Amnesty International published an article on April 3, 2019 on the flawed legal system in Scandinavian countries. “The law leaves victims of sexual violence out in the cold.” We checked whether Amnesty International’s article on the flawed legal system, when it comes to rape, is correct. Little has changed since then in the Scandinavian countries.
Who said what?
The article claims that the law in Scandinavian countries leaves victims of sexual violence out in the cold. To check this, we need to understand what that means. Amnesty indicates that Scandinavian countries have signed the Istanbul Convention. The Convention covers rape and all other sexual acts without mutual consent, as crimes. Which means that a victim has to refuse verbally or non-verbally and only then it would be considered sexual violence. According to Amnesty, many victims experience the so-called ‘freezing’: they paralyze. Experts indicate that this is a common reaction. As a result, victims who are paralyzed, and are therefore unable to contradict, would not experience sexual violence under the law.
To check the claim, we need to look at what laws Scandinavian countries have regarding sexual violence. In Sweden, a law was passed in July 2018 stating that sex is prohibited without explicit consent. With that, the government hopes to combat rape and sexual abuse. Finland, on the other hand, is still behind when it comes to this and was called upon by the Council of Europe in September 2019 to reform its rape legislation in order to criminalize a lack of consent rather than just the use of force. Denmark and Norway also follow the Istanbul Convention in their countries when it comes to sexual violence and rape. They still don’t define sex without consent, like Finland, as rape.
We have examined the research from Amnesty International, Time for change: Justice for rape survivors in the Nordic countries (2019). They have thoroughly investigated the circumstances surrounding sexual violence. All Scandinavian countries have been viewed separately, in terms of laws, handling of police investigations and access to aid.They interviewed 45 women from different countries about this. In addition, there are several news articles, including from the Dutch newspaper AD and The Guardian, about the lack of legislation in Scandinavian countries when it comes to this topic. On the website of the ‘European Institute for Gender Equality’ you can find out what laws in different countries look like and how they act. In Finland, for example, rape is seen as ‘a person who forces another to have sexual intercourse through use or threat of violence’.
We rate Amnesty International’s article as mostly true. The investigation covers the whole of Scandinavia, and so does the ruling. But Sweden has a different policy than the other Scandinavian countries and is already very much ahead, even compared to other European countries. Most of the claim, however, is true. Denmark, Finland and Norway continue to follow the Istanbul Convention, which leaves victims of sexual violence and rape short when it comes to conviction. The figures on police investigations and judgments of penalties also speak for themselves; the legislation ensures that fewer rapists/perpetrators are caught and punished. As a result, the claim: ‘There is outdated legislation in Scandinavia when it comes to rape ‘ is mostly true.
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