Video exposes Swedish ‘anti-gay discrimination’

Video exposes Swedish 'anti-gay discrimination'
Straight and gay job seekers were treated differently. Photo: STHLM Panda screenshot
A member of a Swedish duo who went undercover to expose how employers treat gay job seekers has spoken to The Local about the video, which casts a dark shadow over Sweden's tolerant image.

The video by the team at social experiment group STHLM Panda shows two actors, played by Konrad Ydhage and Olle Öberg, interviewing for the same job at a warehouse company. One pretends to be unqualified with no apparent interest in the workplace, the other has all the right qualifications and is keen to start as soon as possible.

A straightforward enough choice, you would think. And as Öberg's job interview progresses the employer appears to become more and more convinced he is the perfect candidate.

But there is one more factor we have not yet mentioned. When the actor lets slip he has a boyfriend, the mood changes. The interviewer immediately cuts short their chat and refuses to shake his hand.

Meanwhile, Ydhage's lazy and good-for-nothing character gets a call from the employer offering him the job. “We interviewed a couple of others,” says the man, “but you were the best”.

“We got a tip-off from a guy who said he had been fired from this specific position. He claimed that he had been fired after his boss found out he had a boyfriend. He asked us to apply ourselves and see if it was true,” explained Öberg to The Local on Wednesday.

“We were prepared from the start that the manager would be slightly homophobic, but I was not ready for the conversation taking such a sharp turn and that he would not want to shake my hand. It felt so wrong and I got annoyed,” he said.

It is not the first time the STHLM Panda group has explored divides in Swedish society. The group has previously hit the headlines with social experiments exposing class discrimination on Swedish buses, and a video investigating if richer or poorer areas are more likely to give money to beggars.

“The most important thing we can do is talk about that this problem actually existing and stand up for those people who need it. This clip has a nice message which I hope will spread. I've already been contacted by several people thanking us for what we're doing and the video seems to be generally appreciated,” said Öberg.

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Sweden normally enjoys a reputation as a tolerant nation. In May this year the country was rated the top spot in Scandinavia for LGBTQ people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) by campaign group ILGA-Europe. And discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation remains against the law.

Clas Lundstedt, press spokesman for the Swedish Discriminination Ombudsman, told The Local after being shown the video that although he was unable to comment on a specific case that had not been investigated by the Ombudsman, based on what was shown in the clip alone it appeared to be “a case of discrimination”.

Four cases involving discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation have been taken to court by the Discrimination Ombudsman in the past two years according to statistics on the body's website. But it is often difficult to prove an offence took place, according to Lundstedt.

“It's important to try to save as much as possible that can support what you have been through. That could be saving email conversations, speaking to potential witnesses and also try to record as much about the circumstances as you can remember, so that it will emerge in a potential investigation. A video or audio recording can be used as evidence in some cases,” he said.