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"Gender Equality and the Welfare state. Debates on Marriage Law Reform in Sweden at the Beginning of the 20th Century" (in Japanese)

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  • Christina Carlsson Wetterberg

    (Department of Humanities, Education and Social Science, Örebro University, Sweden)

  • Shunji Ishihara

    (Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo)

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    Abstract

    In the beginning of the 20th century marriage legislation was reformed in all the Nordic countries. Male privileges were abolished and equality was declared. Marriage was constructed as a union between two independent individuals that could be dissolved if both wanted to. It was not until the 1960s that a similar legislation was beginning to take shape in the rest of Europe. The article starts by looking into this common Nordic marriage law reform but focus later on the Swedish reform processes and debates. The analysis is guided by three main questions: why did the reform come about, which meaning/meanings were given to the concept of equality in the debates and which role did women's organisation play in the process. The paper starts with putting the question of marriage in a wider context, discussing the reform in relation to the specific Nordic path towards a modern society. The following analysis of the Swedish debates shows that the question of marriage was closely interwoven with other contemporary political debates around social conditions, population policy, and eugenics. Establishing equality between husband and wife was one important aim behind the reform, but this aim was combined with, or even seen as a prerequisite for another, namely to strengthen the family as an institution. One of the most complex questions was how to give married women who had no property or income of their own a more free and independent position. How to reach equality in a society characterized by gender difference? This was a central and difficult question for the women's organisations. Their principal approach to women's emancipation differed, but when it came to marriage reform they cooperated to influence the new legislation. In the final analysis women's organisations understandings of equality is discussed in relation to how the concept was approached in the general political debate. One of the central conclusions is that it is necessary to put concepts like equality and feminism in its historical context and another that this Swedish and Nordic marriage legislation was as much about women's rights as about the well of the nation.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo in its series CIRJE J-Series with number CIRJE-J-251.

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    Length: 34 pages
    Date of creation: Sep 2013
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:tky:jseres:2013cj251

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