Dear guests, excellencies,
I am delighted to join you here today and I would like to thank UNESCO for bringing us together for this important conversation on how to engage men and boys to address the root causes of violence against women.
We are far from eliminating violence against women and girls. The #MeToo movement and the alarming escalation in gender-based violence against women we´ve seen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are a case in point. The pandemic is also further enabling those who have in recent years successfully rolled back previous victories on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.
In the global context Iceland has been successful when it comes to progress towards gender equality and we are proud of our achievements. At the same time, we are aware of the numerous remaining challenges to fully closing the gender gap. It has been a priority for my government to address intimate partner and gender-based violence against women.
We have focused on the rights of survivors and have taken legislative steps to increase these rights. We´ve aimed to improve survivor´s trust and access to the judicial system, for instance by improving the quality and speed of investigations. We have worked actively to include men in the conversation about gender inequalities and have invited them to be part of the solution.
The Barbershop concept was developed as a way of getting men involved as partners in promoting gender equality.Violence against women is both the cause and the consequence of broader societal inequalities between men and women, and we must do all we can to end it.
In Iceland, we have put into action the first comprehensive policy on preventing sexual and gender-based violence and harassment with an action plan for the next four years. The overarching goal is to increase education on how to prevent and act on gender-based violence, to deepen the discussion and raise awareness and understanding in society.
Parental leave for both parents was implemented in Iceland in 2000, granting both parents a non-transferrable right to paid parental leave. It has been 9 months total per couple but in early 2021 it will be extended to 12 months. Designating a certain number of months to both mother and father, and making these months non-transferrable, is done to ensure that fathers also take leave when having children. This levels the playing field professionally for men and women of childbearing age when it comes to hiring and promotions. Fathers in Iceland have generally used their entitlement to paternity leave and doing so is socially well acceptable. We´ve also seen that starting off like this makes it more likely that a father will take time off later to care for a sick child and to take on more domestic responsibilities. Equal parenting changes how we think of altering traditional roles and gender stereotypes in society.
Another important gender equality milestone was reached in 2009 and 2010 when the purchasing of sex was made illegal along with commercial displays of nudity (strip-tease acts) in restaurants. An absolute ban on the commercial exploitation of nudity of employees was also set. This type of legislation is based on the view that it is unacceptable to regard the human body as a saleable good.
I wish to conclude by praising UN Women for celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Platform of Action with the ambitious Generation Equality Forum. I am particularly honored that Iceland has a leadership role in the Action Coalition on Gender-Based violence with the goal of eliminating violence against women and girls and to work towards achieving the important Sustainable Development Goal number five on gender equality.
I wish you all an insightful and fruitful talk here today. Thank you!