Pregnant minister falls foul of feminists

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The Independent Online
NORWAY'S feminists have got their blue stockings in a twist. They are accusing Grete Berget, the pregnant Minister for Children and Family Affairs, of betraying the cause because she does not want to take even a quarter of the year-long maternity leave provided by her own government's new legislation.

The women's movement feels it has worked hard to win the right to a year's parental leave, which can be divided between mother and father as they see fit. Ms Berget, however, plans to take only 10 to 12 weeks off and her husband, a Swedish journalist, about two months.

The issue has divided feminists, some of whom fear that recession-hit employers would use Ms Berget's short leave as a precedent. They say she should stop acting like a surrogate man and resign.

Ms Berget - caught between the Scandinavian's entrenched sense of duty as a mother, woman and servant of the state - has told the feminists her decision is a private matter. It is thanks to women in politics, she adds, that 'we've worked our way up to the top in Europe in child care, along with Sweden'.

As Norwegians watch their welfare state collapse under the weight of recession, the debate is deemed by some to be a luxury. Elsewhere in Scandinavia, others are still trying to cling to the model of yesteryear: in Sweden, the Liberal Party has proposed monetary rewards for couples where the father takes half the parental leave.

Others point out that Ms Berget is not the world's first woman cabinet minister to have a child while in office. Benazir Bhutto had a daughter during her first term as Prime Minister of Pakistan. There, she was considered a role model for modern women: she went back to work within days of giving birth.