is a huge social betrayal,” she concluded. “The road to a solution for this social problem is hardly to stubbornly continue to feed the patient with more of the same medicine that has already been tried for decades.”
There’s a certain irony that this happened in Sweden, the utopia for gender equality and the last place you would expect misogyny to be blamed for a major social evil. But despite Scandinavian countries being world leaders in gender equality (as shown by the 2014 World Economic Forum’s global gender gap index), Nordic women experience the worst physical or sexual violence in the EU. Given this inconvenient truth it seems extraordinary that for decades the gendered analysis of domestic violence has retained its grip on Sweden — as it has in other Western countries, including Australia.
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