Rape in Sweden
|Effects and motivations|
Rape in Sweden has a legal definition described in Chapter 6 in the Swedish Penal Code. Historically, rape has been defined as forced sexual intercourse initiated against a woman or man by one or several people, without consent. In recent years, several revisions to the definition of rape have been made to the law of Sweden, to include not only intercourse but also comparable sexual acts against someone incapable of giving consent, due to being in a vulnerable situation, such as a state of fear or unconsciousness.
In 2014, there were 6,700 rapes reported to the Swedish police, or 69 cases per 100,000 population, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (BRÅ), which is an 11% increase from the previous year. In 2015, the number of reported rapes declined 12%, to 5920 (although reported exposure to sexual offenses in the Swedish Crime Survey rose by 70% that same year). The number of convictions has remained relatively unchanged since 2005, with approximately 190 convictions on average each year.
- 1 Legislation
- 2 Swedish rape statistics
- 3 International comparison
- 4 Victim surveys
- 5 Conviction rate
- 6 Media attention
- 7 Unreported cases
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
The first statutory law against rape in Sweden dates back to the 13th century. It was considered a serious crime, punishable by death until 1779. The current Swedish Penal Code was adopted in 1962 and enacted on 1 January 1965. A long-standing tradition of gender equality policy and legislation, as well as an established feminist movement, have led to several legislative changes and amendments, greatly expanding the definition of rape. For example, in 1965 Sweden was one of the first countries in the world to criminalise marital rape. Homosexual acts and gender neutrality was first introduced in 1984, and sex with someone by improperly exploiting them while they are unconscious (e.g. due to intoxication or sleep) was included in the definition of rape in 2005.
This excerpt is an unofficial translation, from the Swedish police website:
Rape is one of the most serious sexual crimes. Whoever by force or threat forces another person to a sexual act that seriously insulting sentenced for rape to imprisonment for between two and six years. The penalty for rape is imprisonment for not less than four and not more than ten years.
The sexual act can be intercourse, but also other sexual acts because of coercion or other circumstances are serious offensive can lead to a person convicted of rape. Anyone who exploits someone who is asleep, unconscious, drunk or under the influence of another drug, mentally disturbed, sick or otherwise is in a particularly vulnerable situation, was also convicted of rape.
In Sweden, case law also plays an important role in setting precedent on the application of the legislation. For example, a 2008 ruling by the Supreme Court decided that digital penetration of the vagina, on a woman who is intoxicated or sleeping, shall be regarded as an sexual act comparable to sexual intercourse, and is therefore an act of rape.
Swedish rape statistics
Ever since the collation of crime statistics was initiated by the Council of Europe, Sweden has had the highest number of registered rape offences in Europe by a considerable extent. In 1996, Sweden registered almost three times the average number of rape offences registered in 35 European countries. However, this does not necessarily mean rape is three times as likely to occur as in the rest of Europe, since cross-national comparisons of crime levels based on official crime statistics are problematic, due to a number of factors described below.
There are three types of factors that determine the outcome of crime statistics: statistical factors, legal factors, and substantive factors. The combined effect of these "make it safe to contend that the Swedish rape statistics constitute an 'over-reporting' relative to the European average", according to a study by Hanns von Hofer, Professor of Criminology at Stockholm University, published by The European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research.
Unlike the majority of countries in Europe, crime data in Sweden are collected when the offence in question is first reported, at which point the classification may be unclear. In Sweden, once an act has been registered as rape, it retains this classification in the published crime statistics, even if later investigations indicate that no crime can be proven or if the offence must be given an alternative judicial classification.
The total number of convictions for rape and aggravated rape in Sweden 2015 was 176. The total number of convictions for sexual offences, which includes rape but also less severe crimes such as buying sexual services, was 1160.
Sweden also applies a system of expansive offence counts. Other countries may employ more restrictive methods of counting. The Swedish police registers one offence for each person raped, and if one and the same person has been raped on a number of occasions, one offence is counted for each occasion that can be specified. For example, if a woman says she has been raped by her husband every day during a month, the Swedish police may record more than 30 cases of rape. In many other countries only a single offence would be counted in such a situation.
In Sweden, crime statistics refer to the year when the offence was reported; the actual offence may have been committed long before. Swedish rape statistics can thus contain significant time-lag, which makes interpretations of annual changes difficult.
The way the crime itself is defined and various related aspects of the judicial process affect the registration of offences in the official statistics. The concept of rape can be defined narrowly or in a more expansive manner. In Sweden, the definition of rape has been successively widened over the years, leading to an ever larger number of sexual assaults being classified as rape. For example, in 1992 a legislative change came into force which shifted the dividing line between sexual assault and rape. This legislative change resulted in about a 25% increase in the level of registered rape offences.
Changes in the legal process has also affected the number of reports. Until 1984, rape was only prosecuted in cases where the victim was prepared to press charges, with an additional restriction of a six months time limit. This resulted in numerous cases of rape and sexual assault going unreported.
The Swedish prosecution system is governed by the principle of legality and the "equality principle", which means that as a rule, the police and the prosecution service are required to register and prosecute all offences of which they become aware. This can be assumed to lead to a more frequent registration of offences than in systems with the inverse "expediency principle", where the classification of offences is negotiable on the basis of plea bargaining, and the prosecutor has the right not to prosecute, even when a prosecution would be technically possible. English speaking common law countries operate an adversarial system.
Willingness to report crime also affects the statistics. In countries where rape remains associated with a strong taboo and a high level of shame, the propensity to report such offences probably tends to be lower than in countries characterized by a higher level of sexual equality. A police force and judicial system enjoining a high level of confidence and a good reputation with the public will produce a higher propensity to report crime than a police force which is discredited, inspires fear or distrust.
The findings of the 2000 International Crime Victims Survey (ICVS) indicate that the respondents' satisfaction with the police is above average in Sweden, with almost no experience of corruption. Sweden has also been ranked number one in sexual equality.
Widely differing legal systems, offence definitions, terminological variations, recording practices and statistical conventions makes any cross-national comparison on rape statistics difficult. Large-scale victimisation surveys have been presented as a more reliable indicator.
A frequently cited source when comparing Swedish rape statistics internationally is the regularly published report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). In 2012, according to the report by UNODC, Sweden was quoted as having 66.5 cases of reported rapes per 100,000 population, based on official statistics by Brå. This is the highest number of reported rape of any nation in the report. The high number of reported rapes in Sweden can partly be explained by the comparatively broad definition of rape, the method of which the Swedish police record rapes, a high confidence in the criminal justice system, and an effort by the Government to decrease the number of unreported rapes.[note 1]
Unreliable data for cross-national comparison
The UNODC itself discourages any cross-national comparisons based on their reports, because of the differences that exist between legal definitions, methods of offense counting and crime reporting. In 2013, of the 129 countries listed in the UNODC report, a total of 67 countries had no reported data on rape. Some majority muslim countries missing data—for example Egypt—classifies rape as assault. A crime survey funded by the UN and published in The Lancet Global Health concluded that almost a quarter of all men admit to rape in parts of Asia. Some of the countries with the highest percentage of men admitting rape in that study, China and Bangladesh for instance, are also not listed or have relatively low numbers of reported rape in the UNODC report.
8 out of 10 of the countries with the highest number of reported rape in the 2011 UNODC report were members of OECD, an organization of high-income economies with a very high Human Development Index. 6 out of 10 countries with the highest number of reported rapes were also in the top of the Global Gender Gap Index rankings.
In Sweden there is a comparatively broad definition of what constitutes rape. This means that more sexual crimes are registered as rape than in most other countries. For this reason, criminologists tend to recommend crime comparisons between countries based on large surveys of the general public, so-called victim surveys.
The Swedish Crime Survey
The Swedish Crime Survey (SCS) is a recurrent survey by Brå of the attitudes and experiences of the general population regarding victimization, fear of crime and public confidence in the justice system, with an annual sample size of around 15,000 respondents.
The rate of exposure to sexual offences has remained relatively unchanged, according to the SCS, since the first survey was conducted in 2006, despite an increase in the number of reported sex crimes. This discrepancy can largely be explained by reforms in sex crime legislation, widening of the definition of rape, and an effort by the Government to decrease the number of unreported cases.
In SCS 2013, 0.8 per cent of respondents state that they were the victims of sexual offences, including rape; or an estimated 62,000 people of the general population (aged 16–79). Of these, 16 per cent described the sexual offence as "rape"—which would mean approximately 36,000 incidents of rape in 2012. It should be noted that it may be difficult for a layperson to determine whether an incident should be assessed as rape or sexual coercion, which is a similar but lesser offence in the Swedish Penal Code, meaning this number may be exaggerated. On the other hand, relationship rape may also be under-represented, because of how sensitive the issue is. Most of the sexual offences are committed in a public place (50%), and the perpetrator(s) are most often unknown to the victim (63%).
In 2009, Amnesty International published a report on rape in the Nordic countries, criticizing the low conviction rates in Sweden, citing previously published estimates from Brå of around 30,000 incidents of rape, with less than 13 percent of the 3,535 rape crimes reported resulting in a decision to start legal proceedings and 216 persons convicted in 2007.
According to a London Metropolitan University study in 2009, funded by the European Commission Daphne Programme—primarily focused on attrition, the process by which rape cases fail to proceed through the justice system—Sweden had the highest number of reported rapes in Europe (almost twice that of England and Wales, based on 2002-2007 UNODC figures), that may or may not be attributed to the fact that in 2005 there has been reform in the sex crime legislation. That change in the legislation applies for rapes reported in 2006 and 2007 but it doesn't apply for the previous rapes reported in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 before the change and when the reported rapes in Sweden where still the highest in Europe. The reform made the legal definition of rape one of the widest legal definitions in the world, but not the lowest conviction rate. Insufficient evidence was the most frequent reason why cases were discontinued before court (53%).
The authors of the study questioned the accuracy of the data provided by the countries reporting low instances of rape. They also noted that a widening of the definition of rape in law; procedural rules which require police to record all reports, a confidence in the criminal justice system and a greater willingness among Swedish women to report rape in relationships could account for the relative high number of reported rapes in Sweden.
The low conviction rate could be explained by the reduced legal distinction between rape and permitted intercourse, leading to greater challenges for the prosecution to prove its case, according to Petter Asp, Professor of Criminal Law at Stockholm University.
In 2013, Forskning & Framsteg (Research & Progress), a Swedish popular science magazine, published an article reporting that “The evidence suggests that group rapes in Sweden is increasing - despite the decline in violent crime in general.” Research & Progress went on to report that, “The increase, which primarily occurred in the 2000s, may have to do with "rape with more offenders" from 2004, classified as "serious crime", which means that more obscure cases fall into this category.” Research & Progress further reports that “National Council's investigator, Klara Hradilova-Selin, said that "developments could at least partly be interpreted in terms of an actual increase."” Although there are a number of other important reasons why we are seeing more reports, such as, Klara Hradilova-Selin goes on to say, “more woman dare to go the police” and an “increased alcohol consumption”. Finally Research & Progress goes on to report that in the 1990s “In the gang rape of three or more perpetrators 39 percent are foreign born.” The statistics for gang rapes are not known after 2006.
In late December 2016, the nationwide Swedish tabloid newspaper Expressen reported that five Afghan teenagers were convicted of gang-raping a 15 year old boy at knife-point in a woodland, in Uppsala, Sweden. Expressen went on to report that the judgment of the Uppsala District Court convicted the juveniles aged between 16-18 years of, rape, aggravated assault, minor drug offenses and child pornography. Four of the juveniles were taken into youth custody for 1 year and 3 months and the fifth juvenile for 1 year 4 months.
The January 2017 Uppsala rape Facebook live streaming incident was a rape that took place in Uppsala, and was widely publicized, partly because it was live streamed through the social media platform Facebook.
According to Brå, it is likely that as many as 80 per cent of all rapes are not reported, which was confirmed in a study of the extent of violence against women, funded by the Government of Sweden and the Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority. This can be compared to a 2007 British Government report, estimating that between 75 and 95 percent of rapes are not reported in the United Kingdom.
- We Are Sthlm sexual assaults
- Crime in Sweden
- Rape statistics
- National Centre for Knowledge on Men's Violence against Women
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Begreppet våldtäkt [har] blivit könsneutralt och utvidgats så att det utöver samlag även innefattar annan jämförbar handling med en person som är oförmögen att lämna sitt samtycke. [...] Efter en lagändring 1 april 2005 är det numera lika allvarligt att förgripa sig på en person som på egen hand har druckit sig kraftigt berusad som på en nykter person. Från och med 1 juli 2013 skärptes sexualbrottslagstiftningen [och] utvidgades till att omfatta de fall där offret reagerar med passivitet.
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The Swedish mode of recording is sometimes referred to as 'extensive counting', since the crime statistics cover reported acts of rape. If a woman reports that she was subjected to several rapes by a group of men, or to repeated rapes on different occasions by one and the same man, each rape will be registered as a separate offence in the Swedish crime statistics. Furthermore, if a woman is subjected to repeated rapes during the same day by the same perpetrator, this may be registered as one or several crimes, depending on whether it is possible to distinguish each separate act.
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Sett till en tioårsperiod (2004–2013) har de anmälda våldtäkterna ökat markant, vilket till stor del kan förklaras av förändringar i sexualbrottslagstiftningen som trädde i kraft den 1 april 2005.
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[I Sverige finns] bättre anmälningsupptagning än på andra håll, våldtäktsbegreppet har utvidgats och det finns en större vilja hos svenska kvinnor att anmäla våldtäkter även inom relationer, [...] säger professor Kelly.
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Please note that when using the figures, any cross-national comparisons should be conducted with caution because of the differences that exist between the legal definitions of offences in countries, or the different methods of offence counting and recording.
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En förväxling som är vanlig även på andra håll, till exempel hos islamister som hävdar att våldtäkt inte finns i länder som Egypten [...] Åtta av de tio högst rankade länderna i våldtäktsstatistiken är nämligen medlemmar i OECD, samarbetsorganisationen för världens mest utvecklade länder. [...] sex av de tio länderna i topp på FN:s lista återfinns på World Economic Forums rankning över världens mest jämställda länder.
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As it stands, under Egyptian law sexual harassment is not criminialised, and rape by objects or hands is only classified as assault.
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[...] there are also other potential influences at work. These would include: widening the definition of rape in law; procedural rules [...]; the creation of better responses to victims which increase their confidence in the criminal justice system. [...] For four of the five countries in this group there are doubts about the internal validity of the data provided.
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