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Sweden slams forced maternity leave

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 25 Feb 2010, 13:45

Published: 25 Feb 2010 13:45 GMT+01:00

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"It should be a voluntary right for parents, not maternity leave by force," Birgitta Ohlsson told The Local on Thursday.

The Swedish government fears that if the proposal were to be adopted by the EU parliament and ratified by the Council of Ministers then Sweden would be forced to change its system of parental leave that allows parents to share around 14 months of paid leave.

The minister plans to travel to Strasbourg in March to lobby against the proposal in the EU parliament and has joined forces with Left Party MEP Eva-Britt Svensson, the chair of the parliament Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality.

"Sweden is a pioneer when it comes to feminist issues, with radical family policies in an international perspective. We should not point the finger but we can inspire other countries in the EU. Feminists have to unite across party lines," Ohlsson said.

The Swedish government is also opposed to the directive as it contains little mention of the father, identifying only the mother as being synonymous with parenthood.

"We have to encourage parents to share more of the parental leave. More EU countries have to recognise the causal link between equality, childcare and economic growth," Ohlsson said.

Birgitta Olsson, who is herself expecting a baby in July, explained to The Local that the directive would thus have prevented her from accepting the position as Sweden's minister for EU affairs.

"If the EU wants to have more women in leading positions, then this is a step in the wrong direction. More parental leave in the EU is positive, but it should be a right and not an obligation."

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"Politics needs to adapt to the people and not the other way around," she argued.

The proposal, which would introduce a minimum requirement of 18 weeks parental leave, will be subject to a parliamentary vote in March.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

17:08 February 25, 2010 by EtoileBrilliant
Birgitta Ohlsson needs to think before she opens her mouth. The EU are trying to put through positive reforms for mother and new borns insisting that the mother is at home during this vital period. I would be surprised if less than 99.9% of mothers don't take the first 6 weeks of parental rather than give it to their spouses.

Ohlsson is just angry because it will be made compulsory and not an option and that ain't good for the sisters.
18:39 February 25, 2010 by mikmak

"I would be surprised if less than 99.9% of mothers don't take the first 6 weeks of parental rather than give it to their spouses."

So you wouldn't be surprised if 100% of mothers don't take the first 6 weeks?? I lost track after a few negations...
19:58 February 25, 2010 by Frobobbles
Feminists are insane.
20:03 February 25, 2010 by ShaneW
Nope I think she is right. I am a libertarian and not a Feminist. The family should decide who stays at home, not the EU!!!
20:36 February 25, 2010 by EtoileBrilliant
If the baby could vote, he'd go for mamma. Sometimes the baby's needs trump the mother's political persuasion. This is a case in point.
20:40 February 25, 2010 by Swedesmith
Perhaps mamma is the breadwinner for the family. It is best left up to the parents whom should or should not take maternity leave. Do we want the government interferring with every aspect of our lives?
20:57 February 25, 2010 by craicen
Yea government shouldn't decide even if femicommies are mentally ill. Funny we make laws that say a calf has to have a certain amount of time to suckle on his mother in the interest of animal welfare because we recognize that it is in their nature and the best for their wellbeing. But we, the ultimate mammals who in our natural state suckle our young longer than any other mammal, will tear own own young from his mother's breast for ideology or money. Sick world under the ruby.
21:04 February 25, 2010 by conboy
More Swedish inability to face up to reality. During the first six weeks the mother and child need to bond and get used to each other emotionally only feministic lunatics and academic misfits suggest anything else - as a father of two I have no time for any more of this patent feminist claptrap dressed up as some kind of beneficial sociological development. Swedish politicians are tolerating a corp of feminist clones who are ruining the lives of couples who are bullied into buying into their eyewash. Fair play to the EU at least this time!
22:12 February 25, 2010 by Nemesis
I normally pay a lot of attention to what feminists say, however on this they are very wrong.

Children come before all ideology followed by parental bonding to that child, without exception. All other concerns are secondary. There is no exception. Both the mother and father should stay home the first ten weeks to cement the relationship with the baby.

The first back to work should be the father only once the mother is comfortable looking after the child on her own, followed by the mother when suitable childcare arragements have been made and the child is fully bonded and weaned from the mother.
22:24 February 25, 2010 by California Girl 3
@ Nemesis

"followed by the mother when suitable childcare arragements have been made and the child is fully bonded and weaned from the mother."

Good lord! Was I supposed to wait until my kids were weaned??? They didn't fully wean until the were nearly 3, and were perfectly ready for dagis well before then.

Do I think it would be better if both parents stayed at home the first several weeks? Absolutely! Do I think mothers should be required by law to stay at home the first 6 weeks? No.
09:47 February 26, 2010 by Kaethar
A significant number of women suffer from post-natal depression. If this happens the baby should certainly not be alone with the mother but is better off with the dad or other relatives.

A ridiculous law and I'm glad Sweden is protesting.
09:53 February 26, 2010 by rybo1
Yes, Sweden should protest by leaving the EU.
09:59 February 26, 2010 by Rutkowski
I'm a dad on parental leave and I have been since our seven-year-old son was born and this law wouldn't have made this able. Yes, kids need their mothers but get this; they also need to have a working economy. If this law were in effect my wife would have to postpone another year of studies just so she could be home the first few weeks instead of me who were able to stay home without any issues which would effectively ruin our economy in a year or so due to her running out of student loans soon.

But no, the patriarchially sexist males here and in the EU wants to dictate how we raise our kids despite us not doing anything that harms them then they whine next week in another article that the government gets into the personal lives of their citizens so much. Get real or get bent, seriously.
11:08 February 26, 2010 by craicen

You are right on only one thing, the government should get out of family life. Now that means Sweden must end all its tax and benefit policies that punish women who want to stay home to raise their children. Yea get real Sweden and join the rest of the world. Up with the moms!

As for the patriarchy BS you may not want to have her bending you over so much; this might be warping your mind as well as body.
12:13 February 26, 2010 by Audrian
There is a good health reason why the mother should be home with her baby for the first six months after delivery. Breastfeeding is far superior than bottle feeding, e.g., (1) prevents the baby from infection during infancy, (2) provides balanced nutrition, which no formula has ever succeeded to matach, and (3) infants who are breastfed do not struggle with over weight when they reach adulthood while vast majority of those who are formula fed do.

The world Helth Organization (WHO) has recommended exclusive breastfeeding for six months, which requires the mother to me around her infant. A pro-women company might make facilities where mothers would breastfeed while at the workplace. The demand of Brigith Olsson should have been for this kind of service and not turn against the interest of the infant to breast feed!
21:30 March 1, 2010 by stenhuggaren
nature, nurture, nature, nurture...

"Yesterday evening I saw a film about the British author C.S.Lewis and his life in Oxford during the 1950s. In one scene Lewis takes his American fiancé to the university Christmas party and they engage in a discussion with one of Lewis' colleagues. The colleague holds a long monologue on the differences between men and women and argues that which the man has in his head the woman has in her emotional life, that men's rationality is equivalent to women's emotionality. In response to this Lewis' fiancé replied: 'Are you being rude or just mere stupid?'

So my question to you Conboy, Audrian et al - Are you being rude or just mere stupid?
09:50 March 5, 2010 by leo11m
Coming from the US, I would be happy to have forced materity leave with even a small percentage of my income paid to care for my newborn. Many employers here in the US allow women to take no more than 12 weeks off, but most maternity leave is completely unpaid.

Also a woman's job here in the US is secured for medical or pregnancy reasons only for 12 weeks in any 12 month period. If you have already used up your 12 weeks of unpaid leave due to pregancy complications or other medical reasons, you could surely lose your employment by taking more time after the child is born.

Unfortunately, it is very uncommon and not encouraged for Fathers here in the US to take extended parental leave as well, and if they do, they can only take up to 12 weeks, and again, it is not paid. Most Fathers may take a day, a few days, or maybe a week off for their child's birth, either unpaid, or they use holiday or illness pay to cover the cost.

And...14 months of shared parental leave here in the US would be a dream come true for many parents. Full-time childcare costs for an infant here are generally more than $1200 per month in most centers.
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