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Enlisted Men (and Women): Sweden Hopes Gender Perspective Makes a Better Army

© AFP 2021 / ALEXANDER DROZDOV / INTERPRESSA female Swedish soldier participates in joint Russian-Swedish military training exercises, 12 December 2007, outside St. Petersburg in the town Kamenka
A female Swedish soldier participates in joint Russian-Swedish military training exercises, 12 December 2007, outside St. Petersburg in the town Kamenka - Sputnik International
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Sweden, which sees itself as a role model for gender equality, spares no effort in improving its record stronger and striving to reach the next level of egalitarianism. Earlier this month, the Swedish Armed Forces released a manual, aimed at teaching personnel from a gender-neutral perspective.

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The goal of the new 100-pages-thick handbook is to promote equality in the army through imposing a gender perspective in military operations. According to Swedish army bosses, this step will strengthen Sweden's position as an international model and improve the Armed Forces recruitment and operational impact. At present, Sweden is considering a gender-neutral draft and hopes to be able to recruit from entire Swedish population.

"Gender perspective is just as important as taking into account the weather and enemy combat value," Jan Thörnqvist, Chief of Operations of the Swedish Armed Forces, told Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.

According to Thörnqvist, the goal is to reach a greater operational efficiency and a better work environment. The new manual includes both theoretical discussions about gender equality and concrete examples of how it should be implemented in operations and exercises.

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The focus on gender issues should place Sweden's armed forces at the forefront of equality in defense work. Sweden is expected to become a role model in international operations. The focus has been placed on, among other things, preventing and stopping sexual violence and harassment in the army.

"Swedish units can help to raise awareness within multilateral organizations on the importance of gender-related issues. This can be done by developing gender-specific report formats, as well as introducing gender perspective at meetings and in plans. We are far ahead compared to many other countries. But there is much left to do. We shall not beat our chest and say that we are all prepared, instead, this is something we must work on continually," Thörnqvist said.

​Almost instantly, the gender manual, which embodies Sweden's obsession with gender equality at all costs, became a laughingstock amongst Swedes online.

​Earlier in September, Sweden proudly achieved a long-term gender equality target that dated back to the 1980s, with women now making up half of the members of government bodies.

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Recently, the Swedish government announced plans to launch a new agency, dedicated to achieving a gender-equal society. Along with the new agency, the Swedish government is expected to present a new national strategy on violence against women, with a 900 million SEK ($106 million) budget allocated to it for the next four years, the Swedish tabloid newspaper Expressen reported.

These plans left the Swedish public perplexed.

"It requires the right kind of policy to break the huge inequality and the great alienation that many women live in. A new authority will do nothing to help the exploited," Elisabeth Svantesson of the Conservative Party said.

Earlier this week, her party, which is currently part of the opposition against the "red-green" government, successfully killed a government proposal to impose fines of up to five million SEK ($600,000) on companies that fail to meet the requirement of having at least 40 percent of female board members.

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