Women currently hold the four most powerful positions in Norway, have arguably the best equal rights in the world and generous social welfare benefits like lengthy paid maternity leave. That wasn’t stopping them from marching in what may be the biggest International Women’s Day demonstration in years on Saturday. Organizers were expecting a large turnout, with many women mobilizing to protest proposed changes in Norway’s abortion law.
Politicians have stressed that women’s rights to abortion will not be affected, but debate has been flying for months over the Christian Democrats party’s demand that the new Conservatives-led government allow doctors to opt out of referring patients for the procedure. That’s set off huge opposition, and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that it’s prompted many women who’ve never marched on March 8 to do so for the first time.
Among them is also former Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who told NRK on Friday that he’ll march along with the women for the first time in decades. So will many other politicians from all sides of the political spectrum.
Pioneer sounds the alarm
“I hope and believe that many, many people will turn out on Saturday,” Fam Irvoll, a 33-year-old Norwegian fashion designer, told NRK. Her grandmother, Grete Irvoll, was among the pioneers to push through Norway’s law that ultimately gave women the right to abortions 40 years ago. Now she also fears the Christian Democrats’ proposal, which the coalition government felt forced to accept because of a support agreement hammered out last fall, is chipping away at rights long-held by women.
Other issues will be also be highlighted during Saturday’s march, which in Oslo was due to begin at 3pm from Youngstorget and proceed through the capital. Other marches and Kvinnedagen events were being organized all over the country.
Some marching in aprons
Some were due to also feature women marching in aprons, as they attempt to win more respect for those women who still opt to be homemakers, of which there are an estimated 47,000 in Norway. Others will be protesting against homemakers, arguing that they fail to add to the tax base and set a poor example to their children. “It shouldn’t be a right to stay home and live off of others’ hard work,” claimed Heidi Nordby Lunde, a Member of Parliament for the Conservative Party.
Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that women hold the positions of prime minister and finance minister in Norway and women also now lead the national employers’ organization NHO and the confederation of trade unions, LO. Those are considered the four most powerful positions in Norway. Women also make up half the government cabinet and, by law, hold 40 percent of the seats of boards of directors.
There’s no doubt that women are well-off in Norway, “and that’s fine,” author and mother Eline Garmaker told newspaper Dagsavisen this week. “But I think sometimes they forget why they have it so good,” Garmaker said. “It’s all about cooperation. You can’t think that the state will take care of us. We are the state.”