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Gender & Law: New Research Presented in Umeå

A growing field with great diversity – this is how the legally oriented gender research in the Nordic countries is described. Read more about some of the research projects presented at last week’s conference.

Illustration: Emma Hanquist
 Illustration: Emma Hanquist

The conference in Umeå 5–6 May included 30 paper presentations on a wide range of topics. Daniela Alaattinoglutalked about her research on forced sterilisation in Sweden. Her study compares the sterilisations performed on racial-biological grounds from the 1930s to the 1970s with the sterilisations of transsexuals performed until 2012. In the former cases, the Swedish government has issued an official apology and paid out large amounts of money in compensation. However, no such initiatives have been made in relation to the latter cases.
‘The groups are categorised differently and I wonder what that says about their different positions in society,’ said Alaattinoglu during her presentation.

Ninety-three per cent of the 63 000 individuals who were sterilised on racial-biological grounds were women. Daniela Alaattinoglu can only speculate about the reason for this.
‘It could be because women were more accessible to the health care sector for example in connection with pregnancies, but that’s probably not the whole truth. It might also have to do with a desire to control women’s sexuality.’

Louise Langevin, professor at Laval University in Quebec, was one of the guests who had travelled the furthest to attend the conference. She talked about her research concerning surrogate motherhood, where she studies the tension between different feminist analyses. Surrogate mothers are viewed either as vulnerable and in need of legal protection, or as actors acting based on self-interest.
‘Do they have enough information and opportunities to be able to negotiate? Do they have real power over the situation? That’s a core issue,’ she said.

Illustration: Emma hanquist
 Illustration: Emma hanquist

Daniela Cutas and Elin Jonsson from Umeå University participated in a session focusing on the family and the welfare state. Their partly overlapping projects concern norms in relation to family and parenthood.

Cutas is leading a project analysing the ethical and political issues surrounding assisted reproduction. The project looks closer at the arguments regarding who should be granted parenthood in an era with increasing availability of assisted reproductive technology. Sexual relations are rewarded despite the fact that the reproduction does not have anything to do with sex in these cases, she concluded.
‘Friends and siblings who want to have a child are not approved, but why?’

Jonsson’s research makes it evident that a child is supposed to have two and only two parents. This summer, Sweden will start allowing women without a partner to get inseminated, and no Nordic country currently allows a child to have more than two legal guardians.

Updated 2 May 2020