Women: International Women’s day – Sweden

A report has come out with shocking figures. 47% of girls in the nine-year compulsory schools are sexually harassed. The climate against young women has become harder in society and has reached the schools in a new way. Girls are being called names like ’whore’ and ’cunt’ every day in school and nobody reacts. Our Elevkampanjen (school students’ campaigning) wants to organise girls and boys to fight discrimination.

International Women’s Day. Report from Sweden.

"Don´t call me a whore!" – Campaign against sexual harassment in Swedish schools.

Women’s position in society is getting weaker and weaker. 90% of public employees in the community are women. All the cuts that have been done in healthcare, welfare, education etc. have had big effects on women’s position in society, because several thousands of women have lost their jobs and have become dependent on their husbands and dependent on state benefits.

The gap between women’s and men’s income is widening nowadays. The sexist picture of women in advertisements and magazines is getting worse accompanied with increasing porn consumption among youth. The porn industry is making billions of dollars every year from women’s bodies, by putting out a degrading picture of women and teaching young boys that a woman is just an object, something you can do what ever you want to with.

Elevkampanjen in Stockholm conducted a successful campaign to close a brothel called ’Studio Anna’. We took up the shocking fact that the brothel had people outside the schools trying to recruit girls into prostitution. We managed to do this by getting great support from the neighbours and got all the teenagers who were targeted involved.

We had demonstrations outside the brothel at night time which, of course, discouraged the sex purchasers from coming near. The profits for the brothel were not big when we did that. There was a lot of discussion about this brothel at the time, but we were the only ones who did something about it. The campaign became even more successful then we had thought it would and the brothel was eventually closed down.

An important reason for the hard climate in the schools is all the school cuts there have been in recent years. A lot of the welfare clinics in the schools have lost their jobs. Girls in school are never listened to; boys go first.

When it’s okay to be called a whore this leads to low respect for women. The step from calling a girl a whore to starting to sexually harass her is a short one. The sexual violence against young women has increased in recent years. One third of female teenagers are afraid to walk outside in the night; ten percent feel clinically depressed.

On top of this comes the fact that some political parties and parts of the establishment are trying to make these a question of morality. They object to teenagers having sex or knowing too much about it. They increase the oppression young women feel by preaching ’carefulness’ etc. Elevkampanjen preaches struggle – a fight against all these forms of harassment.

Every day we are getting pumped with information on how we should look, how we should act, what we are supposed to be. But there is a resistance growing. Every day young girls and boys are signing up to join Elevkampanjen, because they want to do something and fight for justice.

On March 8th we are going to have a whole day (studiedag) in my school, where we are going to talk about these issues with the students, and with the teachers. After that we will all go to our demonstration for international women’s day.

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March 1999