Sweden is making international headlines once again, but in a very strange manner. You have to live under a rock to have missed the ongoing battle to arrest and extradite Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to Sweden on the charge of rape. Personally, I don't want to make this blog too much about political leanings and current events, but this touches upon an issue I have always struggled with in Swedish law. That is the charge of rape in the Swedish system.
Also, please note, I am not a lawyer and have not played one on TV. Most of this analysis is from reading the paper on a regular basis for years, and having read the actual law on the books with my layman's interpretation. If this subject intrests you, I encourage you to do your own digging.
The definition of rape, or våldtäkt, is exceedingly antiquated, in my humble opinion. In order to be charged with rape the victim had to have been forced into a sexual situation due to extreme violence or threat of violence/crime. There was no recognition under the law that the act of commiting a sexual act on someone who wasn't a willing partner was violence in and of itself. Also, in some cases, the victim had to explain why, if there was limited violence, they didn't fight back. If their reason was not substantial, the case could be downgraded to Sexual Assault. However, an exception is may be made if the victim cannot fight back because they have been drugged, are asleep, or passed out.
And then lets look at the statistics. According to Amnesty International over 3,500 rapes were reported in 2007. 450 cases were persued by the prosecuter. The rest were closed. But it gets worse.
Because Swedish courts have an incredibly hard time (understandably so) with he said/she said (or whatever assemblage of pronouns you might need here). The supreme court has repeatedly overturned cases in which anyone has been jailed on the power of testimony, only. And as of 2009 has stated that they will repeatedly do so.
Of those 450 rape cases that went to court in 2007. 216 people were convicted. That is 216 convictions in 3,500 reported rapes.
Here is a highly controversial example from several years ago: A young girl, 13, spends an afternoon drinking with some older men (I believe early 20's). She gets very drunk and they all have sex with her. They are charged with statuatory rape. They are freed because they say the girl told them she was 15 (the legal age) and they cannot prove that the men knew she was 13 years old. The only people there were the men and the girl. No one can prove they knew her age.
And what happens to those convicted folk? The maximum jail sentence is 4 years. Unless there is evidence of extreme violence, in which case it can be elevated to 10 years. Want to take a guess how many times that has happened?
So this is why this whole Assange thing has got me scratching my head. Are they SO sure they can actually get this guy for rape? Given all of the difficulties they have getting John Doe convicted of rape? Was he really so reckless? Because if not, that would mean some pretty crazy things are going on. Author and 'I swear the US hates me so much they won't let me in' spokesman Jan Guillou was on TV last night saying that even he felt this was too crazy to be a conspiracy theory. And if he says so, that only makes me scratch my head even more.
What is going on here? For more information please see the Amnesty web site – their report 'Case Closed' on rape in Scandinavia.