‘Women’s School’ Vandalised With Misogynistic Graffiti

The premises of Kvennaskólinn, or Kvennó as it’s colloquially known, were vandalized with hateful graffiti last night Vísir reports. “There’s a great deal of misogyny in these messages,” remarked principal Hjalti Jón Sveinsson, “and we’re concerned about this kind of thinking.”

The graffiti was spray painted on the school building and grounds and included phrases such as “Fuck You!” og “Kvennó Lessur,” or “Kvennó Lesbos.”

Kvennaskólinn translates as “The Women’s School,” and was founded as the first secondary school for women in Iceland in 1874. The school was women-only for just over a century, but the first male student being admitted in 1977. Women still make up the majority of the students, but the male population has steadily increased over the years and now stands at 38%.

Hjalti Jón said it’s possible that there’s some sort of secondary school humor behind the messages that he doesn’t understand. However, while there have been various acts of vandalism on the school grounds before, he says there’s never been anything quite like this. “I’d come to work in the morning maybe and someone would have egged or spray-painted the school.”

Hjalti Jón said that the vandalism would be painted over as soon as possible and also that he’d be checking the security camera footage to try and determine who was on the grounds last night. The school is still considering whether or not to refer the matter to the police. Typically in cases like this, Hjalti would just contact the principals of other nearby secondary schools and together, they’d address this kind misogynistic and homophobic thinking directly with their students.

“They were really shocked,” said Hjalti when asked about the students’ reaction to the vandalism. “They found it really humiliating—this is just so far from their way of thinking. They’re hurt and angry.”

 

Amnesty International Calls on Iceland to Respect ‘Diverse Bodies’

A new report issued by Amnesty International uses case studies in Iceland to show how a lack of supportive legislation leads to people “born with variations of sex characteristics – who sometimes describe themselves as ‘intersex’” facing social stigma, discrimination, and potentially harmful surgical procedures.

The report calls particular attention to the Bill on Sexual and Gender Autonomy that is set to come before parliament at the end of February. Although Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has emphasized that this bill is part of her government’s commitment to being on the vanguard of LGBTQIA issues, Amnesty International asserts that it “…lacks essential protections for children. In particular, it includes no provisions to end ‘normalising’ non-emergency, invasive and irreversible surgeries on children born with variations of sex characteristics.”

Amnesty International estimates that there are roughly 6,000 people in Iceland “…with sex characteristics – genitals, gonads, hormones, chromosomes or reproductive organs – which vary from the established norms for ‘male’ and ‘female’”. The organization says that during its study of the country, it “found evidence that in Iceland, people who are born with variations of sex characteristics struggle to access healthcare that is appropriate and centres on their human rights, which in some cases can cause lasting harm.”

The organization also spoke to Kitty Anderson, the founder of Intersex Iceland, who echoed their observations, saying “[g]ood healthcare is so hard to get because we are seen as ‘disorders’ that need to be fixed…A lot of the health issues that arise are because of the treatment that we got as children. We wouldn’t have all these cases of osteopenia or osteoporosis if we hadn’t gone through gonadectomies as children and incompetent hormone therapy as teenagers.”

In closing, Amnesty International called on the Icelandic government to “…create a specialised, multidisciplinary team for the medical treatment of children and of adults with variations of sex characteristics” and to “…develop and implement a rights-based healthcare protocol for individuals with variations of sex characteristics to guarantee their bodily integrity, autonomy and self-determination.”

Read Amnesty International’s full statement on this issue, “Iceland: Diverse bodies are not mistakes to be corrected,” in English, here.

Unions Express ‘Anger and Disappointment’ Over Government’s Newly Proposed Tax Plan

Last night, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Bjarni Benediktsson presented the government’s proposals regarding tax and wage issues that have been under negation with four of Iceland’s labour unions and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA). RÚV reports that while Bjarni laid out the proposals for the public during a live new conference on Tuesday evening, earlier that day, he had presented these to the unions in a private meeting. The union chairs were, however, unimpressed by the government’s proposals: “It was hoped that the government’s involvement could rekindle the discussion,” read a statement co-signed by the chairs of each union. “But it’s clear from the government’s proposals that this hope will come to nothing.”

The government’s contribution to the debate involved a significant change to the Icelandic tax system wherein the lowest tax level would be newly set at a monthly wage of ISK 325,000 [$2,718; €2,395] a month. The taxation on this level would be 32.94%.  The tax-free limit would be set at ISK 159.174 a month, taking into account a 4% pension contribution.

Bjarni’s presentation explained that the limit for both the first and second tax levels would be ISK 325,000 in order to maximize, he said, the benefits for low-income groups, as well as people with disabilities and the elderly. Per the second level, however, those who earn less than ISK 927,087 [$7,746; €6,830] a month would be taxed at 36.94% while those who make more than that would be taxed at 46.24%.

Bjarni said that on average, taxes would go down more for women than men, and also among individuals aged 18-24. The proposal anticipates a ISK 3.6 billion [$30.1 million; €26.5 million]. In addition, the proposal asserts that the following groups will also benefit from the tax level adjustment: people aged 25 – 34, people with disabilities, the elderly, people who do not own a home, people who receive special housing benefits.

The total impact of the changes to the taxation system would amount to ISK 14.7 billion [$120.4 million; €106.1 million].

Per the unions’ co-signed statement which was issued in advance of the press conference, the chairs of the four unions—VR, Efling, VLFA and VLFGrv—responded to the government’s proposals “ …with anger and disappointment.”

“Negotiations have been in a critical position after the SA business association made an offer last week which would have led to reduced purchasing power for large groups of workers,” read the statement. “The SA in turn rejected a fair counteroffer by the four unions.” The unions plan to hold internal meetings about the issue over the next few days and will then meet with SA again in the company of a state mediator.

“The four unions stand united and steadfast in their demand that workers should be able to live off their wages,” closed the statement, asserting “that the government should make long overdue systemic changes in the direction of justice.”

Bjarni’s Power Point presentation can be accessed in full (in Icelandic) here.

Read an English translation of the union chairs’ statement, here.

Students Start Weekly Strike for Climate

A demonstration will be held in Austurvöllur square on Friday afternoon to raise awareness and urge governmental action on climate issues. The event, which is being organized by the National Union for Icelandic Students (LÍS) and the Icelandic Upper Secondary Student Union (SÍF), was announced on Facebook and per the description, will be held every Friday going forward from noon to 1pm.

“The strike is inspired by Greta Thunberg whose school strikes for climate in Sweden have garnered widespread attention,” explains the event post. “Tens of thousands of youth have followed her example and went to the streets to object to the authorities’ lack of action, in Belgium, Britain, USA, Australia, Germany, Sweden and other countries.”

The organizers point to a recent Gallup poll in which 62.6% of Icelanders reported having changed their behaviour in recent years to lessen their impact on the environment and climate. The survey showed that 51.6% of Icelanders have specifically made changes to their daily shopping habits in order to reduce their environmental impact. Around one quarter of Icelanders also reported having changed their travel habits for the same reason.

“The government published an environmental plan for 2030 with the goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2040” write the student organizers. “While we support this plan, further action is needed. The current plan is not conducive to reaching the goal of staying below 1,5° C warming. We demand actions that have the capacity to reach that goal.”

“According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2,5% of GDP must be reserved for actions towards keeping the temperature rise within 1.5° C. The Icelandic plan is to spend 0,05% of GDP per year for the next five years. We demand that Iceland rise to the challenge, listen to the scientists, declare an emergency and reserve at least 2,5% of domestic GDP for direct climate actions. The labour market must also take responsibility and therefore a certain change of mindset must take place.”

“We demand drastic action,” the event post reads in closing. “Now. For coming generations.”