The Committee for Welfare in the Nordic Region met in Reykjavik today with the Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, with the aim of discussing gender equality in Iceland and the rest of the Nordic Region. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, Iceland is the most gender-equal country in the world, with the rest of the Nordic countries generally featuring near the top. However, this does not mean that they are devoid of issues.
Violence against women increased during COVID-19 Tone Wilhelmsen Trøen, the committee’s vice-chair and spokesperson in the field of gender equality, welcomed the committee by talking about its focus on gender equality in its work, and asked how the prime minister views the development of violence against women in close relationships. Prime Minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, said that this is a problem in Iceland, which has been increasing during COVID-19. “If women are not safe from violence and abuse in their own homes or elsewhere, then we don’t have gender equality,” pointed out Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland. The prime minister then followed up by telling how she, as prime minister and minister for gender equality, is combatting this: “The government in Iceland has invested in several areas. Legislation has been tightened so that perpetrators can be better prosecuted, NGOs and crisis centres have received increased funding, prevention is underway right down to school age, which is also a top priority for the police,” said the PM.
Women are also targeted online At the meeting, it was also highlighted how online social platforms have become forums where women encounter hateful comments in reference to their gender. “When women are subjected to hatred online, it deters some from participating in digital debates as spokespeople for a cause or a party. This is a threat to a gender-equal democracy in the Nordic countries, and we must combat that,” says the committee’s vice-chair and spokesperson on gender equality, Tone Wilhelmsen Trøen.
Top priority in the police The head of the National Police in Iceland, Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir, confirmed that the fight against violence against women in close relationships is an important focus area for the police. In addition to solving these cases, the head of the national police highlighted the importance of the police’s preventative campaigns and information aimed at young men with the message not to commit violence against women. The police have also stepped up their follow-up work aimed at both victims and perpetrators in order to avoid repetitions.
Also a problem in Sámi communities Beaska Niilas from the Sámi Parliamentary Council says that online hatred and violence in close relationships are also problems in Sámi communities. Online hatred is often racially motivated. The Sámi are attacked for their ethnicity and culture by others who are not Sámi. Niilas believes this is rooted in a lack of information and understanding, and says that this must be changed, such as by stepping up education efforts about Sámi in schools. Internally in the Sámi environment, there is also violence against women committed by men. Niilas states that more crisis centres need to be established in the immediate area, and that there needs to be increased understanding of the Sámi culture among health personnel. These should be priority areas for the authorities, Niilas says. The committee is taking Icelandic and Sámi experiences on board in its ongoing efforts to create a gender-equal Nordic Region.