In July, a supreme court case in Sweden set an international precedent, stating relationships shouldn’t just be measured by sexual activity.
The case involved two women who lived together on a farm, shared finances and were in a relationship to all intents and purposes.
In January 2018, one of the women died, sparking a dispute between the deceased woman's parents and the other woman over who was entitled to her life insurance compensation.
The parties agreed that the women permanently lived together and had a common household at the time of death. But the parents argued they should get the money because the women did not have sexual intercourse and only lived together as friends.
The original law in Sweden stated that the rights of couples should only go to couples who exist in a relationship where “sexual cohabitation” is included.
Since the couple never engaged in sex, the parents argued that they should not be recognised as an “official couple”, despite years of living together and the surviving partner being named as the beneficiary.
But Sweden’s Supreme Court made an important ruling in favour of the surviving partner. It changed the conversation around what counts as a relationship - for the better.
Youtuber Tara Mooknee's video amatonormativity explores its harmful impact on society throughout history.
According to the court, even a relationship without sexual cohabitation can constitute a relationship within the meaning of the law, and this applies regardless of the reason why no sexual cohabitation occurs.
The crucial thing, the court emphasised, is that the relationship should be characterised by a close community in personal terms that occurs between married people.
This case was monumental with regards to the concept of amatonormativity, a term coined by Dr. Elizabeth Brake, professor of philosophy at Rice University in Texas.
Amatonormativity, according to Brake, is the belief that marriage and companionate romantic love have special value. It leads to overlooking the value of other caring relationships.
Amatonormativity creates a “relationship hierarchy” that stigmatizes non-sexual and non-romantic relationships as somehow inferior to relationships where sex and romance are components. This happens even if a non-romantic relationship is stronger in bond and longer lasting.
Amatonormativity and its privileges can also pressure people to enter and remain in exclusive, sexual two-partner relationships – even when such relationships are not what that individual needs.
The ruling by the Swedish Supreme Court was groundbreaking. Amatonormativity has vast legal ramifications attached to it.
In recognising that it's not labels or sexual choices that make a relationship significant, but rather the bond between individuals, this precedent deconstructs amatonormativity, opening the door to a plethora of fulfilling relationships for everyone.
Sweden has essentially reclaimed the friend zone and eliminated it at the same time.
Other nations should look to Sweden’s example if they wish to allow everyone the right to companionship and love - on their terms.
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