Consideration of reports of States parties
Fourth and fifth periodic reports
The Committee considered the fourth and the fifth periodic
reports of Sweden (CEDAW/C/SWE/4 and CEDAW/C/SWE/5) at its
510th and 511th meetings, on 5 July 2001 (CEDAW/C/SR.510
(a) Introduction by the State party
In introducing the report, the representative of Sweden
informed the Committee that non-governmental organizations,
including women's organizations, with which the Government
had an open dialogue, had been given the opportunity to
comment on the reports and that the Government expressed
its appreciation for their contributions.
The representative stressed that Sweden's vision of society
was one in which women and men enjoyed equal rights, equal
opportunities and equal responsibilities, and in which each
individual was treated with respect, regardless of age,
gender, ethnic or cultural background, disability or sexual
orientation. Since 1994, the Government's annual statement
of governmental policy on mainstreaming had been adopted
and, accordingly, all ministers were responsible for ensuring
gender equality within their respective policy areas. She
pointed out, however, that gender mainstreaming did not
exclude women from measures aimed specifically at the promotion
of gender equality.
The representative indicated that, although Sweden was generally
considered to be a society in which there was a high degree
of equality between women and men, there were examples of
power imbalances between the sexes. An extreme example was
men's violence against women, which was frequent and widespread
and which was a priority area for governmental action. While
there was no evidence that violence against women had escalated,
the rate of reporting had increased as a result of efforts
aimed at the collection and dissemination of information
and improved response by the police and social welfare authorities.
Governmental efforts to address violence against women included
research, the introduction of training programmes for relevant
sectors and the passage of legislation, including laws concerning
support for crime victims. Violence against women with disabilities
was being addressed. Increased attention needed to be given
to men who committed acts of violence against women, and
the representative noted that Sweden supported men's organizations
working against violence against women. A special project
to address violence against immigrant women had been introduced,
and amendments to the Aliens Act provided for special residence
permits for immigrant women and children who had been subjected
to violence by their partners. The Aliens Act also restricted
the capacity of Swedish residents with a history of violence
to women and children to bring partners into the country.
The representative indicated that action to combat trafficking
was also a priority for Sweden and that, in addition to
regional and national efforts undertaken in that regard,
the Government had, in December 2000, signed the United
Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking
in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Since January
1999, with the entry into force of a law prohibiting the
purchase of sexual services, the exploitation of prostitutes
had been a criminal offence, and the number of street prostitutes
In 1999, the Aliens Act had been amended to provide for
the granting of asylum on the basis of gender-based persecution.
Few women had taken advantage of the provision, although
the majority of all women seeking asylum had been granted
permission to remain. Guidelines on refugee women had been
prepared by the Migration Board, and projects to support
immigrant girls and women had been introduced.
Although significant progress had been made with respect
to representation of women in decision-making, further efforts
were required. Representation was strong in the public sector,
but only 5.2 per cent of those on boards of directors in
the private sector were women. The starting point in Swedish
efforts towards equality between women and men was the provision
of equal access to education. The educational choices of
women and men were, however, divided along gender lines
and, although some women had entered male-dominated fields
of study, few men had entered female-dominated ones. Only
13 per cent of professorships were held by women, and the
Government had introduced revised recruitment targets for
Women and men enjoyed high employment rates, although the
labour market was segregated along gender lines. Since 1993,
the Swedish Labour Market Board had received earmarked funds
for work to address gender segregation in the labour market,
and the National Board for Industrial and Technical Development
had carried out programmes aimed at increasing the number
of women entrepreneurs. The representative noted that a
key to reducing discrimination against women in the labour
market was the reconciliation of family and work responsibilities.
In 2002, the parental benefit would be increased by 30 days,
with two fathers' months included in the benefit scheme.
The representative informed the Committee that the pay gap
between women and men was a governmental concern. On average,
women's wages were about 83 per cent of men's. She indicated
that the pay gap should be made visible and its underlying
causes studied closely. New provisions in the Equality Act
obliged employers, together with trade unions, to survey
and analyse all discriminatory wage differences and to take
appropriate measures to resolve them.
The representative indicated that the issues addressed in
the Beijing Platform for Action corresponded with issues
that formed the basis of Sweden's national policy for gender
equality. Sweden, along with other European Union partners,
was developing indicators to evaluate progress in the 12
critical areas of concern.
The representative expressed satisfaction at the adoption
and entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention,
and indicated that Sweden's ratification process would be
finalized in 2002. She concluded by indicating that a press
conference, focusing on the Committee's concluding comments,
would be convened after the current session.
(b) Concluding comments of the Committee
The Committee expresses its appreciation to the Government
of Sweden on its fourth and fifth periodic reports, which
comply with the Committee's guidelines for the preparation
of periodic reports. It commends the Government for involving
non-governmental organizations in the preparation of the
reports. The Committee also expresses its appreciation for
the information given in response to the issues raised by
the pre-sessional working group and during the oral presentation.
The Committee commends the Government of Sweden for its
large delegation which made possible a constructive and
frank dialogue with the members of the Committee.
The Committee commends the Government of Sweden for the
progress made in ensuring gender equality in women's political
participation and decision-making, where it is regarded
by many other countries as a model. It notes with satisfaction
that the application of measures in line with article 4,
paragraph 1, of the Convention has led to concrete results
in some areas.
The Committee commends the Government of Sweden for its
important achievements in the promotion of equality between
women and men and especially for the involvement of boys
and men in promoting gender equality and changing sexual
stereotyping and traditional and stereotypical values.
The Committee commends the Government for passing legislation
that provides residence permits to individuals who have
a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of sexual
orientation or gender, particularly in cases that involve
discrimination against women.
The Committee commends the Government for its efforts to
incorporate gender mainstreaming into its overall policy
framework and at all stages of the policy-making processes,
while at the same time implementing women-specific programmes
to encourage gender equality.
The Committee commends the Government for its willingness
to place objections to reservations entered by other States
parties that it considers incompatible with the object and
purpose of the Convention.
The Committee also commends the Government for having accepted
the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention.
The Committee commends the Government for signing the United
Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime,
its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking
in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and its Protocol
against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air.
Factors and difficulties affecting the implementation of
The Committee notes that there are no significant factors
or difficulties that prevent the effective implementation
of the Convention in Sweden.
Principal areas of concern and recommendations
While the Government has taken significant steps to address
discrimination against women in the workplace through the
passage of the Gender Equality Act and the establishment
of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman, the Committee expresses
concern that the wage gap between women and men, in both
the public and private sectors, has not narrowed during
the past 10 years. The Committee is of the view that this
disparity is linked to the persistence of gender segregation
in the labour market.
The Committee urges the Government to adopt policies and
active measures to accelerate the eradication of pay discrimination
against women, including job evaluations, collection of
data, further study of the underlying causes for the wage
gap and provision of increased assistance to social partners
in collective wage bargaining, in particular in determining
wage structures in sectors dominated by women. The Committee
requests the Government to provide more information in the
next periodic report on its efforts to eradicate the wage
The Committee expresses concern with the existence of gender-based
segregation at all levels of the educational system, including
the choice by girls and boys of traditional disciplines
and the attitudes of teachers that perpetuate and reinforce
stereotypical gender roles.
The Committee recommends that the Government strengthen
its efforts to eliminate gender stereotypes in educational
curricula and consistently integrate awareness and understanding
of gender equality in teacher training. Given the clear
correlation between the choice of field of study and placement
in the labour market, the Committee recommends that the
Government increase its efforts towards ending gender segregation
in students' choice of field of education and encourage
both women and men to choose non-traditional fields of education.
While the Committee commends the Government for the impressive
advances made by women in terms of representation in decision-making
in politics, it expresses concern that women's representation
in executive and decision-making positions in the private
economic sector, as well as on central governmental boards
and boards of government-controlled companies, continues
to be low. It also expresses concern about the low representation
of women as chairs of local and municipal boards.
The Committee recommends that the Government take steps
to facilitate the options insofar as employment of women
in the private sector, inter alia, through the implementation
of temporary special measures in accordance with article
4, paragraph 1, of the Convention, wherever possible. The
Committee urges the Government to take measures to increase
the representation of women in decision-making positions
in all sectors, including central governmental boards, county
and municipal boards, particularly as chairs of those boards,
and in government-controlled companies.
The Committee expresses concern about the low level of women's
representation in the judiciary.
The Committee urges the Government of adopt a procedure
that ensures that women are not discriminated against when
appointments to the judiciary are made.
While noting the high number of women in the lower ranks
of the foreign service, the Committee nevertheless expresses
concern about the low level of representation of women in
the higher echelons of the service, in particular in ambassadorial
The Committee recommends that current policies to increase
the representation of women in the foreign service, particularly
as ambassadors, continue and that measures be taken to ensure
that women in the foreign service are not disadvantaged
in terms of posting to locations requiring senior staff.
The Committee expresses concern that, despite the high achievement
of women in tertiary education, there are very few women
professors in the universities. There also appears to be
an imbalance in the access of women, as compared to men
academics, to research grants and other resources.
The Committee urges the Government to facilitate, by means
of its policies, an increase in the number of women in high-ranking
posts at universities and to ensure that women professors
are not discriminated against insofar as access to resources,
including research grants.
The Committee notes that, despite the considerable efforts
made with regard to combating violence against women, including
in the family, the prevalence of violence against women
demonstrates the persistent power imbalance between women
The Committee urges the Government to collect more data
on the nature and scope of violence against women, in particular
within the family, and to continue its efforts to implement
and strengthen current policies aimed at combating violence,
with special attention given to women with disabilities
and migrant and minority women.
While welcoming the criminalization of the purchase of sexual
services, the Committee expresses concern that this might
have increased the incidence of clandestine prostitution,
thereby rendering prostitutes more vulnerable. It also expresses
concern that Sweden has become a country of destination
for trafficked women.
The Committee encourages the Government to evaluate the
effect of the current policy of criminalizing the purchase
of sexual services, especially in view of the complete lack
of data on clandestine prostitution which may have incidental
effects on the trafficking of women and girls. The Committee
encourages action in Sweden and, through the Government
of Sweden, continued efforts within the European Union to
combat trafficking of women, including measures to prevent
trafficking, the collection of data, the provision of services
for trafficked women and measures to penalize those who
facilitate such trafficking.
Taking note of the efforts of the Government to combat discrimination,
the Committee expresses concern about the continuing discrimination
against immigrant, refugee and minority women in Sweden,
including in education and employment, and at the gender-based
discrimination and violence that they face in their own
communities. The Committee also expresses concern about
discrimination against Sami and Roma women.
The Committee urges the Government to take effective measures
to eliminate discrimination against immigrant, refugee and
minority women and to strengthen its efforts to combat xenophobia
and racism in Sweden. It also encourages the Government
to be more proactive in its measures to prevent discrimination
against immigrant, refugee and minority women, both within
their communities and in society at large, to combat violence
against them and to increase their awareness of the availability
of social services and legal remedies.
Noting Sweden's support of the Optional Protocol to the
Convention and its early signature to that instrument, the
Committee encourages the Government to ratify the Optional
Protocol as soon as possible.
The Committee requests the Government to respond to the
concerns expressed in the present concluding comments in
its next periodic report submitted under article 18 of the
Convention. It also requests that future reports not make
reference to previous reports but briefly summarize previously
The Committee requests the wide dissemination in Sweden
of the present concluding comments in order to make the
people of Sweden, in particular governmental administrators
and politicians, aware of the steps that have been taken
to ensure the de jure and de facto equality of women and
of the further steps that are required in this regard. It
requests the Government to continue to disseminate widely,
in particular to women's and human rights organizations,
the Convention and its Optional Protocol, the Committee's
general recommendations, the Beijing Declaration and Platform
for Action and the results of the twenty-third special session
of the General Assembly, entitled "Women 2000: gender
equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century".