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Swedish university guilty of gender discrimination

Published: 21 Dec 2009 13:57 GMT+01:00
Updated: 21 Dec 2009 13:57 GMT+01:00

A Swedish appeals court ruled on Monday that it was illegal for a university to prioritize men for its veterinary education programme, upholding a previous decision finding the institution guilty of illegal gender discrimination.

The Svea Court of Appeal found it was illegal for the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet – SLU) in Uppsala to prioritize men for its veterinary education programme. The appeals court upheld a previous decision by the district court, which found SLU guilty of illegal gender discrimination.

Fourty-four women who applied to Sweden's only veterinary education programme in 2006 and 2007 filed a suit against the institution. Applicants were accepted via a weighted lottery whereby male students had a considerably greater chance of being admitted compared to their female counterparts with equivalent merits.

The admissions system accounted for the fact that more women than men study veterinary science, with the same over-representation among professionals. The Swedish government was of the opinion that the admissions procedure had a legal basis since it promoted equality within the veterinary profession.

The court awarded each female plaintiff 35,000 kronor ($4,800) in damages. The Swedish state is also to pay court costs amounting to 37,400 kronor.

The court ruled that the women were discriminated against in such a way that violates Swedish equality law, a point which the state has also conceded.

The law does allow discrimination on the basis of gender if there is demonstrably a goal that can be seen to override the general principle of preventing discrimination within higher education. The question for the court was whether or not the discrimination the women faced in this case was justifiable.

The appeals court said that the legal text did not provide any further guidance. SLU's justification was to achieve a more equal gender balance within veterinary education and within the profession itself. But the institution of a weighted lottery for admissions gave women only a theoretical chance of gaining admission.

Such a measure, in effect excluding women from being admitted, was excessive in comparison to the limited effect the measure had in terms of creating equality in education and within the labour market, the court ruled.

TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

16:21 December 21, 2009 by calebian22
"The admissions system accounted for the fact that more women than men study veterinary science, with the same over-representation among professionals."

Seems like this should have been a good enough reason for the court to side with the University. For years, since the feminist movement began, the discussion and debate has always been how to make male dominated professional fields accessible to women by favoring women applicants.

Now a field is dominated by women, but a weighted scale in favor of men is illegal. I wonder what the difference is now?
16:43 December 21, 2009 by Beynch
It is too easy to shriek "discrimination" at the slightest slight. This appears to be nothing more than a neurotic, menopausal, aberration where "discrimination" has become the convenient out. The only effect it has, is that one looses all respect of the actions of an, easily mislead, appeals court. Could it be that SLU followed its criteria of the mosty suitable person for the spot? Who is scrutinizing the appeals court?
16:53 December 21, 2009 by Celc
@calebian22 - There is no difference, it's illegal both ways. Some (so called) feminists have argued for a weighted scale in favor of women but it's never been legal in Sweden and I hope it never will be.
19:38 December 21, 2009 by calebian22
Celc,

"The law does allow discrimination on the basis of gender if there is demonstrably a goal that can be seen to override the general principle of preventing discrimination within higher education."

The article seems to indicate that gender based discrimination is legal in Sweden. I hope you are right though.
19:52 December 21, 2009 by Osokin
How is this not hilarious ?

Much more women in veterinary, they try to balance the field and make it equal to both genders, booyah! the court vetoes ! Too many men in companie's boards or political parties : female QUOTAS. Men go work outdoors, indoors jobs are for women in this country, period.
22:26 December 21, 2009 by Cornelius Hamelberg
"And every fair from fair sometime declines"

To Beynch: Seems to rhyme & jive

with wench...

I'd hate to quote Blake or Bible here, but

did I actually hear you say "menopausal", Sir?

I remember "menopausal minds" as a unique Norman Mailer expression, specially designed/ coined to make old ladies angry...

Now,I don't imagine that you would want to do just that: to stoke - or incur the wrath of the so called "weaker" sex…

Of course the gander could be gender mistaken….
00:20 December 22, 2009 by CarlBlack
@ Celc: you are unfortunately not right:

The Liberal Party was the first Swedish party to regulate a minimum level of women's representation to 40 percent in 1972. During the 1980s and 1990s the rest of the Swedish parties represented in the parliament also set numerical goals for women's participation.

Apparently, preference or quotas in favor of one gender really exist. However it looks like that it is accepted only if it is in favor of women. I wonder if the above mentioned quotas also set the minimum representation of 40 percent for the opposite sex, or if it is really only one way.

So is this gender equality or female domination? Maybe Swedish men should sue anyone using quotas, based on the current decision of the appeals court and see what happens.
10:03 December 22, 2009 by gmaddalo
good point that has been raised up! Sweden is alleged as the country of equality but i would not say that! Today there is a scandal of sex gender discrimination, few days ago unfair treatment towards foreign researchers! I hope that Sweden would be told off from the European Union, take the mask away and have the courage finally to face the discrimination problems seriously!
20:56 December 22, 2009 by mkvgtired
So reverse sexism/racism is still ok in the West then. Is anybody surprised?
21:08 February 18, 2010 by kleo
Does anyone know whether I could find an English translation of this decision anywhere?
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