Saturday, March 27, 2010

Impunity for Sex Offenders in Scandinavia

For awhile, I've privately held the view that criminal laws in Scandinavia are for the most part - loose and do not adequately sanction offenders. No doubt this is the case because it's not uncommon for criminals to walk the streets because they have been handed down suspended sentences for the worst crimes. You might dismiss my view, but a credible international human rights organization - Amnesty International - shares the same view and has slammed Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden for allowing impunity for sex offenders. In many jurisdictions around the world, rape is a felony and offenders bear the full weight of the law, but in Scandinavia, the story is different.

In a report, entitled Case Closed: Rape and Human Rights in Nordic Countries, published on 8 March 2010, Amnesty International cited, with regret, the level of impunity for sex offenders in Scandinavia. The report documents a couple of disturbing cases of rape, including: The case of a man in Finland who forced a woman to have sex in a car park toilet by banging her head against the wall and twisting her arm behind her back. The court held that it was not rape because the violence was of a "lesser degree". The man was given a suspended sentence of 7 months in prison for coercion (...not rape).

Justice served?

Cases of rape in the Scandinavian countries are rarely reported and those that are reported rarely make it to court. The few that make it to court are commonly acquitted. In other words, rape victims are not adequately protected by law all across the region; instead the credibility of their complaints are more often than not - questioned.

In Finland, the level of impunity enjoyed by sex offenders is alarming. Victims of rape have little chance of seeing justice served, with only between 2% and 10% of rape cases reported. According to Amnesty International, Finland is at the bottom of the list of Scandinavian countries when it comes to protecting victims of rape and bringing perpetrators to justice.

The report highlights the fact that in Scandinavian countries - Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway, the definition of rape in domestic law is not in line with rape, as defined by the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court. According to the courts, the absence of consent is key, in the definition of rape. In sharp contrast, all four Scandinavian countries define rape as "the use of violence or threats of violence". Hence, in Scandinavia, violence and threats are the main ingredients that constitute rape as an offence. It goes without saying therefore that in the region, non-consensual sex without considerable violence does not constitute rape. This is clearly not in accordance with international law.

Amnesty International criticized Finnish legislation, which defines rape as "coercion into sexual intercourse". As if this definition is not flawed enough, the punishment is remarkably lenient - usually a fine or a few months in prison.

In Finland and Denmark, non-consensual sex with a drunk victim is not rape. This explains why a Finnish District Court sentenced a man to 8 month [suspended] imprisonment for non-consensual sex with a drunk woman on board a ferry from Finland to Sweden. The perpetrator was convicted for sexual abuse; not rape.

In my opinion, in a civilized society, non-consensual sex with a drunk victim should be ruled as rape and heavily sanctioned. Do you or do you not agree?

Did you notice that not much has been said about Sweden so far?

Well, let's say I was saving the worst for last: Sweden tops the European Rape League - recording the highest number of reported cases of rape in Europe (46 cases per 100,000 residents). This makes Sweden - the "rape capital" of Europe. The record high rate of rapes in Sweden is accompanied by a record low rate of convictions. Amnesty International noted that Sweden's rapists enjoy impunity and criticized Sweden's record low rate of rape convictions. It is worth mentioning that the United Nations is also alarmed by Sweden's over-the-top rape record.

Although Scandinavian countries pride themselves with the attainment of gender equality in many aspects of daily life, they have failed so far to protect women from rape and other forms of violence.


  1. Sadly true. And it's not like the people in general approve of it - again and again a rape case and its ridiculous lack of penalty makes the news, and people are outraged and demand harsher penalties. Several addresses have been signed and lots of comments made for years, but those in power simply don't care, about women or about the opinions of people.

  2. I don't know. Scandinavia's justice system is actually quite effective. They believe in rehabilitation and second chances, and it works. Of course you see horrific cases in the news, that's what the news does. That will always be. There will always be some horrific person or some terrible crime no matter how punitive laws become. But these are the only cases you hear, and they are only a fraction of a fraction of the cases. If you keep increasing sentences for a crime, after a certain point it really has no further effect. People who commit first-time crimes aren't deterred by a punishment they didn't even know existed.

    1. Scandinavian countries lack proper punishment. They are lenient because of low populace. In larger countries it is well notice and well punished because they are large countries. Norway gets away with it because it such a low population. But with it population rape is more than one thinks.

    2. Don't think Scandinavian countries justice system is effective because its not. Lived their many years and their justice system needs an over haul.

  3. This article make a major contradiction saying rapes are under reported

    "Cases of rape in the Scandinavian countries are rarely reported "

    and then saying Sweden has the highest % of reported rapes?

    "Sweden tops the European Rape League - recording the highest number of reported cases of rape in Europe"

    Also this all ignores the low violent crime rate of Nordic countries, there system works better than almost anywhere else in the world. They live in some of the most peaceful societies in history.


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