New minister proposes ‘period pain days’

There were familiar faces in Sweden's governmental departments on Monday as the winners - and losers - in last week's ministerial merry-go-round got stuck in to their new jobs.

The papers marked the occasion with columns of analysis of their chances of success, but it was a cabinet virgin who stole the headlines with a proposal to give women who suffer from particularly painful periods extra official sick days.

“I want to start a discussion around this issue,” declared the new Equal Opportunities Minister Jens Orback.

According to research by Temo, 100,000 women are forced to stay at home once a month due to the condition, and more than one in three women aged 20-35 said that their period influenced their work or studies.

“If you are ill [with period pains] you have to report in sick and then you lose one of your allowed sick days. That needs to be changed,” Orback told Expressen.

Perhaps the new minister was trying to placate the fairer sex after 16 female scientists writing in Dagens Nyheter called his appointment “a blow against research into men’s violence towards women”.

They said that he advocates putting children into the care of their violent fathers. A misinterpretation, he responded, in a full length interview in Monday’s DN.

He told the paper that he has “never seen advantages in giving violent men custody of their children” – just that it’s good for men to spend more time with their kids.

“I don’t believe in a life sentence,” he said. “Maybe there’s a guy who abused his ex-wife and who after ten years wants to share custody of the children. I don’t want to take responsibility for the child who grows up and says, ‘I would have liked access to my dad too, even if he had bad sides.'”

Backing up his point, Orback confirmed to DN that he supports parental leave quotas where half of the time is taken by the father, despite the fact that “a big majority of Swedes are against the idea”, preferring to choose themselves.

“But once upon a time the majority was also against introducing kindergartens,” he said.

Leif Pagrotsky took over the job of Culture Minister this week, and Svenska Dagbladet reported that the media world – encouraged by his support while he was the Minister of Commerce of the Swedish pop industry – welcomed his appointment.

“My reaction to the announcement was immediately positive,” said Jan Scherman, the chief executive of TV4. “Pagrotsky can introduce a lot when it comes to culture’s position as a business.”

Scherman’s views were echoed by all the media bigwigs SvD spoke to, but the paper pointed out that this “should be seen against the background of his predecessor, Marita Ulvskog, who was often criticised for being unclear and slow with the important issues”.

“Marita Ulvskog came across as uninterested in Sweden’s commercial cultural life,” said Petter Nylander of media bureau OMD. “I believe Leif Pagrotsky has a more unsentimental and pragmatic view of this important part of Swedish commerce.”

SvD gave the man taking over responsibility for the rest of the Swedish economy, Finance Minister Per Nuder, a guarded thumbs-up. The paper described him as “a decidedly intellectual politician with an interest in the big picture”.

That gives him something of an advantage over the previous Finance Minister, Bosse Ringholm, who never quite shook off his lack of education where the pundits were concerned. But SvD pointed out that there are comparisons between the two politicians:

“His charisma is barely stronger than Bosse Ringholm’s.”

That’s not a compliment.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen

Lysanne Sizoo

Lysanne Sizoo is a certified Counsellor, specialising in bereavement, fertility and cultural assimilation issues. She also runs a support and discussion group for English speaking women. You can contact her on [email protected], or 08 717 3769. More information on