Sweden’s party leaders to discuss measures against male violence after five women killed

Sweden's party leaders to discuss measures against male violence after five women killed
A demonstration for justice for victims of male violence held in Stockholm last winter. Photo: Claudio Bresciani / TT
The recent killings of five women in Sweden have sparked debate and calls for policy change in the country often lauded for its gender equality.

Two of the women were killed in broad daylight, while one was killed at home in the same room as her young baby. Most of the victims have not been named in Swedish media, which is usually due to families not giving consent.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and other party leaders condemned the violence, saying that the government and society needed to do more to combat the problem.

“Men who expose women to these appalling crimes must be punished, but male violence against women should not be reduced to individual cases. It is a societal problem that must be fought with the combined power of all of society,” Löfven wrote in a Facebook post.

Moderates leader Ulf Kristersson said the violence was a “great failure on the part of society as a whole”, saying that “first and foremost” harsher punishments were needed for perpetrators.

Center Party leader Annie Lööf criticised her fellow politicians for not being more active in the fight against male violence, writing on social media: “Where is the cry [for change] from society? From my political colleagues? Where are the commissions, the tough measures?”

Sweden’s Equality Minister Märta Stenevi quickly responded, saying on Sunday that she had invited representatives from all Sweden’s political parties to a discussion on male violence against women.

“This violence takes place all the time, every day, behind closed doors and it deserves the same seriousness and the same resources as against gang crime,” she said.

Twenty-five women and 99 men were killed in 2020, according to the National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå), and 13 women and four men were killed by a partner or former partner. On average, around 15 women are killed in Sweden each year by a current or former partner; in 2019 the figure was 16, and the year before it was 22. An investigation by the newspaper Aftonbladet has identified 315 cases since 2000 where a woman was killed by her partner or ex-partner.

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As well as those cases which end in death, a further 9,000 cases of violence against women were reported to Swedish police in 2020, but the number of unreported incidents is likely much higher. 

A 2014 survey by Statistics Sweden on behalf of the National Centre for Knowledge on Men’s Violence Against Women, found that 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. Brå estimates that around 80 percent of cases of violence against women are never reported.

“We have a Vision Zero,” national police chief Anders Thornberg told the TT news agency after the murders.

He said that police already prioritised violence against women, but also said that society at large also needed to step up. “When we call to a press conference on this topic, it’s pretty empty. When we call to a press conference on gang crime, it’s a full house,” he said.

In 2016, the government launched a ten-year strategy to reduce male violence against women, including setting aside millions of kronor to appoint investigators with expertise in male violence and reforming Sweden’s sexual consent law.

Swedish women’s shelter association Unizon has called for permanent state subsidies for women’s shelters, emergency service involvement in municipal work on the issue, and legislative limits on pornography. The Centre, Liberal, Social Democrats and Left Parties have also highlighted the need for fixed, long-term funding of shelters, while the Left Party has called for tracking of domestic violence incidents to map cases when the authorities were contacted beforehand.

Another of Unizon’s suggestions, also backed by the Moderate Party and Christian Democrats, is to further increase the possibility to use electronic tagging when people are issued with restraining orders, not only after it has been violated. Over the past three years, Swedish prosecutors’ statistics show that only 15 perpetrators of violence have been issued with the tags.

One of the issues currently being discussed is restraining orders. Over the past three years, only around a quarter of requests for restraining orders have been approved, and only 

In his Facebook post, Löfven appealed to all men in Sweden to make an effort in tackling violence and misogyny within society.

“In order for male violence against women to stop, it’s men who need to change. Those who expose women to violence are someone’s son, brotheir, friend or colleague. We men in particular need to notice and speak up. We need to talk about what real masculinity is, that it isn’t hitting or abusing. Never accept someone using violence or threats to gain power over the people close to them. Never look away. Never excuse it. Sound the alarm,” he wrote. 

Five women have been killed by men in Sweden in the past three weeks, sparking a debate about partner or ex-partner violence in the country known for its gender equality.

“We have a Vision Zero,” national police chief Anders Thornberg told the TT news agency, after a woman was killed in broad daylight in the city of Linköping, by a man she had had a previous relationship with according to police and prosecutor.

Thornberg said that two years ago, the police authority earmarked 350 million kronor ($41.3 million) to appoint experts to investigate men’s violence against women, but that society at large also needed to step up. “When we call to a press conference on this topic, it’s pretty empty. When we call to a press conference on gang crime, it’s a full house,” he said.

If you need to speak to someone about domestic violence in Sweden, you can contact Kvinnofridslinjen, Sweden’s National Women’s Helpline on 020-50 50 50, or Akillesjouren, a helpline for men suffering from domestic violence, on 08-29 63 99. You do not need to share your identity when you contact these helplines.


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