Saturday 21 September 2019

Nordic states failing rape victims amid 'disturbingly high' numbers

Kumi Naidoo: Amnesty International Secretary General. Photo: Getty Images
Kumi Naidoo: Amnesty International Secretary General. Photo: Getty Images

Maya Oppenheim

Nordic nations have "disturbingly high" levels of rape despite being gender equality trailblazers, according to a new report which also suggested they were failing victims.

Flawed legislation, prevalent harmful myths and gender stereotypes have given rise to endemic impunity for rapists across the region, Amnesty International found.

Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden - four countries which are among the top-ranking countries in the world for gender equality - were all found to have high levels of rape and survivors of sexual violence left feeling let down by the authorities.

In Finland, around 50,000 women each year experience sexual violence but there were only 209 convictions for rape in 2017. In the same year, 24,000 women were victims of rape or attempted rape in Denmark, but only 94 people were convicted. Despite changes in law in Sweden, one in 10 people believes gender-based violence against women is provoked by the victim herself, the report found.

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

Social stigma and a lack of trust in the justice system often mean that women and girls fail to report attacks, and those that do, are frequently failed by callous and prejudiced justice systems or outdated laws, he said.

"One survivor told us she would never have reported her rape if she had known how she would have been be treated, and her story is typical in justice systems which are stacked against rape survivors," he added.

Mr Naidoo said that amending rape laws across the Nordic countries was a critical step towards changing attitudes and achieving justice, but much more was needed to effect institutional and social change. He called on authorities to take steps to challenge rape myths and gender stereotypes at all levels of society.

Professionals working with rape survivors need to get adequate ongoing training, he said, adding that broader sex education and awareness-raising programmes were needed from a young age.

Amnesty International noted that although the situation facing survivors of rape is not uniform across the four Nordic countries, there were "disturbing parallels".

The report entitled 'Time for change: Justice for rape survivors in the Nordic countries', found gender stereotypes and rape myths underpin attitudes of many people in the justice system in Norway. (© Independent News Service)

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