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[Newsmaker] Seoul city government under fire for sexist tips for pregnant women

The front page of the website of Seoul Metropolitan Government's Pregnancy and Childbirth Information Center (Pregnancy and Childbirth Information Center)
The front page of the website of Seoul Metropolitan Government's Pregnancy and Childbirth Information Center (Pregnancy and Childbirth Information Center)
The Seoul city government came under fire after it published sexist and gender-stereotyped guidelines on its website for pregnant women suggesting household chores and child care are women’s responsibility.

According to the guidelines, a pregnant woman needs to prepare food, clothes and daily necessities for her family so that they are not inconvenienced by her absence while she is in hospital to give birth. The guidelines also suggested a woman should take care of her appearance during pregnancy.

The content from the website was taken down following criticism.

The guidelines were published on its website “Pregnancy and Childbirth Information Center,” which opened in 2019 to provide information on pregnancy and childbirth. The content there is described as being “supervised” by the Korean Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said that it had copied the information from the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s pregnancy guidelines.

The ministry said it realized the content was inappropriate and gender-biased and deleted it in 2019.

In the “preparation during end-of-pregnancy” section, a woman was advised to prepare three to four dishes and keep them in the fridge for the husband and children before going to the hospital to give birth.

“Get rid of old food in the refrigerator and prepare three or four side dishes that family members like. If you have some instant food prepared, your husband who is not good at cooking can easily prepare it,” it said.

Also, it advised women to prepare underwear, socks and shirts that her family can wear for about a week and check the remaining amount of daily necessities at home.

“As you’ll be at the hospital for about three to seven days, you should prepare clean underwear, socks, shirts, handkerchiefs, and outerwear in the drawer so that your husband and children can change,” it said.

The guidelines say it is a matter of time for a woman to gain weight and she must not put off “household chores such as cleaning or washing dishes” because it could help her “manage her weight during pregnancy without an extra workout.”

According to the tips, a woman was advised to visibly hang up clothes of smaller size, or clothes that she used to wear prior to marriage, as motivation to lose weight after childbirth.

By Ock Hyun-ju (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)
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