Birgitta Dahl

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Birgitta Dahl
Birgitta Dahl in 1990
Speaker of the Riksdag
In office
3 October 1994 – 30 September 2002
MonarchCarl XVI Gustaf
Preceded byIngegerd Troedsson
Succeeded byBjörn von Sydow
Minister for the Environment
In office
12 March 1986 – 4 October 1991
Prime MinisterIngvar Carlsson
Preceded byIngvar Carlsson
Succeeded byOlof Johansson
Minister for Energy
In office
8 October 1982 – 27 February 1990
Prime MinisterOlof Palme
Ingvar Carlsson
Preceded byCarl-Axel Petri
Succeeded byRune Molin
Personal details
Born (1937-09-20) 20 September 1937 (age 86)
Härryda, Sweden
Political partySocial Democrat
Alma materUppsala University
AwardsIllis quorum

Rut Birgitta Dahl (born 20 September 1937) is a

United Nations Children's Fund
(UNICEF) between 2005 and 2011.

Education and early career

Birgitta Dahl was born in Råda, Härryda Municipality, Västra Götaland County. She earned a B.A. at Uppsala University in 1960. During her studies she was politically active in the Uppsala Student Union.

She worked as a senior administrative officer at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency from 1965 to 1982, as a course assistant at the Swedish North Africa Institute from 1964 to 1965, at the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation from 1965 to 1967.

Member of Parliament

Dahl served as a

Member of Parliament from 1969 to 2002 (until 1970 as a member of the lower house

The 1969 elections resulted in the election of many young MPs which was then uncommon, and Dahl belonged to the first representatives of the Protests of 1968 and second-wave feminism to be elected to the Parliament. In 1969, women were still in the minority and the majority of MPs were still mainly old men, and Dahl attracted some controversy with her miniskirt and the fact that she was an unwed mother.

In 1975, Dahl motioned for the establishment of public day care and to enlarge the existing day care system to make it possible to all citizens to access it, which would make it more possible for women to combine family and work. This was a major reform within the women's movement, and was finally approved by Parliament in 1985.[1][2][3][4]

For a period of several years, Dahl worked for a reform of parental leave, so that it could be equally shared between the parents regardless of gender, instead of being reserved for mothers. This was a major reform of the parental leave system, and it was finally approved by Parliament in 1974.[1][2][5][6]

Dahl was a leading figure behind the reform of child corporal punishment laws, in which parents were outlawed from beating their children in 1979.[1][2][7][8]

Aside from motioning for new laws, Dahl worked to implement the 1965 law against rape within marriage. While rape within marriage had been banned in 1965, the law had not been used in practice, and no one was sentenced for the crime until 1984. Dahl worked for the already existing law to be made use of.[1][2][9][10]

Khmer Rouge controversy

From 1971 to 1977, Dahl was chairman of the Swedish Committee for Vietnam (from 1975 known as the Swedish Committee for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia). This was a time period with strong sympathy for Vietnam and resistance toward American involvement in South East Asia during the Vietnam war.

During the period of 1975 to 1979, when Cambodia was ruled by the government of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge party, approximately 1.7 million Cambodians were killed. Dahl created controversy when she refused to believe the reports of atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge regime. In 1976, Dahl participated in a debate on Sveriges Radio about the situation in Cambodia, where she said, among other things, that: "It was completely necessary to evacuate Phnom Penh. It was necessary to rapidly start the production of provisions and it would require large sacrifices from the population. [...] But that's not what currently is our problem. The problem is that we really don't have knowledge, direct testimonies, in order to reject all lies that are spread by the enemies of Cambodia".[11] Dahl reiterated these views in an article in the journal Vietnam Nu (published by the Swedish Committee for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) in 1977.[12] After the end of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979, the atrocities were confirmed.

Cabinet Minister

From 1980 to 1981, she served as a Swedish delegate to the United Nations.

She was Minister for Energy from 1982 to 1990, and Minister for the Environment from 1986 to 1991. She first served in the Cabinet of Olof Palme. In 1986, Palme's successor Ingvar Carlsson let her keep her position as Minister for Energy, and also gave her the post of Minister of Environment.

In the 1980 Swedish nuclear power referendum, Dahl was one of the leaders of the winning alternative, the Linje 2, to successively phase out nuclear power, but with care. When the Social Democratic Party won the 1982 Swedish general election, she was appointed Minister for Energy.

As Minister of Energy, Dahl introduced the Lagen om kärnteknisk verksamhet ('Law of Energy Technological Activity'), which was implemented in 1984 and banned any new establishment of nuclear power reactors in Sweden, but allowed research and export of nuclear power. As Minister for the Environment, she banned the use of chlorofluorocarbon, which had previously been common.

As Minister, she defended the Linje 2 of the 1980 Swedish nuclear power referendum, which was to phase out nuclear power slowly by investing in alternative energy such as carbon and natural gas. After intense campaigns during her time in office, Dahl secured support in Parliament to shut down two nuclear power reactors. This decision was supported by a large majority in Parliament from the Social Democrats, the Communists, the Greens and the Centre Party, and had the support by Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson, and Minister of Finance Kjell-Olof Feldt. Dahl publicly described this decision as irrevocable. However, the decision was met with opposition and after an intense lobbying campaign, the decision was retracted in 1989. This undermined Dahl's position, and in January 1990, she was replaced as Minister by Rune Molin [sv], who supported nuclear power.

Speaker of the Parliament

After the Election of 1994, Dahl was appointed

Speaker of the Parliament, a post she kept until 2002. She was the second woman in Sweden to serve as such. The Elections of 1994 resulted in the Parliament of Sweden becoming the most gender equal parliament in the world. As Speaker, Dahl introduced regulations in the Parliament to stop any form of sexual harassment

When Dahl was appointed Speaker of the Parliament in 1994, Per Ahlmark questioned her appropriateness to the office due to her past statements about the Khmer Rouge regime, in his book The Open Sore (Swedish: Det öppna såret).[13] In the debate that ensued, Dahl made a public apology in Dagens Nyheter, in which she wrote: "The problem was that I – and others – at the same time yet believed that much of what had been written about Cambodia were lies and speculation. We believed – incorrectly – that it was part of the propaganda to accuse the new regime in Cambodia of even worse crimes that had previously been committed. I also had a hard time imagining that something as shocking could be true. Therefore, there are some statements by me that I deeply regret. Ever since the terrible truth became clear to me, I've been in pain that I didn't grasp and repudiate the cruelties of the Pol Pot regime quickly enough."[14]

Personal life

Dahl was first married to Bengt Kettner, divorced, and was secondly married to Enn Kokk from 1986 until his death. She has three children. One of her daughters, Anna Kettner [sv], is also a former Social Democratic politician.


Dahl was awarded the Illis quorum in 2003.[15]


  1. ^ a b c d Lund, Jörgen (2016-11-28). "Birgitta Dahl: 'Jag skällde ut Palme'". Dagens ETC. Retrieved 2020-01-08.
  2. ^ a b c d Beckström, Liv (2017-05-28). "Birgitta Dahls fajter inspirerar än". Dagens Arena. Retrieved 2020-01-08.
  3. ^ Nyström, Jonas (2009). Kriminaliseringen av våldtäkt inom äktenskapet : En granskning av 1962 års brottsbalk och dess bihang (sid. 17). Hämtad från
  4. ^ Fransson, Erik (2019-01-09). "Det är en 'fin svensk sed'". Hela Gotland. Retrieved 2020-01-08.
  5. ^ Nyström, Jonas (2009). Kriminaliseringen av våldtäkt inom äktenskapet : En granskning av 1962 års brottsbalk och dess bihang (sid. 17). Hämtad från
  6. ^ Fransson, Erik (2019-01-09). "Det är en 'fin svensk sed'". Hela Gotland. Retrieved 2020-01-08.
  7. ^ Nyström, Jonas (2009). Kriminaliseringen av våldtäkt inom äktenskapet : En granskning av 1962 års brottsbalk och dess bihang (sid. 17). Hämtad från
  8. ^ Fransson, Erik (2019-01-09). "Det är en 'fin svensk sed'". Hela Gotland. Retrieved 2020-01-08.
  9. ^ Nyström, Jonas (2009). Kriminaliseringen av våldtäkt inom äktenskapet : En granskning av 1962 års brottsbalk och dess bihang (sid. 17). Hämtad från
  10. ^ Fransson, Erik (2019-01-09). "Det är en 'fin svensk sed'". Hela Gotland. Retrieved 2020-01-08.
  11. ^ "OBS-Kulturkvarten". 1976-11-10. Sveriges Radio. {{cite episode}}: Missing or empty |series= (help)
  12. ^ Dahl, Birgitta (1977). Vietnam Nu (in Swedish) (2). {{cite journal}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. .
  14. ^ Dahl, Birgitta (23 August 1997). "n/a" (in Swedish). Dagens Nyheter.
  15. ^ "Regeringens belöningsmedaljer och regeringens utmärkelse: Professors namn". Regeringskansliet (in Swedish). January 2006. Archived from the original on 2021-11-02. Retrieved 2022-05-18.

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Political offices
Preceded by Minister for Energy Affairs
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for the Environment
Succeeded by
Preceded by Speaker of the Riksdag
Succeeded by
Order of precedence
Preceded byas former Speaker of the Riksdag Swedish order of precedence
as former Speaker of the Riksdag
Succeeded byas former Speaker of the Riksdag