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Iceland – The Land of Feminism and Violence Against Women

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According to statistics, Iceland is the country where all women in the world should go and learn how to get their rights respected and obtain the same rights as men. But the homeland of feminism has its dark side. With gender equality, violence against women is on the increase – and no one can explain why.

They call it the “Nordic paradox“. In fact, it is also common to other countries that have fought against gender inequalities, such as Sweden, Finland and Norway.

Women’s Rights in Iceland

However, it is in Iceland that women have made the most progress.

The law states that companies must pay women and men alike. 90-day parental leave is compulsory for both mother and father. In addition, 86% of women (i.e. almost all of them) have a job and 66% have a degree. On the boards of directors, 44% are women. The good example also comes from the institutions. In fact, in 20 of the last 36 years a woman has been either president or premier, and in Parliament 30 of the 63 deputies are women.

How did they do it? Sociologists attribute Iceland‘s incredible step forward in gender equality to the big strike of 24 October 1975. On that day, the women of the country stopped doing what they were doing and went to the streets. Actually, it was not a real strike. Rather, it was a day off that they took to show how important their role in society was. The children were entrusted to their fathers, the kitchen stoves were turned off, the supermarkets got empty, many shops closed, the telephone switchboards were silent. Everything stopped working.

It was then Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, president of the country from 1980 to 1996, who impressed with her strong personality the turning point towards the recognition of women‘s rights. The first country in the world, Iceland closed its strip-tease premises not on the basis of religious or ethical principles, but to defend the dignity of women. Prostitution is prohibited and those who take advantage in any way of the nudity of their employees are punished. At school, the values of respect for gender diversity are a subject of study and open debate.

The Situation Today

For seven years, Iceland has been at the top of the World Economic Forum’s list of countries where women‘s rights are most guaranteed. However, thing are different in Eurostat’s rankings. According to this, one in four women has suffered violence or attempted sexual violence, and one in five has suffered domestic violence there. Many have attributed this paradox to the alcohol abuse so common in the Nordic countries. However, it is too easy an explanation. Others argue that the number of violence seems higher than in other countries just because more women in Iceland are ready to report it. This would be due to the fact that they are more aware of their rights.

However, Enrique Gracia of the University of Valencia and Juan Merlo of the University of Lund gave another explanation. Gender equality has challenged the traditional role of males. As a result, they exercise a vindictive type of violence, more or less unconscious, against women. This means that the struggle for equality and respect is still long and full of obstacles.

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