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Allow Afghan women to give massages: army adviser

Paul O'Mahony · 14 Dec 2009, 17:24

Published: 14 Dec 2009 17:24 GMT+01:00

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In a written internal document submitted from Swedish headquarters at Camp Northern Lights, Gender Field Adviser Captain Krister Fahlstedt of Afghanistan force FS17 took exception to an army contract specifying that on-base massage services should be provided exclusively by men.

"The agreement specifies, with no further explanation, that the physiotherapists (masseurs/masseuses) should be men," wrote Fahlstedt in his November submission.

The captain's investigations showed that the recommendation was followed to the letter, as two men were brought in to perform massages.

"It is the opinion of FS17 that there are no reasonable grounds for gender to be one of the profile requirements," he wrote.

Fahlstedt further stressed that his force was committed to strengthening the position of women in society by helping create the conditions in which they could become self-sufficient.

"It's not important as such whether women eventually get the job, what's important is that there's equality of opportunity and they are treated on the same terms as men," Fahlstedt told The Local.

"Contracts of this kind must always be gender neutral, and this is actually the only time I've seen an army contract worded in this way," he added.

Fahlstedt, active in both the Centre Party and the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL), returned earlier this month to Sweden from service with the FS17 force. He remains hopeful that the army will rectify the situation and begin considering the possibility of employing Afghan masseuses.

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"I haven't received a formal response yet but I have been led to believe that the necessary changes will be made to the contract," he told The Local.

Paul O'Mahony (paul.omahony@thelocal.com)

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Your comments about this article

18:45 December 14, 2009 by SarahRF
It's great they want to give women a way to sustain themselves, but is this culturally appropriate? Women have to wear bhurkas and cover their entire bodies, they're not allowed to go out without a male relative, nor are they allowed to keep jobs, in the strictest families. Surely employing these women to massage foreign men, even if it's medical, is not culturally sensitive? It could almost be seen as offensive and insulting to Afghanis... let's hope it isn't.....
19:33 December 14, 2009 by peropaco
I thought they were trying to get rid off the Taliban for that same reason so to bring gender equality.

Sarah, I have seen a few Afghan mens in Stockholm going a bout with Swedish women ;-)
20:09 December 14, 2009 by lingonberrie
There are two cans in the pantry exposed in post #2.

I agree that cultural considerations should take first priority. You may return that can to the shelf.

A few Afghani men going about with Swedish women: this is one of the realities of immigration. This happens in all of the Nations of the world.

However, opening-up this last can of worms will have this blog flooded with pros and cons and all manner of hair-pulling and histrionics.

So, you may return that can, unopened, to the shelf as well.
20:14 December 14, 2009 by Osokin
"massage" is an euphemism. They found a couple of straight soldiers who are complaining of uneven treatment
21:33 December 14, 2009 by peropaco

nooo, no worms intended. I was only trying to make a point about the Swedish soldiers asking to have a soft female touch rather than a bearded guy with halotosis.
22:52 December 14, 2009 by laura ka baal

the bearded guy missile is bigger then the swedish soldier and your whole size,if interested take it as if it doesnt makes difference to youll.
23:35 December 14, 2009 by Uncle
They get massages in the army???!!!!

Freaking good life.
00:32 December 15, 2009 by ashish.uppsala
afgans goes with swedish womans !!!

yeah its true but the more specific truth is most of afgans,iraqi,irani,pakistani etc go out with them on purpose !! Not just for friendship !!
01:10 December 15, 2009 by Investor612
LOL. Funniest thing I've read in months and simultaneously one of the saddist too.

It's a WAR and Swedes have their panties in a wad Afghan women aren't getting equal opportunity as masseuses.

A perfect example of how western societies have become so liberal they no longer can defend themselves.
01:52 December 15, 2009 by GefleFrequentFlyer
more proof that the swedes are on a boys scout trip, rather than actively contributing to the ISAF.
02:46 December 15, 2009 by Greg in Canada
My massage therapist here in Canada is female. The big problem there is that Afghanistan is a backward Muslim society where men and women are generally isolated. I can see wanting to promote women's rights in Afghanistan , but the idea of Afghanistan female massage therapists with foreign men is probably way over the top for such a society. It's probably illegal under Afghanistan Islam law for men and women to massage each other. Heck, they can't even look at each other in public unless the woman is covered head to toe. That's the reality.
04:45 December 15, 2009 by determined
@ ashish.uppsala . One nation you missed to mention in your comment. That is 'INDIA'.
04:56 December 15, 2009 by determined
@ Ref comment #12. ... Correction... For word 'Nation' please read ' Country'.
08:47 December 15, 2009 by Kevin Harris
The Swedish Army has Field Gender Advisers? How many?

There are no Afghan female masseurs in the western meaning of the word. There are prostitutes who will offer a massage as part of the service.

Any Afghan women who massaged a man would be considered by her family and community to be a prostitute. She would be expelled from her home, and would never marry; a disaster to a woman in that part of the world. Her remaining life would be short and brutal. That is why the contract Captain Fahlstedt wants amended reads as it does.

I am sure the good Captain is doing his best, but he should be kept safely back in Sweden where he can do no real harm.
08:55 December 15, 2009 by wenddiver
Great Idea, my Grandfather was with Patton's Third Army, Fifth Infantry Division in World War II. Initially the Us Army said Fraternization, between the Army and the Germans was not allowed and the population was hostile, and the Nazi's encouraged Werewolf(Nazi Partisans) activitys against the Army. As soon as the fraternization rule was over Patton made sure the troops were supplied with lots of Cigarettes, Ladies Nylons, bottled hard Liquor, Condoms, dance Records, new Dress Uniforms, gave them their Back Pay and turned them loose on the local culture. Must have worked, sorry we couldn't respect their rules and culture, but it also worked with Japan and Italy.

Hire local Massueses and Bar Tenders.
10:07 December 15, 2009 by Kevin Harris
Good news from Afghanistan at last. The US Army yesterday took this document from a captured Taliban:

"Moral at the front has fallen like dung from a well-fed camel. Stories are told amongst the noble Talib firesides are of a new and horrible torture awaiting noble Talib fighters captured by the blond blue-eyed infidels from the land of IKEA. A special cadre known at Field Gender Advisers conduct interrogations of such horror, even our own esteemed noble torturers have much to learn from them. We are handed to these blonde devils by the Americans. Nothing the American beasts do compares with what comes next. Brutes known as Field Gender Advisers offer us ginger biscuits, and make us watch PowerPoint presentations entitled Transgender Rights in Combat Environments, and Lesbianism and the Military Structure. Later, noble Talib prisoners are forced to partake in satanic ceremonies called Fika and even offered services from fallen sisters called "masseuses". Noble Talib prisoners understandably become confused and disorientated by the blond devils known as Field Gender Advisers. They question their sexuality and begin to like quiche, even above dried goat meat. Field Gender Advisers have not yet been seen in the front lines, but noble Talib fighters shake with fear at the thought. How can noble Talib fighters resist such devils? The war is lost, out esteemed noble leaders must make peace before the mighty warriors known as Field Gender Advisers fall upon us all like the rabid beasts they are."
11:05 December 15, 2009 by Nemesis
@ wenddiver

Yes, that helped get the local population slowly onside after the war. Just look at the number of British and American soldiers who came back with german brides at the end of the war. A lot of them stayed on in Germany.

On this the Swedes have the correct approach. The local population has to be engaged, not treated as an enemy.

That is how to win over the local population.

British soldiers give out chocolates to local kids in Afghanistan for good reason, to help win over the local population.

Win the local population and they win the war.

@ Kevin Harris

What are you on?????
14:06 December 15, 2009 by Osokin
Oh I hadn't noticed his title "Gender Field Adviser" haha wow. Send army of lovers and brink back the army. Engate the local population lol. Many powers have been trying to do that for centuries, how about a nice cup of stfu and leave them in peace ? Cause so far the engagement has caused them a few million dead, I doubt a few chocolate bars and whore salaries are gonna bring back the lost generations there. Sweden : Stick to what you do best : being neutral.
16:14 December 15, 2009 by orwellian
Can "neutral" Sweden bring back the troops already?
15:19 December 18, 2009 by CarlBlack
@ Kevin Harris: good point, finally somebody understood the real role of the Gender Field Advisor. But beware the revenge of SAPO for revealing government secrets...
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