Iceland’s Foreign Minister wrote a column for The Guardian arguing a number of points in Iceland’s favour about men’s role in gender equality.
The piece is written in reference to the United Nations’ HeForShe campaign, in which Iceland’s participation garnered an award as the most mobilised nation in the world in the project. Gunnar pointed out that one in 20 Icelandic men have signed up for the campaign, which would be the equivalent of 1.5 million British men, instead of the actual number, which is 35,000. In speculating on the reasons for the discrepancy, Gunnar offered the following:
“In 1980 we elected the first female president in the world, we implemented the gender equality act almost forty years ago and this year celebrate 100 years since women gained the right to vote. Iceland continues to rank first in the World Economic Forum gender parity index. In Iceland, 40% of parliamentarians are women, and 44% of the members of local governments are women. Women’s participation in the labour market in Iceland is one of the highest in the world at close to 80%, almost on a par with men.”
Gunnar does concede that “we are not there yet”. Which is true, as Iceland’s gender wage gap is at 18.3%, slightly higher than the average in both the EU and the US. According to a study from the City of Reykjavík this year, 42% of women in Iceland have been subjected to violence at some point in their lives from the age of 16; about 45,000 assaults in all, with some 12,000 sexual assaults or attempted sexual assaults in Reykjavík alone. Women of foreign origin are particularly vulnerable, as Icelandic immigration law makes it difficult for women from outside the EEA to leave an abusive partner lest they face deportation.
“Hundreds of thousands have joined [the HeForShe campaign] already but we need more,” Gunnar writes. “We need men to talk, listen and educate. Gender inequality cannot be the legacy we leave behind.”