[m2c] Rape, As Sweden Redefines It
ayanacalana72 at gmail.com
Sat Feb 26 01:53:38 MST 2011
Rape, As Sweden Redefines It
By Andreas Lönnqvist
STOCKHOLM, Feb 7, 2011 (IPS) - The number of reported rapes in this
Nordic country has increased dramatically in recent years, especially
after the Swedish Sexual Crimes Act was reformed in 2005. This does
not, however, necessarily mean that the actual number of rapes has
increased, according to analysts.
In some international media reports about the accusations against
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is wanted for questioning by the
Swedish police, the Sex Crimes Act has been described as very strict
and tough – a stand supposedly taken by the Swedish government to deal
with sexual crimes committed by its citizens.
But according to Mårten Schultz, associate professor at the faculty of
law at Uppsala University, that description is not true.
"I think it is a bit of a myth that the Sexual Crimes Act is so much
tougher than in most other countries. The truth is that it is not that
different," Mårten Schultz tells IPS.
In 2005, the definition of rape in the Swedish Sexual Crimes Act was
broadened to include, for instance, having sex with someone who is
asleep, or someone who could be considered to be in a "helpless
state". This applies to situations when someone would not be capable
of saying "no". A typical situation where the law could be applied is
if someone who is drunk at a party falls asleep only to wake up and
realize that someone is having sex with them.
That would constitute rape according to the 2005 law, and not "sexual
abuse", which was the case before the law was amended. In this respect
the new law did not criminalize behaviour that previously had been
legal, but rather broadened the definition of what constitutes rape to
include a larger number of sexual crimes.
The fact that the definition had been broadened could soon be seen in
the rape statistics – the number of reported rapes more than doubled
between 2004 and 2009, a year when almost 6,000 cases were reported.
According to a Crime Survey made by BRÅ, the Swedish National Council
for Crime Prevention, there were, however, no indications of an
increase in the actual number of people who fell victims to sexual
crimes between 2005-2008.
The increased number of reported rapes has not led to a corresponding
rise in the number of convicted rapists. According to Klara
Hradilova-Selin, research analyst at BRÅ, this can partly be explained
by the fact that more Swedish women now go to the police to report the
abuses they have suffered. This results in a higher number of reports
which come down to the word of the victim against that of the accused.
"These crimes are always difficult to investigate, but it is even
harder if there are no injuries or other technical evidence – the kind
of cases that maybe were not reported at all earlier," says Klara
The number of unrecorded cases is probably still very high, but she
says the attitudes towards sexual abuse and rape have changed in
Swedish society during the last ten to 15 years. Rape victims might
still blame themselves thinking that ‘I should not have become drunk’,
or ‘why did I wear that short skirt’, but it is not as common as
"This has been so widely debated and the attitudes have changed a bit
– which leads to more reports. People have lowered the bar for what
they are willing to report," says Klara Hradilova-Selin.
But one relevant question to ask is what really has been achieved if
more reports are being recorded - while at same time the likelihood
that it will end with a conviction is even less today?
Last November a governmental commission recommended several changes to
the legislation, in order to better protect victims of sexual abuses.
Among the proposals is one that aims to broaden the definition of the
condition "a helpless state" for rape victims, to make the application
of the law more efficient. The proposals are now under consideration
with several bodies, and a bill may be ready by 2012.
Klara Hradilova-Selin says the intention with the Sexual Crimes Act is
not just "to nail people". She says the law also has a normative
"It is very important to try to prevent actions, especially when it
comes to these kinds of crimes that are so intertwined with attitudes
and values. Laws have a very symbolic value," she says.
The debate about the case against Julian Assange has in Sweden led to
a more general discussion about what kind of sexual behaviour is ok,
and what is not. And this is something Klara Hradilova-Selin welcomes.
"Yes, I have myself been in a debate that was supposed to focus on the
accusations against Assange, but instead it transformed into a larger
discussion about where the line should be drawn," she says. (END)
"Until all of us are free, the few who think they are remain tainted
with enslavement." Lee Maracle
More information about the margins-to-centre