• Sweden edition
 

Is rape rampant in gender-equal Sweden?

Published: 11 May 2009 11:59 GMT+02:00
Updated: 11 May 2009 11:59 GMT+02:00

A recent European Commission report identifying Sweden as the rape capital of Europe should be treated with a healthy dose of scepticism, argues sociologist Laura Agustín.

Rape is a complicated crime. A research project funded by the European Commission’s Daphne programme reveals that Sweden leads Europe in reports of rape.

At 46.5 per 100,000 members of the population, Sweden far surpasses Iceland, which comes next with 36, and England and Wales after that with 26. At the same time, Sweden’s 10 percent conviction rate of rape suspects is one of Europe’s lowest.

The report’s comparative dimension should probably be ignored. Instead of assuming that there are four times as many rapes in Sweden as in neighbouring Denmark or Finland, as the figures suggest, to understand we would have to compare all the definitional and procedural differences between their legal systems. It is significant that Sweden counts every event between the same two people separately where other countries count them as one. Most of Sweden’s rapes involve people who know each other, in domestic settings.

The countries reporting highest rates of rape are northern European with histories of social programming to end violence against women. In Sweden, Gender Equality is taught in schools and reinforced in public-service announcements. Should we believe that such education has no effect, or, much worse, an opposite effect? Raging anti-feminist men think so, and raging anti-immigrant Swedes blame foreigners. Amnesty International says patriarchal norms are intransigent in Swedish family life. Everyone faults the criminal justice system.

In contemporary Sweden, women and girls are encouraged to speak up assertively about gender bias and demand their rights. Public discussions have revolved around how to achieve equal sex: Gender Equality in the bedroom. We can consult okejsex.nu, an official campaign whose homepage shows pedestrians obliviously passing buildings full of scenes of violence, suggesting it is ubiquitous behind closed doors. Okejsex defines rape as any situation where sex occurs after someone has said no.

In many countries, and in many people’s minds, rape means penetration, usually by a penis, into a mouth, vagina or anus. In Swedish rape law, the word can be used for acts called assault or bodily harm in other countries.

That may be progressive, but it’s also confusing. You don’t have to be sexist or racist to imagine the misunderstandings that may arise. If younger people (or older, for that matter) have been out drinking and dancing and end up in a flat relaxing late at night, we are not surprised that the possibility of sex is raised. The process of getting turned on – and being seduced – is often vague and strange, involving looks and feelings rather than clear intentions. It is easy to go along and actively enjoy this process until some point when it becomes unenjoyable. We resist, but feebly. Sometimes we give in against our true wishes.

Sweden is also proud of its generous policy towards asylum-seekers and other migrants who may not instantly comprehend what Gender Equality means here, or that not explicitly violent or penetrative sex acts are understood as rape. That doesn’t mean that non-Swedes are rapists but that a large area exists where crossed signals are likely, for instance, amongst people out on the town drinking.

Discussions of rape nowadays use examples of women who are asleep, or have taken drugs or drunk too much alcohol, in order to argue that they cannot properly consent to sex. If they feel taken advantage of the next day, they may call what happened rape. The Daphne project’s Sweden researchers propose that those accused of rape ought to have to ‘prove consent’, but attempts to legislate and document seduction and desire are unlikely to succeed.

What isn’t questioned, in most public discussions, is the idea that the problem must be addressed by more laws, ever more explicit and strict. Contemporary society insists that punishment is the way to stop sexual violence, despite evidence suggesting that criminal law has little impact on sexual behaviour.

We want to think that if laws were perfectly written and police, prosecutors and judges were perfectly fair, then rapes would decrease because a) all rapists would go to jail and b) all potential rapists would be deterred from committing crime. Unfortunately, little evidence corroborates this idea. Debates crystallise in black-and-white simplifications that supposedly pit politically correct arguments against the common sense of regular folk. Subtleties and complications are buried under masses of rhetoric, and commentaries turn cynical: ‘Nothing will change’, ‘the police are pigs’, immigrants are terrorists, girls are liars.

Is it realistic or kind to teach that life in Sweden can always be safe, comfortable and impervious to outside influences? That, in the sexual sphere, everything disagreeable should be called rape and abuse? Although the ‘right’ to Gender Equality exists, we cannot expect daily life to change overnight because it does.

Laura Agustín is the author of Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry (London: Zed Books, 2007) and the blog Border Thinking.

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

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Your comments about this article

21:48 May 11, 2009 by trickyire
why??? i thought its easy to just get laid here in sweden, so why rape? hmmm....
23:21 May 11, 2009 by wxman
We've been through this before. We all know what the reason is, and until it's admitted and something is done about it, it will continue.
23:33 May 11, 2009 by Greg in Canada
" In Swedish rape law, the word can be used for acts called assault or bodily harm in other countries"

This helps to explain it. I was very sceptical that Sweden would have the highest rape incidence. A partying young woman wakes up the next morning with a hangover and regretting that she brought the guy home and starts calling it "rape"?? Under Swedish law it seems that if a woman is slapped by a man then you call it "rape"? Slapping a woman is a form of physical assault, but it's not the true definition of rape. Hmmmm....what do you call it if she slaps him? That's not to diminish to actual crime of rape when it does occur, but let's put the Swedish statistics into correct context. The definition of the word "rape" is used incorrectly in Sweden, at least as we know it in the English language..

BTW, in many English speaking countries it's no longer politically correct to use the term "rape". The new term is now "sexual assault".
16:33 May 12, 2009 by boddhisatva
The figures may be misleading due to a broad definition of rape but to ignore the link between the high instance of rape and the high levels of immigration, or to dismiss it as 'crossed signals' or 'misunderstanding gender equality' is naive. According to Brå, the Crime Prevention Council it is 4 times more likely that a rapist was born abroad, with the vast majority being Muslim. This is because of many factors, not least attitudes to a) Integration, see;

http://europenews.dk/en/node/21789

and b) women, see;

http://theopinionator.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/04/sweden-tops-europe-for-number-of-rapes.html

in Muslim communities. This is not racism, it is a question of cultural attitudes, be they from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa or anywhere. The problem is exacerbated by political correctness and fear of being labelled racist. Any discussion of cultural difference is taboo.
00:58 May 13, 2009 by askin
Two things would help to reduce "rape":

a)Education of people "to feel love" and "to find love".

b)Education of people to respect others

Our cities don't provide us with the satisfactory possibilities either, to find our suitable partners, especially as the rate of in-migration and immigration are so high.

Askin Ozcan

Author of STOCKHOLM STORIES, WISDOM IN SMILE, THE SECOND VENICE, SMALL MIRACLES, THE MINI-SUBMARINE, LIGHTNING AND A BOUQUET OF ROSES.
17:48 May 13, 2009 by Realist
Dear Askin,

Your comments make no sense, you imply that rape is committed by men unable to find love and are therefore sexually frustrated - which is a completely ridiculous scenario. How does this explain the majority of reported rape cases taking place within relationships?? Supposedly these people live in 'loving' relationships.

What does a) mean? Please explain!

With regards to b) - the responsibility for education in respect towards your fellow man (or woman as it may be in this case) is our collective job as parents and decent human beings. If you haven't learnt respect as a child, then it's game over.

In Sweden we enjoy a great many rights - but here's a newsflash - with these rights come some serious responsibilities too!!!
18:57 May 14, 2009 by lovaspappa
The statistics at the Brå website are quite contradictory in many places, which is to be expected I suppose. My experience here in Sweden is that I know pretty much only ethnic-swedish women. I'd say 75% or more have been sexually assaulted in their lives, young adult and old. Some were assaulted by strangers but most were attacked by someone they knew. And, as we can all pretty much tell, there isn't much cultural integration here. So we can assume, and I do from the anecdotal evidence from my friends, that it isn't immigrants doing most of the raping, at least of Swedish women. Taking cultural differences into account, we can also assume that immigrant women and their first gen kids are less likely to report these attacks than local women. I'd be curious to see a more thorough breakdown. Of course, it doesn't matter to me really. I think rapists should be shot.
21:04 May 14, 2009 by Greg in Canada
"I'd say 75% or more have been sexually assaulted in their lives"

Once again I can be sceptical. I looked up the official Canadian statistics and it is estimated that 25% of Canadian women will be sexually assaulted sometime in their lives. Usually it happens with a male that they already know rather than a stranger and almost half of this happens to women under the age of 16 yrs old. The Canadian definition of "sexual assault" is also fairly broad as it includes groping, fondling or touching without consent and not just forced sexual intercourse.

I'm apologize for using Canadian statistics when talking about Sweden, but I would seriously doubt that the incidence would be three times higher in Sweden than Canada. I'd expect it to be about the same.
02:36 May 15, 2009 by freethinker
Iovaspappa, I'm shocked that you would suggest rapists be shot. Don't you realize the cause of rape is easily curable? Look it's really ze seemple case of zee over abundance of zee testosterone...ya? Zen zee only have to snip da jewels an zee problem is cured. That way they'll never have the balls to do that ever again.
03:04 May 15, 2009 by kmbr
The Canadian definition of "sexual assault" is also fairly broad as it includes groping, fondling or touching without consent

It's asinine to use those to define sexual assault. Using that oddly broad definition it should be closer to 100%. I can't imagine there is any reasonably attractive woman who has never experienced one of the three.
03:15 May 15, 2009 by freethinker
kmbr I actually agree with a broader definition. Why should women be groped fondled or touched without their consent? Personally I think it is sexual assualt to do either of those things. I really could care less if women have experienced those things. The point is that they shouldn't. What Women consent to is one thing...what they do not consent too is another matter that should be snuffed out decissively. No means no.
03:36 May 15, 2009 by kmbr
Why should women be groped fondled or touched without their consent?

I see your point. Ofcourse, I don't think they should be. I can probably think of a dozen occasions where such things have happened, starting in first grade when Lance Scott pushed me into the slide and dry-humped me. (he subsequently got expelled for that and other acts of perversion) While unpleasant, creepy and certainly not acceptable, I was never emotionally scarred the way a true sexual assault (I would imagine) would leave someone.
04:27 May 15, 2009 by Greg in Canada
kmbr,

I agree with you that it is probably too broad of a definition. What this suggests is that statistics can be manipulated to give any conclusion that you want.
10:52 May 16, 2009 by MaxKista
let's come to Sweden, a beautiful land of rapists and a illegible country for file sharing. lol!
11:04 May 17, 2009 by mypolishsausage
you are all in denial-the rape numbers are up because the number of immigrants from psycho-sexually suppressed muslim countries are up.

no Viking left in you, obviously.
20:38 May 17, 2009 by wxman
Previous poster "gets it". I've been trying to make this point for months now.
22:50 May 17, 2009 by 7
there are courses to be taken to improve communication skills. check your local community colleges.
12:59 May 18, 2009 by culturist John
If you have a higher rape rate among immigrants, then increasing immigration means increasing rape. That is logical. The conclusion is not racist it is culturist.

Multiculturalists just want us to "celebrate diversity." But they do not take diversity seriously. Raping for intimidation is considered honorable in some cultures. That's right, multiculturalists, some cultures are not progressive left wing cause supporters!

We must be culturist. We must ditch multiculturalism for culturism.

www.culturism.us
14:14 May 18, 2009 by unkle strunkle
Such a pathetic surrender to the rapists! This author is simply complaining that the problem is too complex, and though some people would dare to attempt a solution, its better left undefined. Her only conclusion is that Sweden must give up the high standard it places on the the sexual conduct of its male citizens because there are too many immigrants now in Sweden who have lower standards.

She's basically saying that the good old days of a safe Sweden are gone. The author would have us simply accept the new paridigm of a more sexually violent Sweden because more laws and law enforcement certainly won't solve anything?! Should Sweden really surrender without a fight? There is a growing awareness of the problem and, luckily, people who are unafraid to research it and write about it.

http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/938
02:15 May 22, 2009 by boddhisatva
mypolishsausage and culturlist John are spot on! Increased multi-culturalism now means civil war in the future. Or, if we want to lower the numbers of rapes, why not just allow Muslims to govern themselves under Sharia law as the U.K. has done? Then forced intercourse with a non-Muslim (kuffar) wouldn't even be considered rape because they are second class citizens.
17:53 June 30, 2009 by Fishman
Thank you for posting this information

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