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Swedish rapists ‘enjoy impunity’: Amnesty International

Jennifer Heape · 28 Apr 2009, 12:08

Published: 28 Apr 2009 12:08 GMT+02:00

Sweden's image as an international forerunner in the fight for gender equality has been damaged by recent reports comparing rape statistics across various countries.

A recent study commissioned by the European Union (EU) found that Sweden has the highest incidence of reported rapes in Europe.

And an Amnesty International report on rape in the Nordic Countries took Sweden to task last autumn for what the human rights organization saw as an abysmally low conviction rate for rape cases.

Released in September 2008, the Amnesty report - Case Closed - examines issues surrounding rape and human rights in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

Despite Sweden's considerable emphasis on women's rights, currently ranking an impressive 3rd place in the UN global gender-related development index, instances of reported violence against women are showing no signs of abating.

In fact, statistics published by the National Council of Crime Prevention (BRÅ) show that the number of sexual offences reported from January to August 2008 saw a 9 percent increase compared to the same period in 2007.

Amnesty's most damning criticism of Sweden relates to the considerable disparity between the number of rapes reported and the conviction rate.

Case Closed highlights the damning evidence that, despite the number of rapes reported to the police quadrupling over the past 20 years, the percentage of reported rapes ending in conviction is markedly lower today than it was in 1965.

Sweden’s profile in terms of violence against women has also attracted concern from the United Nations.

As UN rapporteur Yakin Ertürk comments in a special report released in February 2007, there is a notable discrepancy “between the apparent progress in achieving gender equality and the reports of continued violence against women in the country.”

The statistics are certainly alarming. Results from the annual, government commissioned National Safety Survey (NTU), which is conducted by BRÅ, indicate that the actual number of rapes in Sweden in 2006 was estimated to be close to 30,000.

If this figure is correct, then it indicates that as few as 5-10 percent of all rapes are reported to the police.

Equally disturbing is the statistic from BRÅ stating that in 2007, less than 13 percent of the 3,535 rape crimes reported resulted in a decision to start legal proceedings.

Over the past ten years there has been a 58 percent increase in reported sex crimes and according to BRÅ, it is now statistically more likely for a person in Sweden to be sexually assaulted than robbed.

The phenomenon of alleged offences not formally being reported to the police or dropped before reaching court is termed 'attrition'.

Amnesty slams the Swedish judicial system and the prevalence of attrition within it, concluding that, "in practice, many perpetrators enjoy impunity."

In analyzing attrition and the failings of the police and judicial system, Case Closed draws attention to “discriminatory attitudes about female and male sexuality,” which may cause police investigators to “assume that women who report rape are lying or mistaken.”

This in turn brings up the notion of ‘real rape’ and the ‘ideal victim’. Researchers for Amnesty found that frequently:

“Young (drunk) women, in particular, have problems fulfilling the stereotypical role of the ‘ideal victim’, with the consequence that neither rapes within intimate relationships nor ‘date rapes’ involving teenage girls result in legal action.”

Helena Sutourius, an expert in legal proceedings in sexual offence cases concludes that, in Sweden, “the focus appears to be on the woman’s behaviour, rather than on the act that is the object of the investigation.”

In addition to challenging victim and crime stereotypes, perceptions surrounding ‘typical’ perpetrators must also be considered. The UN Special Report discusses how there is a widespread belief that the type of men who commit intimate-partner violence are not typical, ‘normal’ Swedes.

Story continues below…

They are usually imagined as somewhat ‘deviant’ - unemployed, uneducated, alcoholic or from non-Western backgrounds, and so on. However, as Ertürk challenges: “In absolute numbers, the vast majority of the perpetrators of intimate-partner violence are ‘ordinary’ Swedish men.”

In a country where women’s rights feature high on the public agenda, there is a pervasive “fear of public shame - being regarded as a tragic failure in a country of supposed gender equality” especially among well-educated and successful Swedish women, which creates yet another obstacle for the victims of violence and rape, the UN report concludes.

Lina Plong from the National Centre for Knowledge on Men’s Violence against Women (NCK), based at Uppsala University, tells The Local:

“There is a real concern as to why the instances of rape and violence are not decreasing, despite the law becoming more strict and there being more public information available than ever. We need to concentrate on educating those professionals working in the area."

Amnesty has also condemned the limited amount of scrutiny of and research into the quality of rape crime investigations in Sweden as, “a serious shortcoming that needs to be addressed immediately.”

The Case Closed report states that, “while an impressive level of gender equality has been achieved in the so-called public spheres [in Sweden]…this achievement seems to have halted at the doorsteps of private homes.”

In its conclusion, Amnesty blames "deeply rooted patriarchal gender norms" of Swedish family life and sexual relationships as a "major societal flaw" and a reason for the continued prevalence of violence against women in Sweden.

Jennifer Heape (jennifer.heape@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

19:02 April 28, 2009 by John Doe
Indeed, the punishments in Sweden in general are ridiculously light. Not to mention that many of those imprisoned find better living conditions behind the bars than they had earlier outside.
11:02 May 2, 2009 by Vidyadhara
There are indeed fundamental flaws in the ability arrest, convict and prosecute rapists in Sweden. Sadly, this is only a matter of degree as this is a problem in all countries. Rape is a crime that is traditionally not taken very seriously due to "deeply rooted patriarchal gender norms" that have helped shape the legal system, the interpretation of law, police and medical professionals who meet rape victims, etc.

As it was mentioned in by well-informed people in another recent article on rape, Sweden has a broader definition of rape than most other countries. Also, the statistics include *reports*, not just *convictions*. Additionally, Sweden has a better support system for rape victims than several other European countries and reports have been increasing due to recent legislative and administrative changes that have made it easier to report.
12:58 May 2, 2009 by peropaco
Yet again another indication that Sweden is at its lowest level when it comes to prosecuting and providing harsh panalties to those found gilty of rape. Maybe we could see some prompt action if the wifes, daughters, sisters, mothers, sons and brothers of these lawmakers get raped.
14:07 May 2, 2009 by idialogue
This is the consequences due the liberalism in Media . If i am lying see the posters arround you , watch channels on TV.

Those posters has great impact on human minds and they think that if they dress like that they will be appreciated by the community .

The problem is not so easy on the surface it lies deep below the in the "System". For analogy :

"He see the nudity and sexually aroused ads on walls in media then he saw other girls with the same optics. Definitely what comes in his mind shapes into the event specially weekends. "

Question : What is the solution, suggest ?
11:52 May 3, 2009 by Marley420
Everyone knows that Sweden will not do anything, except talk about it for the next ten years....
20:26 May 3, 2009 by Kaethar
This is the main issue. Many drunk women are raped and because they're drunk they don't put up a fight. And since there's no way of proving the rape the rapists are let go. It's just one person's word against the other. And what else can they do? They can't convict every person just because someone claims they were raped. They need evidence and if there is no physical evidence what can they do?

And this is the main problem, and it's not easy to solve and the Swedish justice system is very careful about not convicting innocent people. Are they being too careful?
04:51 May 4, 2009 by Marley420
Kaethar, in the U.S., just because a women is drunk, does not give the perb the right to rape. No means no. Every hospital in Sweden should have on stock rape kits. So when a women does come into a medical facility, evidence can be gather against the perb.

But, like I said previously, Sweden will just talk about the issue, and never strengthen the laws to protect the rights of women.
08:54 May 4, 2009 by nic_tester
Jennifer Heape also fails to mention that all crimes are reported individually in sweden rather than bunched together under one label. This practice is unusual. Which means that 100 abuses by a spouse will show up as 100 crimes in sweden and as 1 crime in another country.

If she fails to mention this in her report because of ignorance she is incompetent, if she purpusefully neglects to mention it for propaganda reasons she is dishonest. Either way the credibility of that report is in serious doubt.

Its laughable that some people here take it seriously. All the disparity between england and sweden for example are explained by the change in the sexlaw 2005 and statistical disparities. Which has been thoroughly explained by various posters.
21:42 May 5, 2009 by Judge Judy
I think possibly why Sweden rates so high in Europe is that all cases are reported, and possibly other countries females do not come forward. This seems like a simple explanation.

My main concern would be how successful the police would be in bringing these claims to convictions. This seems to be the main issue that needs to be addressed, how can this be improved to operate as a deterrent, as it seems this is what fails to be identified.
21:54 May 5, 2009 by Judge Judy
How good are the Swedish Police ?

Their reputation for efficiency is rather poor in the world.

It is said that Scotland Yard in London announced to their staff that they had some band news and some good news. The bad news for everyone was there was going to be an investigation into corruption within the police force. The good news was that they asked the Swedish police to investigate.
22:10 May 5, 2009 by LSBeene
A lot of people from different cultures coming to a country with no intention of assimilating, getting "free" housing & health care and when they see scantily clad women or women who have been drinking or are in any way vulnerable ... they take advantage of them.

Think not? In what areas have reported rape rates risen? Who are the attackers?

What are the penalties for false rape accusations? None you say? Women in Sweden will get justice if you punish false accusers.

While the rate of report would drop, due to false accusers being put in prison here's the good news for real rape victims:

1) The conviction rate would climb noticably

2) The new immigrants would get the idea real quickly that THEY are to adopt YOUR values ... or leave.

3) Men who are falsely accused would see that justice be done and not let it color their view of women who cry rape.

4) Since we've weeded out the most likely elements TO rape, and those crying wolf, women would be safer.
22:14 May 5, 2009 by LSBeene
(cont from above)

If you punish false accusers with PRISON here's what happens:

1) Less reports of rape, saving the gov't money, and letting the prosecutors have more time to real victims

2) Men who have seen false allegations know that now there is a deterrent and are more likely to believe a woman claiming rape

3) rape convictions climb, so more REAL victims step forward realizing that they may actually get justice.

I mean, you Swedes have to choose between policy based on rad-fem ideology or reality and then justice for both men and women.
23:28 May 5, 2009 by Beef
You tell us. Enlighten us with your evidence.. Remember System Bolaget has kept support all these years by the masses, especially around the opening hours because the fear of violence towards women.. And this is long before "A lot of people from different cultures" as you put it, arrived..
13:37 May 6, 2009 by svenssonek
Let's appoint a commission to investigate if this is an issue during the next 5-10 years. When they have established that rape is indeed an issue, appoint another commission investigating the first commission's validity. This will take another 5-10 years and will probably contradict the first one's result.

Talk, talk, talk!!

As a person born in Sweden and since moved away I still cringe over the swedish inability to act and also to make sincere efforts to proctect victims of crime or alleged crime.
13:38 May 6, 2009 by Dazzler
Ahh yes , the UN scenario!! Alot of talk, no action.
18:02 May 6, 2009 by Anita B
Very obvious fact is that rapists commit rapes...and rapists's profile ?
03:03 May 8, 2009 by daddys
What they don't tell you is that in sweden a man can be convicted for hundreds of rapes without evidence. All these cases are then registred separatly as a single count of rape. Hence the alarming numbers. In most other countries they don't use this false way of showing statistics.

30 000 rapes a year!! This is a lie folks. Don't swallow it.

//swedish dad in a custody fight, accused of rape.
08:51 May 12, 2009 by white_man
How many of these rapes are committed by non-white immigrant males?

This would be an informative statistic. We know that where numbers are kept, the ratio of rapes committed by non-white immigrant males is shown to be high.
23:54 June 10, 2012 by NiDoDo
One often-overlooked factor is the tendency for the definition of "rape" to widen with gender equality. Since 2005, eg. people suffering from dementia cannot engage in any form of sexual activity without being considered "victims of rape" by Swedish law. Also, no legal distinction exists between "rape" and "statutory rape" any more. Merely touching a minor - through clothes! has been upgraded from "sexual molestation" to "rape", as has many other lesser crimes. The list goes on and on. A new law proposal intends to lower the bar even further; any repeated sexual offence will automatically be labeled "rape".

Another factor behind the high incidence of rape reporting is the widespread notion, fuelled by media, that any unwanted sex is "rape" and can be reported at will for revenge or profit. A third factor is the virtually complete lack of penalties for false reporting.

Finally, to put things in context, Sweden has about twice the rape conviction rate as Denmark per capita, and three times that of the UK.
12:10 August 21, 2012 by orwellian
That's because we changed the definition of rape, thanks to radical feminism. Also we got a lot of more women going to the police and reporting their husbands. And most of those cases it's word against word, therefore they have to close the case due to lack of evidence. And we men should be glad about that. As there aren't enough innocent men in Swedish prisons on trumped up rape convictions already.
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