UN urges Sweden to improve protection of women

A new United Nations report has criticized Sweden for shortcomings in its strategy for tackling violence against women. At the municipal level in particular there is much room for improvement, according to special rapporteur Yakin Ertürk.

While Sweden receives praise for the advancement of equal opportunities in the public sphere, the country is deemed to have fallen short “in addressing the deeply rooted unequal power relations between women and men which underlie the continuation of diverse forms of violence against women.”

Yakin Ertürk reached her conclusions after a close examination of various different manifestations of violence, which included intimate-partner violence, rape and sexual coercion, and violence against women of immigrant, asylum-seeker or refugee background.

The standard of protection policies at the municipal level was found to have particular deficiencies.

“Some of the non-governmental shelters employ paid staff. Most rely on dedicated volunteers.

“Many shelters have to operate under severe budget constraints, because a large number of municipalities fail to fund the non-governmental institutions they use in order to fulfil their own legal responsibilities.”

The report further cites an Amnesty International report, which found that “more than a third of Sweden’s municipalities give no or only symbolic funding to women’s shelters”.

An increase in violence of a sexual nature was also noted in the report.

“The perpetrators and victims can be found in all segments and at all levels of society, although some women, including immigrant, refugee and minority women

as well as women in prostitution, face particular vulnerabilities.”

Sweden is reported to have an excellent legal framework for dealing with violence against women “but low prosecution and conviction rates give a clear indication that its implementation must be further improved”.

In conclusion, the report outlines a number of recommendations, including a call for the government to “enhance the institutional capacity of municipalities in better fulfilling their obligation to protect women”.