Freedom of expression vs. gender equality
Eva-Maria Svensson is Professor of Law at Department of Law. Her research focuses on legal philosophy and theory, feminist legal studies, gender equality and freedom of expression.
Eva-Maria Svensson is Professor of Law at Department of Law, School of Business, Economics and Law. Her research focuses on legal philosophy and theory, feminist legal studies, gender equality and freedom of expression. She is the principal investigator of the research project Market-driven and democracy-driven freedom of expression financed by Ragnar Söderberg Foundation (2013-2016). The aim of the project is to study the legal changes in Sweden, EU and USA, and how media's dependency on income from advertising is dealt with in those jurisdictions. The research group consists of Eva-Maria Svensson, Maria Edström, Department of Journalism, Media and Communication, and research assistant Britt Börjesson Department of Journalism, Media and Communication, University of Gothenburg.
The article Freedom of expression vs. gender equality was published in the Nordic journal of legal science Tidsskrift for Rettsvitenskap.
What is your article about?
The article focuses on the tension between two fundamental legal principles – the freedom of expression and gender equality – and the debate about how this should be balanced. It also introduces the concepts market-driven and democracy-driven freedom of expression with which the tension between the two legal principles can be analysed.
In your opinion, why does Sweden still rely on self-regulation while other Nordic countries have regulations covering gender discriminatory advertisements in one form or another?
In Sweden, freedom of expression has been the explicit argument for not regulating gender stereotypes in the media even though there have been
many possibilities to do so over the years. The quotation cited in the introduction, "… I would rather protect the freedom of speech than legislate against gender discriminatory advertising" by the former liberal Minister of Gender Equality, is symptomatic of the Swedish position. In the other Nordic countries it has been perceived as a matter of obstacle to achieve gender equality or merely as a kind of unwanted sort of advertisement. Freedom of expression seems not to have been understood as relevant.
What are your research results?
The Swedish approach is identified as a market-driven approach within an extensive legal system of freedom of expression that in general could be interpreted as democracy-driven. And, there is a risk that the acceptance of gender stereotypes in advertising is being consolidated despite, and in contrast to, state obligations to take all appropriate measures to achieve gender equality.
Are you planning to follow up on this subject?
The article focuses on one aspect of a more general trend of commercialization of freedom of expression, considered in the research project Market-driven and democracy-driven freedom of expression which will be followed up at the conference Law and Society in the 21st Century in Oslo, 10-12 June 2015. I will talk about The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and why it has been referred to and used so little in Sweden. On the more general level, we plan to publish more articles. For example, we work together with Andrew Kenyon, professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Media and Communication at Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne on an article on the system of freedom of expression and the challenges that it is exposed to today.
What is the next step in your research?
We will participate in the NordMedia conference in Copenhagen and in a seminar at Almedalen this summer. We are organizing and hosting the conference Communicative democracy - Protecting, promoting and developing free speech in the digital era in October this year at the School if Business, Economics and Law. Link to the invitation.
Read the article in full text
Read more about the co-author Maria Edström, Senior lecturer at Journalism, Media and Communication, Department of Journalism, Media and Communication