Maria Dexborg, leader of the Left Party in Malmö, on the current feminist and human rights debate in Sweden, which has taken a downturn since the new right-wing government came to power.
In Sweden’s national elections last year, the blue-brown right-wing parties won a majority and formed the government. For me, my family and other minorities, this means living in a country run by people who do not grant us the same rights and living conditions as the majority. This makes me both afraid and angry.
The new reactionary Swedish government has created a "Tidö Agreement" (Tidöavtalet), one of the most racist documents in Sweden today, based on inhuman policies. The "Tidö Agreement", which was presented by the Moderate Party, the Christian Democrats, the Liberals and the Sweden Democrats on 14 October 2022, hits the weakest in our society, opposes a sustainable environment and future, violates our human rights, and criminalises and dehumanises especially non-white bodies.
What is “Tidö Agreement”?
The Tidö Agreement describes the conditions for cooperation between the Conservative Party, the Christian Democrats, the Liberals and the Sweden Democrats (SD). Among other things, it aims to create opportunities for good cooperation between the parties, both in the long and short term. They want to bring about big changes and the agreement contains many milestones that should show quick results.
As the Sweden Democrats are not involved in government, the Tidö Agreement is particularly important for this party. The Sweden Democrats are referred to as a cooperation party. Moreover, the Sweden Democrats have clearly had an influence on the Tidö Agreement, as much of the agreement is shaped by their policies. Like other nationalist parties, their policies contribute to increasing inequality, from which the richest, majority white males, benefit the most, while the social gap grows and the poorest become more numerous.
With the introduction of the Tidö Agreement, a whole series of restrictive measures were presented, such as a national social intervention force, a national census, visiting zones, reduced immigration, increased control of internal borders, remigration centres, refugees’ own contribution, abolition of permanent residence permits, double jeopardy, increased camera surveillance, expansion of the penal system, renting of detention facilities abroad, national ban on begging, tightening of deportation rules for crimes and lack of good behaviour, mandatory reporting for social workers, to name but a few. These discriminatory and often racist measures were presented under the general heading of "a paradigm shift in Swedish refugee policy".
Inequality – past, present, and future
The fact is that the Swedish government has no historical consciousness and does not want to take responsibility for Sweden’s racist historical legacy and to work towards preventing oppression. Instead, they have chosen to collaborate with a right-wing party like the Sweden Democrats and have given them more room for power.
In Sweden, the normalisation of racism in the political landscape has been going on for several years. It is a frightening reality how mainstream parties have adapted to the racist rhetoric of the Sweden Democrats!
The truth is that we, the minorities, have been living under unequal conditions even before the Tidö Agreement and that our living conditions will deteriorate even further after the Tidö Agreement! The political administration is intent on finding scapegoats! They engage in politics based on manipulation and appealing to people’s fears.
The right-wing parties claim to be committed to more security in society! But whose security are they talking about? It is not mine, nor that of asylum seekers or trans people. On the contrary, in today’s Sweden belonging to a minority means feeling insecure. We do not have the privilege to feel safe! The message of the Tidö agreement is that Sweden is a country that must rely on security measures. But in reality these security measures mean gaining power over minorities. The dehumanisation of our lives and bodies is about silencing us and making us afraid if we question authority and deviate from the norm. We have to be afraid of being deported, racially profiled and losing our income.
For women and minorities in particular, the lack of equality has lifelong consequences. Research shows that children of colour are treated differently in preschool and school based on class, gender, background and function, and this is reflected in their self-esteem, health and academic performance.
Similarly, research shows that class, gender, gender identity, origin, function and other variables play an important role in access to adequate health care in Sweden, not least maternity and transgender care.
In recent years, the Left Party in Sweden has been involved in research reports showing that non-white working class and minority women have a weak position in the Swedish labour market, which de facto affects their health. It is a fact that our current pension system is not designed for working class and minority women. Women now make up a large percentage of pensioner poverty, often after years of hard and exhausting work!
The Tidö Agreement will not be able to contribute to positive changes in these areas. It has come under heavy criticism from many quarters. Trade unions warn of the impact on social workers, civil society organisations warn of the racist content that differentiates between children and children, people and people, according to their origin and citizenship status. From an intersectional perspective, we can see that Sweden’s new policy with the Tidö Agreement will affect women from minority backgrounds, especially those with refugee status.
Recognition and solidarity – the key to overcome patriarchal power
Over the ages, women’s struggle has been led mainly by women and minority groups around the world. The struggle has been important, and improvements have been achieved in small steps. However, it is important to note that the women’s struggle in Sweden has mainly enabled white, wealthy and heterosexual women to assert their rights.
Feminism is still under threat because we live in a world that is unfortunately still dominated by patriarchy and capitalism. We see different forms of oppression prevailing and interacting with each other. We also see how different minority groups continue to be oppressed in countries where the extreme right is gaining power over the government. The struggle for the rights of women and minorities around the world is more important than ever. Recognition and solidarity are two words that must guide us in the fight for human equality.
In Sweden, given the current threats posed by a right-wing government and the Tidö Agreement, it is of the utmost importance that white feminists recognise the vulnerability of racialised women and other minority groups to various forms of oppression and practice solidarity within their means. In the spirit of true women’s struggle, I hope we will all stand together every day of the year for equality and equal rights for all! For the struggle of women is the struggle of all!