‘Men need to change’ to end violence against women: Swedish Justice Minister

A new documentary about a Swedish artist who was assaulted by her partner, a well-known Swedish actor, has stirred debate about violence against women in the Nordic country.

'Men need to change' to end violence against women: Swedish Justice Minister
Sweden's Justice Minister Morgan Johansson spoke after a documentary about Josefin Nilsson, right, put the spotlight on domestic violence. Photo: Karl Melander/Fredrik Persson/TT

The number of women who have reported being assaulted by a partner has decreased since 2015, when the Swedish government vowed to implement a national strategy against domestic violence.

In 2017 just below 10,000 cases were reported to the police. But when national number crunchers Statistics Sweden in 2014 carried out a survey on behalf of the National Centre for Knowledge on Men's Violence Against Women, based at Uppsala University, a total of 14 percent of Swedish women (almost half a million) said they had been exposed to violence or the threat of violence in a relationship.

A documentary about Josefin Nilsson, a well-known Swedish singer who passed away in 2016 from an enlarged heart and accidental overdose of prescription drugs, this week put the issue back on the agenda.

READ ALSO: One year on, what did #MeToo achieve in Sweden?

In the film, based on an unpublished autobiography Nilsson had been working on before she died, her sister and friends tell of the violence the artist suffered at the hands of her then-partner back in the 90s.

Her ex-partner, who is not among those Swedish stars who have made a big name for themselves abroad, but is domestically one of the country's most well-known theatre and movie actors, was convicted in court in the late 90s for assault. Nilsson received psychological and physical injuries that never healed. The actor was never named by Swedish media, but has continued acting in major theatre productions since.

The Royal Dramatic Theatre – Sweden's national theatre stage – on Monday said it had decided to end one of its ongoing productions early after widespread criticism and protests outside its doors.

Sweden's Culture Minister Amanda Lind said she would meet with theatre bosses, starting with the Royal Dramatic Theatre on Tuesday, to discuss their work to combat sexual harassment.

Sweden's Justice Minister Morgan Johansson welcomed that the documentary highlights violence against women, and said that more things needed to be done to crack down on the overall issue.

“It's structural oppression. Us men need to change our attitudes to stop this,” he told newswire TT.

He said a series of law changes in the past years strongly condemn violence against women.

“But I would wish that more men came out and distanced themselves from humiliation and abuse of women even in daily life,” Johansson added.

READ ALSO: What does the #MeToo campaign reveal about Swedish feminism?

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Swedish Green leader: ‘Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity’

The riots that rocked Swedish cities over the Easter holidays were nothing to do with religion or ethnicity, but instead come down to class, the joint leader of Sweden's Green Party has told The Local in an interview.

Swedish Green leader: 'Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity'

Ahead of a visit to the school in Rosengård that was damaged in the rioting, Märta Stenevi said that neither the Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan, who provoked the riots by burning copies of the Koran, nor those who rioted, injuring 104 policemen, were ultimately motivated by religion. 

“His demonstration had nothing to do with religion or with Islam. It has everything to do with being a right extremist and trying to to raise a lot of conflict between groups in Sweden,” she said of Paludan’s protests. 

“On the other side, the police have now stated that there were a lot of connections to organised crime and gangs, who see this as an opportunity to raise hell within their communities.”

Riots broke out in the Swedish cities of Malmö, Stockholm, Norrköping, Linköping and Landskrona over the Easter holidays as a result of Paludan’s tour of the cities, which saw him burn multiple copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. 


More than 100 police officers were injured in the riots, sparking debates about hate-crime legislation and about law and order. 

According to Stenevi, the real cause of the disorder is the way inequality has increased in Sweden in recent decades. 

“If you have big chasms between the rich people and poor people in a country, you will also have a social upheaval and social disturbance. This is well-documented all across the world,” she says. 
“What we have done for the past three decades in Sweden is to create a wider and wider gap between those who have a lot and those who have nothing.” 

The worst way of reacting to the riots, she argues, is that of Sweden’s right-wing parties. 
“You cannot do it by punishment, by adding to the sense of outsider status, you have to start working on actually including people, and that happens through old-fashioned things such as education, and a proper minimum income, to lift people out of their poverty, not to keep them there.”

This, she says, is “ridiculous”, when the long-term solution lies in doing what Sweden did to end extreme inequality at the start of the 20th century, when it created the socialist folkhem, or “people’s home”. 

“It’s easy to forget that 100 to 150 years ago, Sweden was a developing country, with a huge class of poor people with no education whatsoever. And we did this huge lift of a whole nation. And we can do this again,” she says. “But it needs resources, it needs political will.”