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'Ireland could learn a hell of a lot from Sweden'

'Ireland could learn a hell of a lot from Sweden'

Published: 21 Nov 2012 14:02 GMT+01:00
Updated: 21 Nov 2012 14:02 GMT+01:00

After a woman in Ireland died from a miscarriage after authorities refusal to allow an abortion, Irish native David Duff reflects on the how Sweden differs from his homeland in gender equality.

When I put my shoes on, step outside, and take a breakfast walk through Malmö, I’m still surprised by what I don’t see.

There’s not a single statue of the Virgin Mary; there are no nuns pottering about the streets doing whatever it is that nuns actually do, and the flocks of elderly women regularly migrating to early morning mass are nowhere to be found.

It’s great!

Sweden might not have the same veneration that Ireland has for that one woman (Mary), but what it does have is something far better: veneration for all women.

When I first came here, I had no idea how progressive gender equality was in Sweden.

I find it amazing how often Swedish women and men shun traditionally assigned gender roles. It’s something the people here unknowingly take for granted, and it’s something that my Irish eyes can only look at on with envy.

The first time a Swedish friend of mine told me that he was a kindergarten teacher, I started to laugh because I thought he was joking. He got a little annoyed at me because he thought I was laughing at his English, but after I explained things to him, he started to laugh at me and my “silly Irish way of thinking”.

It’s a way of thinking that was given to me by my parents, who in turn got it from their parents, and it’s a way of thinking from which most of Ireland still suffers.

In Ireland, certain jobs are for men and certain jobs are for women. That’s just the way it is, and there’s been no real change for decades.

I can’t help but wonder if the financial mess in Ireland would have been as big as it was or even happened at all, if a few more of the politicians and bank-managers had been women.

Just a little over 15 percent of Ireland’s parliamentarians are women, compared to 45 percent in Sweden.

From an Irish person’s perspective, the level of gender fairness in Swedish society is nothing short of amazing, and the rights that Swedish women enjoy are nothing short of incredible.

There’s one right in particular that Swedish women have that Irish people are crying out for: the right to choose.

News broke recently about a young woman in Ireland who died after she was found to be suffering from a miscarriage but was refused permission to have her pregnancy brought to an end, with doctors telling her: “This is a Catholic country”.

I was shocked and appalled by this needless tragedy, and I found myself thinking, that this would never have happened in Sweden.

I can’t imagine a doctor here refusing treatment to someone and saying they did it because Sweden is a Lutheran country.

The Swedish people wouldn’t accept that as an excuse, and in a 21st century EU country, the Irish people shouldn’t accept it either.

Ireland, despite many recent developments, is still a place that’s deeply steeped in religion, tradition, and fear. It’s why I feel so lucky and find it so wonderful to now be living in a secular country like Sweden.

I love calling over to my Swedish friends' homes, taking off my shoes and walking into their hallways without being greeted by crucifixes on the walls or Sacred Heart pictures hanging in the living rooms.

I love being in a place where children don’t have to start their days with prayers or be baptized just so they can be accepted into certain schools.

I love the fact that same-sex couples enjoy the exact same rights as couples of the opposite sex and that women here have had the right to choose since 1938.

I love being in a country where it’s just as common for men and women to work as kindergarten teachers, and where equality is a precept that people live by and not just a buzzword bandied about by politicians.

Sweden for me has been full of surprises and not all of them have been good (surströmming and salmiak come to mind).

But having been here for a while, I can clearly see that the pros of living in this country far outweigh the cons, and when it comes to choosing a secular, progressive, and fair place to raise a family, Sweden is almost unparalleled, and Ireland could learn a hell of lot if it took a few pages out of the Swedish book of life.

David Duff is an Irishman studying at university in southern Sweden. His free time is split between doing stand-up comedy and adapting to the Swedish way of life.

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Your comments about this article

12:12 November 22, 2012 by nibbler
Firstly the loss of the two lives involved here is an awful tragedy. However this is a poorly written article mixing two completely different topics. The author would be better choosing a topic and sticking with it. Maybe the continuing impact the catholic church plays on modern womens lives would be a better subject matter and more relevant to his meandering thoughts.

Gender equality or lack thereof is a completely separate issue to the death of Savita Halappanavar, and this is completely separate to the impact of religion on gender equality. Savita Halappanavar didn't die from a miscarriage, she died from septicaemia, it has yet to be established what caused the septicaemia. What we can say is this poor woman suffered greatly and needlessly for a prolonged amount of time and the ambiguity around the law concerning the abortion of a foetus contributed to that suffering and probably but not proven caused the septicaemia.

I however fail to see how the right to abort a foetus relates to gender equality and if Irish people had been crying out for the right to choose we would have had far greater, continuous pressure put on the government since the last abortion referendum. Irish women are choosing and they are having abortions every day, unfortunately they are travelling to the UK to do so as it has been done for a very long time. What they lack is the right to avail of this service in their own country.

Every country is governed by a system of beliefs that originates from its history, culture and religious background. Being told that because Ireland is a Catholic country is the reason abortion is not available here is true. It is the reason that we only got divorce in the 1990's. However it doesn't reflect the current views or wants of the Irish nation. The author paints an image of Ireland that hasn't existed in years. While religious Icons do exists, they are rare in urban areas and more prominent in rural areas and there is nothing wrong with having crucifixes displayed if you have a strong faith in god. I haven't seen a nun in years and would be more shocked if I did. The reverence for the catholic church amongst the general population died as a result of the sexual abuse scandals and while elderly people do attend mass regularly, that's what they are, the older generation and it is this older generation that vote, so it will be a long time before modernity is taken on board if the younger members of society do not voice their opinions. As a nation we do need to re-evaluate the availability of abortion. Again this has nothing to do with gender equality.

As an Irish woman with a Swedish husband, I would heartily admit Irish relationships are anything but equal and traditionally there were gender assigned roles, however this is changing and will continue to do so as a result of the current economic climate. More and more men are having to stay at home and raise the children. To say there is no change is ridiculous.
12:33 November 22, 2012 by Chloe Monroe
I've seen this guy perform live, a good chunk of his set was based around the fact that his last name was 'Duff', but now I discover his name is actually 'Duffy' - I FEEL CHEATED!
13:44 November 22, 2012 by cogito
Why is this not with the blogs, which is the place for wannabe writers.

I hope he's more talented as a comedian than he is as a writer/thinker.
15:34 November 22, 2012 by martin malmo
David Duff or Duffy, must not have set foot in Ireland for decades.

The churches are empty except for the elderly in most cases.Except for the rare sight of the virgin Mary on road side grottos, I have not seen a crucifix or religious icon for years.As for nuns I think they became extinct in the 1970's.

Of course pro-choice should exist and we need to work on this as a race.

As for equality for women I think this has improved greatly as I regularly see women in positions of senior management, this would not have been noticable in times past.

We need to work on all this some more but things are not nearly as bleak as David would have us believe. I wonder is David looking for some publicity for his comedy show ?

tut tut David.
21:07 November 22, 2012 by tommycapes
havent posted for a long time but thsi post made me mad.

how can you try and link the absolute pain a family must be going through against you experience in sweden.

you are so far off the mark and your article is utter rubbish and to be frank , embarrasing.

an irish student studying in sweden trying to be a stand up comedian! biggest laugh you will get all year.

show some respect to the family and try and think up some other irrelevant crap story to publicise yourself.
03:55 November 23, 2012 by camsterb
I'm also displeased by this article. It hugely exaggerates the gender equality situation in Ireland. I would argue that there isn't really much of a situation at all, to be honest. Ireland's developed a lot in the last three decades since the abortion law was instated. The formerly ardent Catholic majority is quickly deteriorating as the younger and more secular generations mature into society.

Gender equality in Sweden is indisputably admirable.

The situation in Ireland isn't nearly as deplorable as suggested in the article, though.
14:57 November 23, 2012 by cogito
Some men who come here are so desperate to be accepted that they pander to the locals' bigotry. They praising everything Swedish as superior while bashing the place they came from.
16:20 November 23, 2012 by ThePassenger

I wish this was not so common....

And actually if you dig deeper you might (I repeat might) find they left their countries with certain "issues" that prevent them from being objective (or at least less rigid) when it comes to judging motherland .

It's more sad than frustrating.
18:06 November 23, 2012 by ciaron9000
40,000 abortiona a year,forced sterilizations,arms deals as we speak to 3rd world dictators,8 year olds going to school alone and home alone ,oh and I nearly forgot,no universal unemployed benefit so if you loose your job there's a good chance you loose your home,catch yourself on Dave,Ireland is based on Family and Scandinavia is based on economy nothing wrong with that you you just make your choice I think both countries could learn from each other.
19:55 November 23, 2012 by NiGabhan
Seriously though David, do you live on the set of Ballykissangle? As the cliched image you paint of Ireland is not one that I recognise in the real world. I am generally a pretty 'lagom' kind of person but this article made me mad on SO many levels. Perhaps I'm too damaged by my country of origin, but I have not entered a period of enlightenment since moving to Sweden. As an Irish woman, I don't feel oppressed, I can speak up for myself, I previously worked in tough male dominated sector, successfully, as does my sister AND in Ireland of all places! Of course we can learn from Sweden, and Sweden can learn from us. But the situation is not as black and white as you paint it, far from it….rant over, I'm off to polish my crucifixes!
21:06 November 24, 2012 by tommycapes

you summed it up perfectly. The expat that slates his own country to make him feel as if he fits in in his new country.

these are the most deplorable and pathetic expats out there. we all move for one reason or another but still see the good and bad in the world.

i believe in the old days people like this were called "traitors". the world today is different but the mindset of these cowards that would sell out their country of birth to be excepted is no different today than it was 100 years ago.

you need to get a reality check and realize that swedes will accept you now but will never accept you totally and if your friends have any character they would despise your pathetic attitude to your country of brith.

good luck with your comedy tour. maybe you can think of another couple of jokes about personal trauma, hopefully you never experience it!
11:19 November 25, 2012 by cogito
@tommy capes (#11)

Moreover, bashing their home country to gain acceptance backfires. Transparent pandering to a perceived local bigotry or chauvinsim actually earns these expats contempt, though Swedes they are too polite to show it

@The Passenger (#8)

Right. many of the men who come here--especially those from the U.K. and the U.S.A.--are fleeing "issues" back home.
16:33 November 25, 2012 by irish_bob
the author of this article is your typical smug , right on pc white knight , those guys are about as capable of original thought as your average goldfish

their is a inequality in ireland between the sexes

if a 16 year old boy has sex with a fourteen year old girl , he can find himself up on a rape charge

if a 16 year old girl has sex with a fourteen year old boy , nothing happens

seperated men have almost no parental rights regardless of how poorly the mother of his children treats his kids

womens prisons are like hotels in comparisons to the dungeons where men sleep , eat and slop out , some feminists in ireland have suggested that prison is never a suitable place for a woman regardless of what crime she may have commited

as for the alledged gender pay gap , women are more likely to leave the workforce at a younger age in order to start familys , hence their inability to climb the wage ladder , its against the law to pay someone less based on sex , race or religon so in effect , their is no gender pay gap in real terms

of course all of theese details are ignored by the feminist movement and its ( broadly speaking ) media fellow travellers
21:13 November 26, 2012 by Ter76
This article is mental, David when exactly did you leave Ireland? 1954? My daughter was in school in Ireland and guess what she didn't start with prayers, actually her school a gael scoil actually didn't teach any religion! Relics in every house hold? Maybe from the last generation, however I currently know very view people that have any religious relics in there homes. I have not read such rubbish in ages... I could go on but the feed back from nibbler basically sums up my views too..(well said Nibbler).
05:26 November 29, 2012 by Karein
There is NO law in Ireland that prevents doctors from delivering a baby prematurely when there are complications like this. A doctor who does not know this should not be allowed to practice. So what is going on here?

Abortion - where the aim is the delivery of a dead baby - is never necessary to save a mother's life. This case is tragic!
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