Foreign Minister Margot Wallström.
As the #metoo campaign against sexual harassment and assault spreads around the world, Swedish politicians are taking notice. Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström praises women for standing up for themselves, and says their appeals need to be followed up by review of legislation.
The campaign has gained a lot of attention in Sweden, with several well-known women taking a stand and speaking out in public about their experiences of sexual harassment. The foreign minister has also talked about an unwanted experience of her own, during an EU-dinner.
“I can confirm that this happens also at the highest political level and I too have experienced this,” she told the news agency TT.
In a book by the Swedish journalist Jan Scherman, Wallström mentioned an incident that took place when she was working with the EU and was at a dinner with several EU-leaders.
“Suddenly I felt a hand on my lap. The man next to me at the table started to fondle me. It was surreal,”
Margot Wallström in the book Räkna med känslorna
Wallström left the dinner and later brought it up with the then Chairman of the EU-commission, José Manuel Barroso.
“Barroso thought it was completely unacceptable. But I do not know if he said anything to the person. I was shocked about what happened,” Wallström said in the book.
When asked today about her own experiences with sexual harassment, she told TT that she did “not want to speak about it too much from a personal point of view, but I can confirm that this happens also at the highest political level”.
Talking about the #metoo campaign she said:
“Brave women and girls around the world are stepping forward, but I am also thinking like a politician: What do we do about it? These kinds of appeals are not enough, they have to lead to measures being taken. We have to think about what our laws look like, and how do we change people’s mindsets, and how can we use all our channels to deal with this?”
The Minister for Equality Åsa Regnér, who used to be the general secretary of the national organisation for sexual education RFSU, also took note. She told Swedish Radio that these types of campaigns can make a difference.
“When women speak out about harassment and come up with proposals for improvement this puts it on the agenda. History has been driven forward by campaigns and testimonies from witnesses and lobbying from women and women’s movements,” she said.