Sweden’s push toward gender neutrality, which includes ways to facilitate gender change notwithstanding the biological body, has spurred criticism from the country’s Women’s Lobby, which ventured it undermined decades of work toward equality and led the society towards a more relativistic attitude.
The Swedish Tax Agency has switched to a more gender-inclusive language in a bid to become more “accommodating”, in effect abandoning the notions of motherhood and fatherhood.
“We are not talking about mothers and fathers, but we are talking about the one who gives birth to the child,” Swedish Tax Agency business developer Ingegerd Widell told national broadcaster SVT.
As an example, she cited the authority’s legal guidance on births.
“Whoever gives birth to a child automatically becomes the child’s guardian. This applies regardless of whether the person giving birth to the child is a woman or a man,” the guidance said.
Asked whether this change is easy to implement, Ingegerd Widell admitted obstacles along the way.
“That easy it is not, because you grow up with things being named in a certain way. And then you have to think: ‘Now I will express myself a little differently. I will think more inclusively’. But the more you start doing things that way, the easier it becomes,” Ingegerd Widell said.
On social media, this approach raised eyebrows.
“The Swedish Tax Agency will now become more ‘inclusive’, among other things by talking about ‘the one who gives birth to the child’, ‘regardless of whether it is a man or a woman’. Why would the Swedish Tax Agency avoid facts? Only women can give birth,” Sweden Democrat MEP Jessica Stengrud tweeted.
Earlier this month, the Swedish government presented a bill to make it easier for citizens to change their legal gender. If the bill gets hammered out, changing one’s registered gender will be done largely based one’s preference instead of medical assessment, and will become about as easy as changing one’s name.
However, the Swedish Women’s Lobby suggested that the bill would undermine decades of gender equality work.
“I understand that the self-perceived gender identity is very important for a certain group and that it should be recognised, but for most people in society, I think, and for us who work with gender equality, the biological body is important,” its Secretary General Clara Berglund told SVT. “This is a fundamental change of what gender is as such. From the fact that it is about the body, we move towards a more relativistic attitude,” she ventured.
Former Social Minister Annika Strandhäll, the chair of Social Democrat Women, by contrast, called the bill “extremely important” and “well-balanced”, pledging to vote yes. Still, even she agreed that there are “clouds of unrest” and ventured that the perspective of “completely removing men and women” would subvert gender equality work.
The bill, presented by the Swedish Ministry for Social Affairs, will also allow children starting from the age of twelve to apply for a new legal gender in the national population register. To change the legal gender for a pre-teen, just the consent of the guardian will suffice, with no medical examination or approval from healthcare authorities required. Today, a doctor’s statement is needed to change one’s legal gender, which can be done starting from the age of 18.
So far, the national-conservative Sweden Democrats are the only party that voiced clear opposition toward the proposal.