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Nordic countries have ‘disturbingly high levels of rape’ despite equality initiatives, says Amnesty

Nordic countries have ‘disturbingly high levels of rape’ despite equality initiatives, says Amnesty
Amnesty International has produced a damning report in which it claims that the four Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) still have “disturbingly high levels of rape” despite gender equality initiatives.

Citing “flawed legislation and widespread harmful myths and gender stereotypes,” the shocking report, titled ‘Time for Change: Justice for Rape Survivors in the Nordic Countries,’ decries “endemic impunity for rapists across the region.”

Laws in Finland, Norway and Denmark do not define rape on the basis of lack of consent, as agreed under the Istanbul Convention, but instead focus on physical violence, threat, coercion or state of consciousness or intoxication.

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Amnesty say this is an issue due to “involuntary paralysis” or “freezing,” which is a well-recognised physiological and psychological response to sexual assault. Therefore huge numbers of sexual assaults in each of the Nordic countries do not fall under this legal definition and thus are difficult to prosecute.

“It is a paradox that Nordic countries, which have strong records of upholding gender equality, suffer shockingly high levels of rape,” said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s secretary general.

Amnesty alleges that criminal justice systems in the Nordic countries “ignore, deny and tacitly condone” sexual violence against women.

Finland reports roughly 50,000 cases of sexual assault per annum but in 2017 only 209 convictions were secured.

In Norway, victims are reluctant to report rapes due to prevailing gender stereotypes, attitudes to sex and a lengthy and drawn-out legal process which can sometimes take up to two years to go to trial.

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Sweden did introduce consent-based laws and the additional offence of “negligent rape” in 2018. Flaws in judicial, forensic and investigative methods as well as a lack of uniformity in the approach to investigation and prosecution remain, however, as only six percent of cases involving adult sexual assault resulted in prosecution in 2017.

In Denmark during 2017, of 890 rapes reported to police, just 535 led to prosecution with only 94 convictions.

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