During his visit to Saudi Arabia, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven compared the situation of women in the Arab kingdom with the situation of women back home in Sweden.
A delegation from the Swedish government, along with businessman Marcus Wallenberg, visited the country yesterday and today. Before the visit, there was pressure on Löfven to criticize Saudi Arabia for the view of women in the country.
But he avoided doing so. Instead, the Swedish Prime Minister told that the situation of women in Saudi Arabia is comparable to that of women in Sweden.
- It is clear that there are, as in Sweden, barriers to women, he told Expressen.
- Lack of functioning elderly care makes women go down to part time and stop working in Sweden. There are on both sides barriers for women's participation. But each country must take care of that.
The statement has met criticism from Moderates elsewhere. One of the critics is Kent Persson, former Party Secretary of the Moderate Party.
"This is really amazing. Sure foreign policy is sensitive. But this statement should be sharply criticized. From everyone," he wrote on Twitter.
Even the Liberals Party's leader Jan Björklund is critical. "Löfven must be misquoted on gender equality in Saudi Arabia. Otherwise, the statement is beyond all reason," he writes.
Löfven visited Saudi Arabia on behalf of the Swedish business community who hopes to do lucrative business with the wealthy Islamic oil-rich dictatorship. Given that, Löfven is reluctant to criticise the country's treatment of women, where women are not allowed to drive a car, must use niqab or burka outside or in public, and even have to obtain a written permission from their husbands to travel abroad.
It is not something new that Swedish top politicians are afraid of Saudi Arabia. Last year the Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström, claimed that Sharia, Islamic law, has nothing to do with Islam. It came after she criticised Saudi Arabia, and among other things, said that it is medieval methods to sentence their citizens to flogging, as was the case with the imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi.
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