Norway’s government minister in charge of culture and equality, Abid Raja, said he hopes the Oslo-based men’s club Norske Selskab will “wake up” and open up for female members. He called their current “men only” membership “incredibly old-fashioned.”
Raja told state broadcaster NRK that Norske Selskab, which has around 1,200 members who mostly are affluent Norwegian men in powerful positions, defies the “culture of inclusion and equality that we’re so proud of in Norway. I can only encourage them that we’re in 2020 now and to wake up.”
The club’s refusal to admit women has stirred controversy for years but especially in the past several months, after newspaper Dagbladet and Dagens Næringsiv (DN) have written articles about growing unrest within the club and a string of men leaving the club as a result of its discriminatory stance. Many prominent members, from violinist Arve Tellefsen to former insurance executive Idar Kreutzer, have cancelled their membership in protest of their club’s gender discrimination. Others are publicly complaining that they want their club to be respected, not ridiculed.
Hanne Bjurstrøm, Norway’s equality and anti-discrimination ombud, confirmed that private clubs and organizations in Norway can restrict their membership to one gender, but it may become illegal if the club is large and influential. She said her agency had not made a “concrete evaluation” of Norske Selskab, “but I think it’s very important to say that it’s unnatural today to have such an organization or association without being open to both men and women.” The club’s “foreman” who leads its board, Thon Hotels chief executive Morten Thorvaldsen, once again declined comment.