Update: Victim of “Infidelity Check” Receives Justice

Earlier this year we reported on a story in which a man’s sexual assault of his girlfriend, in order to check for evidence of her being unfaithful, was not deemed a rape act and was instead treated as a violent act that lacked sexual intent. Initially, the man was sentenced to 32 months in prison for rape and abuse. After an appeal, The Svea Court of Appeal, however, dismissed the sexual assault claim and lowered the sentence to 14 months in prison in which the man was only found guilty for acts of violence without sexual characteristics.

The Local reported on once again a change in sentencing as the case went to Sweden’s Supreme Court which ruled that the act was indeed rape and stated that:

“If a man forces a woman to tolerate him putting his fingers in her genitals, then the incident has a tangible sexual character that is capable of violating her sexual integrity. It is therefore a question of a punishable sexual act”.

The man was again sentenced to 32 months in prison and have to pay damages of 116,000 kronor ($17,700) to the woman.

Women, You Are Your Looks

Right now the Euro 2013 Games are underway, and women’s soccer is receiving loads of attention. The Swedish soccer team has already played a few games, and a sexist backlash of homophobic comments immediately followed the first match, where Sweden and Denmark tied.

According to The Local, post-match comments on Twitter focused not on the Swedish players’ competence, but rather on their attractiveness. Some comments included, “Women’s football is small breasts, lesbians and short hair” and “Swedish women’s football… lesbian whores is what you are.” Swedish handball coach Andreas Stockenberg also weighed in, writing that “When the Swedish squad in women’s football has dinner with their partners there are 40 women and 4 guys” and that “they can hardly trap a sandbag.” Stockenberg defended his comments by saying that the team received “far too much undeserved media attention.” [Read more...]

Sterilized Swedish Trans People Will Not Receive A Government Apology

We’ve previously discussed how trans people in Sweden were forced to undergo sterilization procedures before being allowed to transition, as well as a new law in which this discriminatory regulation was removed. In June, the  Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) and many of the trans women and men who were sterilized sued the government for compensation.

The Local recently published an article about the controversy.  The trans community has asked the Swedish prime minister to apologize on behalf of all the women and men who were sterilized; according to Aleksa Lundberg, an actress and trans woman, the prime minister’s response has been that “the government can’t apologize every time a group wants an apology.” It is terrible that the prime minister will not apologize to the men and women who were treated so poorly  and robbed of a future involving biological children. He is not acknowledging the treatment these women and men faced, and is not treating their suffering as anything significant. [Read more...]

Court Claims Victim Of Sexual Assault Could Have Just Been Shy

An article in one of our local papers discussed the assumptions and beliefs of the Swedish legal system as three men were acquitted of rape charges. Two men sexually took advantage of a young woman while a third held a camera, filming the assault, which took place at a party. The assault also involved the attackers using a wine bottle. As if this was not degrading and horrifying enough, acquittal in the case did not pertain to lack of evidence as much as flimsy and stereotypical assumptions about women’s intent and consent. The court stated that: “The men could have mistaken the woman’s attempts to keep her legs together as simply a sign of her being shy or initially hesitant.” The court also stated that: “People involved in sexual activities together sometimes act spontaneously and without asking the other person involved for consent.”

The three men were freed from charges even though the court claimed the woman’s testimony to have been believable, logical, consistent, detailed and more probable than the stories given by the men during their testimonies. Despite this, the court believed that the men were unaware of the fact that the woman did not express consent.  [Read more...]

Swedish Police Fail Rape Victims

The last few days, a number of headlines in Swedish newspapers have discussed the large amount of rape cases that go unsolved. One of the reasons for this does not appear to be lack of evidence, but rather the appalling treatment of collected evidence.

Articles provide examples such as that of a 25-year rape victim who went to the police where semen and other evidence were gathered. The man accused of rape denied his involvement. A match in DNA analysis could have closed that case but the police mishandled the case so badly that it resulted in the loss of DNA evidence and dropped charges.

The woman, together with her attorney, filed a claim for compensation arguing that with the DNA the man could have been found guilty. The woman was, however, not given any compensation, form of restitution, or claim of justice. [Read more...]

Sweden Receives Its First Gender-Neutral Changing Room

transgenderAn LGBTQ organization at a school in Stockholm made headlines as they lobbied for and received an LGBTQ changing room, or a gender-neutral changing room, at their school. Two of the spokespeople for the organization said that they wanted a changing room for individuals who identify as LGBTQ. Last week the school held a ceremony celebrating the very first gender-neutral changing room in the nation.

We believe that this is a step in the right direction since there need to be spaces for LGBTQ individuals where they can feel safe and have access to accommodations that does not force them into stereotypical gender categories, or the categories of simply female or male.

At the same time, there is a lack of understanding of the LGBTQ community, as was demonstrated in discussions surrounding the opening of the gender neutral changing room. Rather than focusing on violence against LGBTQ individuals and their need for safe spaces the person who covered the story wondered how safe it would be to have both men and women change in the same room. The interviewer seems to assume that in an LGBTQ changing room the categories of male and female still rigidly apply, without being aware of the fact that many people within the LGBTQ community do not simply identify as male or female.   [Read more...]

Laws and lawmakers that do not help women

Content Notice: This piece discusses sexual assault and violence.

The past weeks news and headlines has us tired and upset. We have been constantly reading about Swedish lawmakers disappointing responses to the suffering and harms of women. Sweden often prides itself in being one of the top countries in the world when it comes to equality between men and women. Still, lawmakers seem to be doing very little to protect women and their rights. Last week we blogged about a story reporting on a man who forcefully inserted two fingers into his girlfriend to check for evidence of her cheating, but was not sentenced for rape. According to the court, the crime was not “sexual enough” to be considered rape.

This week is however not proving much better. Just the other day we read an article in our local newspaper that discussed the murder of a woman by her former boyfriend. The woman and man had previously been in a relationship in which he physically abused her and she reported the abuse to the police. The woman thereafter filed for a restraining order since she was afraid that the man would contact, visit, or abuse her further. However, she was never granted a restraining order and only a few months after the request, he took her life by shooting her in the face and back.  [Read more...]

Sexual Assault Not ”Sexual Enough”

Content Notice: This piece discusses sexual violence, assault and rape.

A sexual assault case in Sweden describing how a man received a lowered sentence because the sexual assault he put his girlfriend through was not “sexual enough” or did not have enough of a sexual undertone has Swedish feminists extremely upset this past week.

The man in question had been threatening and beating his girlfriend for an extended period of time. In a jealous rage, which apparently was very common behavior for the man, he ripped his girlfriend’s underwear of and forced two fingers into her to check for “evidence” that she was cheating on him. The man was initially sentenced to two years and eight months for (among other things) rape. The definition of rape does cover sexual assault in all forms and is not solely based on penetrative acts. However, the Supreme Court changed the decision and claimed that the man simply had used force and dismissed the sexual assault claim.

According to the Court, the assault was not based on sexual violence but solely violence. The man did, according to our present laws, sexually assault the women but since he was “only” checking for evidence of cheating the Court meant that his assault lacked sexual characteristics. Thereby, the sentence was lowered to 14 months in prison.

Feminists groups have, as stated above, raged against the change of sentencing and have criticized how rape and sexual assault cases are being handled.  This case is also similar to a previous rape case that we have discussed here at Feminists For Choice in which the attempted rape of a trans woman was dismissed as attempted rape because the victim did not have a vagina and therefore rape would have been “impossible”.

Trans Identity and Public Restrooms

The other day, an article in our local newspaper caught our attention. The article discussed how a Swedish trans woman filed a claim of discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

The trans woman was, on two separate occasions, not allowed to use the women’s restroom after she was told by a “restroom host” that she was in fact a man. Despite explaining her transgender identity and her gender belonging, the woman was not allowed into the restroom.

[Read more...]

PrevenTell: A Help Line for “Unwanted Sexuality”

About six months ago, PrevenTell, a Swedish help line, began operations. This service is for people who feel like they need support and advice in regards to their sexuality, sexual urges, thoughts or inclinations that may be unacceptable, illegal, or harmful. In short, they are seeking help for their “unwanted sexuality.”

People who are encouraged to call the help line are those who feel like their sexual urges and wishes might be hurtful to either themselves or to others, or are becoming a problem; or if a person is concerned about someone else’s sexual behavior or behaviors. The support line was developed in order to prevent sexual abuse and assault by aiming to help and advise those who feel like their sexuality is out of control–namely, the people who are likely to abuse or hurt someone else.

PrevenTell is a great step towards accepting the fact that it is the person acting out, not the victim, that is behaving in an unacceptable or risky way. If we focus more on prevention of, and education about, sexual abuse and non-acceptable sexual behavior, we are less likely to blame the victim or engage in victim-blaming language or assumptions.