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    Sweden's Growing Gender Segregation: Migrants Muddy a Once-Even Playing Field

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    Despite its international profile as a champion of egalitarianism and equal opportunities, Sweden has been experiencing a worrying trend towards increased sexual segregation. Recently, several instances of segregation have stunned Sweden's education system and society in general.

    Muslim girls at Nyhem School in the town of Nässjö have been refusing to shower and change together with their Swedish peers, the Swedish newspaper Smålands-Tidningen reported. This voluntary segregation has reportedly gone on for several years, only to be discovered recently amid a spate of similar instances across the country.

    Local sports teacher Lena Götesson informed the newspaper that the girl's parents forbade them to undress or change clothes in the presence of Swedes. However, the situation was amicably resolved, as the "shower rebels" were allowed to change and take a shower in the teacher's dressing room.

    "I never thought it was a big problem," Lena Götesson told Smålands-Tidningen. She was also reluctant to answer whether or not similar "shower bans" by Muslim parents could be interpreted as a sign of reluctance to participate in the Swedish society.

    In another piece, the same newspaper revealed the existence of gender-segregated classes, which clearly runs counter to the foundations of the Swedish education system. In particular, gender segregation occurs in sports and swimming classes, mostly as a concession to the newly arrived Muslim immigrants, who loathe the idea of their daughters playing sports and swimming together with boys.

    Last week, news of the independent Muslim al-Azhar school in the Stockholm suburb of Vällinge dividing its students by gender on the school bus sparked a debate on the influence of Islam on Swedish society and schools. It was revealed that boys and girls are placed in the front and the rear parts of the bus, respectively, and use different doors to enter and exit. The school defended itself by claiming that boys are rowdy and must be kept apart. "Nevertheless, the revelation triggered a stern condemnation from Prime Minister Stefan Löfven himself," one newspaper reported.

    "I think it's disgusting. It simply does not belong in Sweden. Here we ride the bus together, whether it's a girl and a boy, a woman or a man. This indicates that we have more things to handle in terms of segregation," Stefan Löfven.

    The segregation also triggered a discussion on the future of religious "free schools," which currently number 66 in Sweden. Current laws do not allow religious elements during lessons, only at breaks and during extracurricular activities.

    However, segregation involves adults as well. Earlier in April, immigrant women in a suburb of Malmö were reported to be starting separate cafes in order to be able to take part in public life without being eyed, controlled or felt up by men. Swedish Radio reported that project received help from the Growth Board to develop social enterprises where the new arrivals can find a job.

    Swedish teacher and writer Hanna Gadban has claimed honor-related violence, gender segregation and virginity checks are now a feature of life in Sweden nowadays. The biggest challenge facing today's suburbs is that this no longer takes place in the background, she wrote in an opinion piece in the tabloid newspaper Expressen.

    "Habits we have long associated with cultural patterns, rituals and religious practices in other, distant lands and environments are now a part of our own Swedish reality," Hanna Gadban wrote.


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    equality, gender discrimination, gender equality, Scandinavia, Sweden