Margareta Wadstein was an ombudsman seeking to end ethnic discrimination. She also actively engaged in gender discrimination cases at both a national and an international level.
Margareta Wadstein was born in Västerås in 1945. She was the first child of Hans Wadstein and Ann-Margret Wadstein, née Gustafsson. There were another two girls in the family: Elisabet, who was born in 1947, and Cecilia, born in 1954. Margareta Wadstein developed an interest in languages, politics, and international affairs at an early stage of her life. After gaining her school-leaving certificate she travelled to Paris to study French. After meeting lawyers there who dealt with human rights cases she then developed an interest in legal studies. She gained her LL.B. at Uppsala university in 1970 and then began working within the legal domain. She was employed as the deputy equalities ombudsman from 1983–1988, while Inga-Britt Törnell was serving as the first-ever equalities ombudsman. During her time at JämO Margareta Wadstein pursued several cases of gender discrimination in court and appeared in the daily press on several occasions. In 1988 she was appointed judge at the Stockholm district court.
Margareta Wadstein was involved in several investigations into cases of discrimination which concerned ethnicity and gender. She was fairly critical of the courts’ implementations of the equalities law. In an interview from 1988 she expressed her frustration about the lack of insight into and knowledge of discriminatory practises. As an expert for the appraisal of the first ten years of the existence of the equalities law, Tio år med jämställdhetslagen – utvärdering och förslag, SOU 1990:41, she and Anita Dahlberg expressed a special legal view emphasising that judges needed special training in equality cases. Margareta Wadstein also served as an expert in Kvinnovåldskommissionen (the commission into violence against women) which delivered two conclusions, namely SOU 1995:56 Ett centrum för kvinnor som våldtagits och misshandlats and SOU 1995:60 Kvinnofrid, the latter in two parts. The crime of gross violation of women’s integrity was introduced as a result of their conclusions. Eventually the payment for sexual favours also became a crime.
Margareta Wadstein served as the enquiry secretary of Löneskillnadsutredningen (the pay inequality enquiry) and the investigation resulted in the SOU 1993:7 publication Löneskillnader och lönediskriminering. Om kvinnor och män på arbetsmarknaden. A few years later she was tasked with the role of special investigator on the enquiry into the law against ethnic discrimination. The conclusions were published as SOU 1997:174 Räkna med mångfald! Förslag till lag mot etnisk diskriminering m.m., which in turn generated a new stronger law against ethnic discrimination in the workplace. It was enacted in 1999.
In 1997 Margareta Wadstein was appointed ombudsman against ethnic discrimination, a post she held until her death in 2004. During her time as ombudsman the agency produced a report entitled Discrimination against Romanies in Sweden on the project which DO had prescribed during 2002 and 2003. The project was intended to help counteract and prevent ethnic discrimination of Roma people in Sweden.
From 2002 onwards Margareta Wadstein served as an expert on the Diskrimineringskommittén (discrimination commission) which published its conclusions four years later in SOU 2006:22. Margareta Wadstein did not live to see the project completed as she passed away in 2004. She had, however, penned a special legal view in the commission’s interim report, Ett utvidgat skydd mot könsdiskriminering SOU 2004:55, on the issue of positive special treatment and she believed that the method should be applied not only with regard to gender but also to ethnicity. She also called for a principled discussion of the method.
In addition to Margareta Wadstein’s numerous international roles and contributions towards counteracting and preventing discrimination based on gender and ethnicity she also held various international positions: within the UN’s women’s discrimination committee, with the voluntary organisations’ fund for human rights, and with the European Council commission against racism and intolerance (ECRI). Shortly before her death Margareta Wadstein was elected onto the UN committee for human rights. Her death was noted in both the Swedish and the wider Scandinavian press.