PM’s doctorate provokes bribery claims

Honorary degrees are a common enough way for universities to get some welcome press attention, and for celebrities to get their egos massaged. Yet the presentation by Örebro University of an honorary doctorate to Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson has led a bribery watchdog to call for an investigation.

Concerns are centred on links between the decision to award the degree and Persson’s previous connections to the university, which he attended between 1969 and 1971. The relationship between the degree and the prime minister’s role in granting university status to the former higher education college is under particular scrutiny.

Persson was presented with the doctorate in medicine in a ceremony at Örebro University on Sunday. Writing in DN, Claes Beyer, head of a Swedish institute that works to combat bribery, says that the fawning citation on Persson’s degree gives cause for concern. The citation read:

“Through granting university status to the Örebro College of Higher Education in 1999, Prime Minister Göran Persson showed both courage and foresight, by understanding and supporting the potential and vitality represented by Örebro University.”

Quite apart from its grovelling tone, Beyer argues that the wording of citation should arouse suspicions of bribery, and has written to prosecutors to demand that they investigate whether a crime has been committed. Convictions for bribery can lead to prison sentences in serious cases.

The university, meanwhile, is unapologetic for granting the degree.

Clearly a fan of the prime minister, the Dean of the medical faculty Peter Wide said that Persson’s “wholehearted support to our university has meant a huge amount to us, and has been a source of inspiration in our work.”

Information director Ulla Fogelström said in a press release that an honorary doctor is “not usually selected on the basis of academic merit, and is usually someone who is considered to bring other perspectives to the university’s work.”

She also pointed out that previous prime ministers Ingvar Carlsson and Tage Erlander received honorary doctorates while in office, and that Astrid Lindgren and Queen Silvia were among other people to be honoured in this way by academic institutions.

Yet this reasoning didn’t wash with Persson’s political opponents. Patrick E. Vigren, chairman of the Christian Democrats’ student wing wrote in Nerikes Allehanda that it was particularly insensitive of the university to honour Persson, given that five out of eight members of the university’s board “have Social Democratic backgrounds.”

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Aftonbladet, Nerikes Allehanda


Swedish party leader calls for chemical castration of sex offenders

Sweden's Christian Democrats have called for tougher sentences for sex offenders and making release conditional on chemical castration.

Swedish party leader calls for chemical castration of sex offenders

The Swedish Christian Democrats (KD) leader has called for the chemical castration of certain sex offenders as part of plans for a tougher grip on sexual crime and punishment in Sweden.

Speaking to the Swedish parliament on July 1st, KD party leader Ebba Busch said, “Every day, 27 rapes are reported. How many days must pass before the government takes action?”

“Today we propose that rapists and people who commit sexual crimes against children should be able to be chemically castrated.”

The controversial chemical castration proposal was the headline grabbing soundbite in a broader set of proposals to recalibrate the structure of Sweden’s sexual crime sentencing.

Among KD’s proposed sentencing changes is a life sentence for the aggravated rape of a child, the removal of automatic conditional release for sex offenders, and an increase in the sentence for aggravated rape up to a maximum of 25 years.

In addition, they want a “monitoring period” for convicts who have been released, equivalent to one third of the sentence served.

They also want to establish a national knowledge centre for sexual violence where people who feel that they have “problematic sexuality” can receive support. The center must also “be able to administer chemical castration on a voluntary basis to those who are concerned about unwanted sexual thoughts and impulses and have a compulsive sexuality”.

READ ALSO: What’s the Swedish Christian Democrats’ abortion contract all about?

Chemical castration, she suggested, should be implemented as a condition of release for some sexual offenders. “It may mean that if a person like Nytorgsmannen is to be able to become a free man, a chemical castration must have taken place before the release,” Busch said, referring to Andreas Holm, a man sentenced in 2021 for 35 different crimes including 24 rapes.

But this is not the first time the Christian Democrats have toyed with the idea of chemical castration as a form of legal punishment. As far back as 20 years ago, under former leader Alf Svensson, the right-wing party raised the idea of conditional chemical castration of rapists and pedophiles.

At the time the proposal was rejected by all other parties.

Chemical castration, the process of preventing sex hormone production through chemicals, can reduce sexual libido but the effects on those with deviant behaviours are relatively unknown.

Chemical castration can also prove costly as it is not a one-off treatment but rather requires regular interventions, which means the police would be reliant on those sentences to chemical castration making regular trips to the authorities for further treatment.