Would you like to get a bottle up your anus? No? Would you like that people, either someone you know or a stranger forced himself on you, mutilate or abuse you? No? Of course not. Then why do that to others? Not all are rapists, but we all have limits within ourselves to consider so that we don’t become rapists. Last weekend I visited an evening arranged in protest against strange and upsetting court sentences where men who have been accused of rape, and the cases strong and severe nevertheless have been acquitted. We have seen several cases of that lately which has sent waves of anger and opposition in the Swedish society. This particular evening was arranged by Femtastic and Crossing Borders. As a former member of Swedish Men for Gender Equality I had been invited and I quickly decided to come, listen, support and report. Christer Karlsson from Män för Jämställdhet (Men for Gender Equality) had invited me and we met when the doors at Moriska Paviljongen had been opened at six o’ clock last Saturday evening, on January the 25th 2014. The young feminists Cleo and Vanessa Marko from Femtastic were those who had taken initiative to this particular political discussion and performance in protest against the rapes and acquittals in Swedish courts. You may contact and discuss these things and others with them at firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We now see a massive protest wave against the rapes and acquittals among women in all ages around Sweden as well as around the world. This campaign has been called “FATTA!”, roughly translated as “COMPREHEND!” or “GET IT!”. FATTA!, http://www.fatta.nu is meant to unite women all over in this protest movement along with those who support them and back them up in various ways. According to Brå, Brottsförebyggande Rådet/The National Crime Prevention Council in Sweden and their research about 100 rapes are committed every day nationwide, but not all are reported or taken to court. Sometimes the one who has been victimized feel ashamed, let down or not believed. Sometimes reports about sexual harrassments and/or rapes are withdrawn. Roughly 6000 reports have come in to the police in Sweden annually the last few years, but there are only 200 court sentences. Moreover many who are tried in court accused of rapes or sexual abuse are acquitted, and the amount of acquittals have risen lately. Some very strange sentences the last two years have provoked an enormous flood of anger and opposition from especially women, but also from men. Inside the hall I walked up to a table belonging to Tjejjouren/The Young Women Shelter Service, http://www.tjejjouren.se. I conversed the young woman behind the table a bit and took a leaflet about sexual harrassments, abuse and rapes written by one Linn Engblom from Tjejjouren Ronja in Västerås.
Last Saturday evening a panel had been invited where Ida Östensson from Crossing Borders to the left in the photos asked the questions and led the discussions. The young feminists had invited a senior activist in this field, Madeleine Leijonhufvud, former professor in Criminal Law. She has been struggling for the rights of women and against abuse for decades. She is not at all content with the attitudes among her peers within the judicial field, how judges and lawyers behave and think. Sissela Nordling Blanco from Feministiskt Initiativ, a left-wing political party also had been invited. You see her just left of Madeleine Leijonhufvud in two of the photos. Alan Ali from Elektra and Sharaf heroes was the only male in the panel. He is a Kurdish man who was fighting in the streets as a young boy, came to Sweden, lived according to traditional macho values in his youth, being a boxer. Eventually Alan Ali began studying gender issues and became a group leader for young immigrant boys learning to behave well and how to quit the bad attitudes towards the opposite sex. How to be a man all the same. Martina Skrak is a Left Party politician here in Malmoe with municipal responsibility for gender equality issues. The discussions were interesting, but also severe, because of the serious topic.
The last straw which provoked this massive protest was a court sentence from two weeks ago. A 27-year old man had violated a young woman, and during the sex she had repeatedly protested, said “no” and “stop”, but he had continued. He replied “I’m not finished with you yet”. In Lund Crown Court when the offender was standing trial he claimed that he had believed the young woman had wanted domination sex and therefore neglected her protests. He had “recognized the protests” from earlier women, but said that it must have been part of the act. The court believed him and let him go. On January 19th hundreds of people had gathered outside Lund Crown Court in protest against the acquittal. Also in Stockholm and Gothenburg big demonstrations were arranged where feminists of all ages and political colours participated. 3000 in Stockholm. Our EU minister Birgitta Ohlsson, from the People’s Party the Liberals and Liberal feminist was one of those who took part in the Stockholm demonstrations. She is also one of those many women who work hard for improvements. Birgitta Ohlsson mentioned earlier feats, the Swedish law against child abuse from 1979 and the Sex Buying Act from 1999 which makes the purchase of sexual favours illegal, but claimed that the work continues. Yesterday on February 1st there was a new demonstration at Medborgarplatsen/The Citizen Plaza in Stockholm which assembled 6200 people.
Madeleine Leijonhufvud said that she is very disturbed about the negligence and arrogant attitudes among too many lawyers and judges. Rape cases are often percieved as “women issues” and minor offences instead of serious felonies. The rape victims are often asked degrading questions about how they had been dressed, about their sexual behaviour and sexual record, if they had protested or not, if so how and how much. Those who stand charged for rape seldom get questions like that. There do exist laws against rapes in the Swedish judicial codex, but they have to be sharpened. The Canadian system was mentioned as a role model for cases like these. According to current Swedish law the victim of rape must have been in a “particullarly exposed situation” which is very vague and might be interpreted in various ways, and seldom in favour of the victimized. What’s now demanded is a law of consent for sex. That focus should be changed from the behaviour of the victim to the offender. What did he do, how did he (or she in some cases) behave?
In May 2013 another case occured when a group of teenage boys at the end of a party had been gang-raping a 15 year old girl. She had been drunk, and the boys had taken her into a nearby room, locked the door, taken her cellphone and forced the clothes off her. Then they had taken turn raping her. In court the boys were…acquitted. It could according to court not be proven that the girl wasn’t willing despite her weak protests. What court didn’t pay heed to was that a rape victim might react in three ways; 1) fight back, 2) “play dead” and freeze from fear and shock or 3) play along in order not to get even more hurt. Another case this last Autumn 2013 was a 46 year old man in Gothenburg on the west coast who had met a 21 year old woman on a bar. She had been very drunk and he had followed her outside. There she had fallen to the ground, and the man had taken her to his own flat where they drank some more and had sex. According to the woman he violated her. That man too was acquitted.
According to the information from the women’s shelters and girl shelter services most rapes occur in the homes, and the rapist is in most cases someone known to the victim, a friend, a class mate, a boyfriend, a husband, a coach, an uncle or someone else in the victim’s life. Sometimes it’s a group of people. In more rare cases the rapist is a stranger. It might be a stalker, someone with strange lusts or in crisis. In most cases like these the offender is a man or a group of men, but also women might be sexual offenders.
Femtastic and Crossing Borders had arranged an interesting and important event and I sincerely hope that it will have impact on the situation. The suggestion/demand for a law of consent to have sex has provoked various responses politically. The Left party, Feministiskt Initiativ, The Environment Party the Green on the left wing, along with bourgois the People’s Party the Liberals and the Centre quickly responded positively. Then followed the Social Democrats, and reluctantly the Sweden Democrats and finally the Conservative Moderate Party agreed that it might be good. This last week Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask, Conservative, has agreed that a new commission will work for a new law of sexual consent added to the sexual offence laws.
After the two and half hour debate there was a break. At nine o’ clock artists would perform with Spoken Words, Nasteho, Clara Stjärna, Kristin Amparo, Cleo, Quitto, Behrang Miri and others. Every number performed was somehow connected to the topic of the evening. The artists were good and their message food for thought. I hope that this will contribute to an improved situation in the world we live in.
Anders Moberg, February the 2d 2014