what happens in the north. sex in sweden #2

There were few reasons that motivated me to prepare this text. First of all, I wanted to write it for a long time now – something more engaged and timeous. Secondly, on July 1st samtyckeslag (the consent law) came into force, which may or may not change something in sexual relation of Swedes, but for sure sustained discussion opened thanks to #metoo campaign. Lastly, on September 9th Swedish elections took place, so the hostesses of the podcast Alla våra ligg invited all the political parties to talk about sex. Inspired by all those factors, I wanted to sum up those interviews and put them in a context of sex life in Sweden.  

Sex crimes in Sweden, source: https://www.bra.se/statistik/statistik-utifran-brottstyper/valdtakt-och-sexualbrott.html

Sex crimes in Sweden, source: https://www.bra.se/statistik/statistik-utifran-brottstyper/valdtakt-och-sexualbrott.html

SEX CRIMES IN SWEDEN

Yes, I want to start with sex crimes and statistics. The chart shows only those which were reported to the police. In 2017 22,000 sexually motivated crimes were committed in Sweden (the dark green colour): 11,000 of them were cases of sexual assault (the yellow colour), 7,000 cases of rape (the purple colour) and 1,500 cases of sexual exploitation (paying for sex, indecent exposure, trafficking etc. – the blue colour). Side note: my translation might not be accurate, but I try not to blame my Swedish for it. It’s just a matter of Swedish law and language, which are very accurate. Polish and English, my two main languages, might have two words for five separate crimes according to Swedish  Penal Code.

Numbers presented at www.bra.se were derived from NTU, Nationella trygghetsundersökningen (The National Survey of Safety). It’s a great and detailed source so I encourage you to check it by yourself. Here I present some gathered data.

According to NTU, in 2016 2,4% of Swedish citizens between age 16 and 79 felt exposed to sex crimes, which gives 181,000 people. In comparison with the previous survey, the number has risen from 1,7% and for many years it was maintained under 1%. Half of this 2,4% was endangered at least two times under 2016, 42% from two to nine times, 9% - over ten times. When looking at the gender, there is a clear dominance of women in the NTU. In 2015 0,6% of them were exposed to sex crime. A year later it was already 4,1%. Most of the victims were between 16 and 24 years old. The NTU shows also that singles and people living in a multi-family residential housing are more vulnerable than couples and families living under their own roof. The fact of having children does not increase a potentiality of becoming a victim. Children of parents born abroad are more exposed than regular foreigners. Almost half of sex crimes happens in public places, 17% occurs in the workplace or school. 65% is committed by a complete stranger, 24% of perpetrators are considered to be acquaintances, 11% close relatives.

Samtyckeslag (the consent law) came into force on July 1st. Now a person needs to give clear consent, verbal or physical, to have sex and in case of rape the prosecutor no longer needs to prove violence or that the victim was in a vulnerable situation (for example the influence of the alcohol). Passivity is no longer considered to be a consent for sex. The law passed with 257 votes, 38 were against. Sweden, alongside Germany, Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Cyprus and United Kingdom, became a country where sex without consent is considered to be rape. The rest of Europe defines rape as an act carried out with a use of threat and/or violence.

Rape is one of the heaviest crimes in Swedish law. It’s punishable by a term of two to six years. For a rape committed with extreme cruelty one can be sentenced for at least four and at most ten years. The age of consent in Sweden is 15, as well as in Denmark and Iceland. In Norway and Finland it was set at 16. This age limit was introduced in Sweden in 1864 for girls in 1937 for boys. It applies to all kinds of sexual activities. What also came into force in 1864 was a prohibition of homosexual acts for men and women. They became legal again in 1944, but the age of consent was set at 18, not 15 like for heterosexual acts. They were levelled in 1978. It is forbidden in Sweden to pay for sex, although it’s legal to sell it. Any sexual contact with a person under the age of 15 is considered to be a sexual assault. There is no penalty if both participants of sexual intercourse are under the age of 15. Rape on a child is punishable by up to six years (Swedish Penal Code, Chapter 6).

Homosexuality. Sexual relations between representatives of the same sex became legal in Sweden in 1944, although homosexuality in medical sense was considered to be a mental disorder until 1979. Homosexual rights were gradually extended since the 1980s. In 1995 they gained right to organize civil unions, same sex marriage were introduced in 2009 and adoption for same sex couples in 2003. First Pride Festival was held in Sweden in 1998 and with years it grew to a huge event, held for couple of days and with national institutions like Nationalmuseum engaged. There is no sensation in participation of the government in Pride Festival.  Swedish Ambassadors in Poland very often show their support for the Polish Pride Parade. Andreas Carlgren (Centerpartiet) became the first openly gay Swedish minister – he held a position of the Minister of Environement in Fredrik Reinfeldt’s government 2006-2011. Tobias Billström (Moderaterna) was the first openly bisexual Swedish minister, responsible for the Ministry of Migration in years 2006-2014.

Pornography. The 1960s were a time of softening the pornography laws. Creating images with naked children were considered to be the child’s rights to its sexuality. From 1971 to 1980 it was legal to buy, sell and possess child pornography with kids from the age of 10, as well as animal and violent pornography. This legislation led to a scandal in 2009 when it was publicly noted that this type of pornography is still accessible at National Library. It has an obligation to collect and archive any material that was ever printed in Sweden, including child, animal and violent pornography. Apparently it is enough to apply for those sources and justify the request that they are needed for journalistic or academical research.

Abortion became legal in Sweden in 1938 in three cases, which are the same as in Poland since 1993: if the pregnancy pose a threat to woman’s life or health, if the pregnancy was an effect of rape, if the fetus is irreparably damaged. In 1946 the law was extended and since then also social conditions were taken into account. Since 1974 there is no need for justification: women can have abortion until the 18th week of pregnancy on demand. During this year’s political campaign Sverigedemokraterna (Swedish Democrats) suggested that the abortion should be carried out up to only 12th week of the pregnancy.

Amanda&Anna, hostesses of Alla våra ligg, source: https://www.radioplay.se/podcast/alla-vara-ligg

Amanda&Anna, hostesses of Alla våra ligg, source: https://www.radioplay.se/podcast/alla-vara-ligg

ALLA VÅRA LIGG

First things first –  Alla våra ligg is probably my favourite podcast ever. Its hosts, Anna and Amanda, talk about “sex, sexuality and to own your own choices”. It’s educational, informative, broadens my perspective Swedish sex life and often it’s very engaged in social perspective - or maybe it’s normal and just my Polish experiences make it thought-provoking. The greatest culture shock for me was a series of short interviews with Swedish politicians before the election of 2018. Anna and Amanda invited all the parties to talk about sex and sexuality and send set of questions to them. Only Sverigedemokraterna (Swedish Democrats) and Moderaterna (Moderate party) didn’t want to participate in the programme after they saw the questions. All the interviews had similar scheme with small differences. I picked up pieces that interested me personally. I tried to translate the politicians words as accurate as possible, so if I mangled it was unintentional. I organized the interviews with classical order, from left to right, although you should keep in mind that being right wing politician doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing in Poland as in Sweden. First three questions were called “the fast ones” and they were prepared by Amanda and Anna for all politicians. After those came questions from the listeners, from which I chose those intriguing and/or surprising.

Vänsterpartiet

Vänsterpartiet (the Left Party) was represented by Jonas Sjöstedt, the current chairman of the party; source: https://twitter.com/jsjostedt?_ga=2.189123115.1802919402.1540885119-1744781005.1540885119

Vänsterpartiet (the Left Party) was represented by Jonas Sjöstedt, the current chairman of the party; source: https://twitter.com/jsjostedt?_ga=2.189123115.1802919402.1540885119-1744781005.1540885119

1: Should feminine hygie

ne products be free of charge? Yes, at least for women until 20 years old.

2: Should sexual advertisement be regulated by law? Yes, there is a need to regulate this, for example in order  to avoid sexist ads.

3: Should law guaranteeing women a right to breastfeeding in public places come into force? Today it is their right. Even if there are places like restaurants in which the staff is strongly against that, Sjöstedt thinks that there is always a way to talk about it and find a solution.

Question from a listener: How politicians should secure the right for all people to sexual health and promote especially women’s right to it? Vänsterpartiet is standing up for implementing more means dedicated to women in order to help them have a safe sex life, save pregnancy and safe childbirth. Even if Sweden already did a lot for improving the situation of pregnant women, working conditions for midwives need improvement. More staff is required in order to provide less stressful situation for both midwives and pregnant women.

Question from a listener: How should sexual education in Sweden develop? What exists in Sweden today is not enough. #metoo campaign had a huge impact on sexual awareness and this potential cannot be wasted. Government should be influenced in order to broaden sexual education and make it more detailed.  

Socialdemokraterna

Socialdemokraterna (Swedish Social Democratic party) were represented by Hannah Bergstedt, member of the Riksdag; source: https://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=98&artikel=6813189

Socialdemokraterna (Swedish Social Democratic party) were represented by Hannah Bergstedt, member of the Riksdag; source: https://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=98&artikel=6813189

1: Should feminine hygiene products be free of charge? We should start taking into account even environmental perspective and make menstrual cups free of charge.

3: Should law guaranteeing women a right to breastfeeding in public places come into force?  The angle needs to be shifted: it is the children right to be tired and to be hungry, so we should focus more on ethical discussions instead of legislation. If it happens that a place bans breastfeeding women, people should boycott it. We have lost the babies needs in this case.

Question from a listener: How politicians should secure the right for all people to sexual health and promote especially women’s right to it? Sexual education in school is very important and we surely should put more attention to it. However, there is a need to take care of the elderly in the matter or sexual education. Most of them haven’t received any or very little of it, any sexual help. Furthermore, postnatal period is still treated like a taboo, like it’s shameful for women to have problems after labour. They don’t have many sources to get information from and learn what’s natural for feminine body after labour. We must restore or even create from the beginning a right for women to say about changes in their bodies after delivering a baby.

Question from a listener: How should sexual education in Sweden develop? Even small children should be provided with some sexual education, of course suited for their age.

Question from a listener: What is the party’s attitude towards LGBTQ people to have children? Sweden should work on getting more countries to accept same sex marriages and adoption by same sex couples. Transgender people should get ability to adopt children as well in the future.

Miljöpartiet (Green Party Sweden) was represented by Gustav Fridolin, Minister of Education in Löfven Cabinet, spokesperson of the Green Party.

Miljöpartiet (Green Party Sweden) was represented by Gustav Fridolin, Minister of Education in Löfven Cabinet, spokesperson of the Green Party.

Miljöpartiet

1: Should feminine hygiene products be free of charge? Yes, for all, but especially for young people. The Green Party is aware of the fact that not all people in Sweden can afford them. This is also another tool to make young people to become independent of their parents in their intimate life.

2: Should sexual advertisement be regulated by law? Yes, although it’s a difficult task, cause we have to look at the freedom of speech.

Question from a listener: What is the party’s attitude towards LGBTQ people to have children? Sweden has already broadened LGBTQ communities rights and Miljöpartiet is still trying to make more. One of the issues that still needs political work is extending LGBTQ parents to become as full as heterosexual parents.

Question from a listener: How can young women feel safe being out in the town late in the night? And how can their parents feel safe that they will come back home? We should apply feminist urban planning.

Question from a listener: How politicians should secure the right for all people to sexual health and promote especially women’s right to it? The education is very important. Not only teaching where clitoris is, but also about sexually transmitted diseases.

Liberalerna

Liberalerna (Liberals) were represented by Barbro Westerholm, the oldest member of Riksdag. She used to be the general director of the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare and in 1979 thanks to her homosexuality was crossed out from the list of mental health diseases. Westerholm is constantly engaged in increasing true equality in Sweden; source: https://www.liberalerna.se/barbro-westerholm/

Liberalerna (Liberals) were represented by Barbro Westerholm, the oldest member of Riksdag. She used to be the general director of the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare and in 1979 thanks to her homosexuality was crossed out from the list of mental health diseases. Westerholm is constantly engaged in increasing true equality in Sweden; source: https://www.liberalerna.se/barbro-westerholm/

1: Should feminine hygiene products be free of charge? No. We have restrained economical resources and tax money should be invested in other things, for example improving life conditions for handicap people.

2: Should sexual advertisement be regulated by law? No. We should not interfere with freedom of speech, but it’s people’s decision to react against violence.  

3: Should law guaranteeing women a right to breastfeeding in public places come into force? No. As a general rule, law should not force or allow people to act in a certain way or do specific stuff. It’s better to inform people, educate and influence them with a help of promoted role models.

Question from a listener: How politicians should secure the right for all people to sexual health and promote especially women’s right to it? A lot of things have already been done to secure women’s sexual health, for example emergency contraception and abortion laws.  

Question from a listener: How should sexual education in Sweden develop? It needs improvement, even if it looks better today than when Westerholm was a pupil. Back then, the focus was on how to educate youngsters to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Nowadays the perspective and needs are shifted.

Question from a listener: It the 18th week a good deadline for an abortion? Sweden should keep this deadline and broaden the set of exceptions for this procedure to happen after this period. The main concern is to reduce number of illegal abortions, because nowadays many women still avoid doctors due to fear or social pressure, so they get abortion but in secret, dangerous conditions.

Question from a listener: What is the party’s attitude towards LGBTQ people to have children? Liberalerna support the solution of introducing legal surrogacy (although Westerholm is strongly opposed to this word and used Swedish värdmödraskap) – woman should be able to bear child for another couple. She should not be paid for the fact of bearing a child, but her outlay ought to be covered.

Centerpartiet

Centerpartiet (Centre Party) was represented by Claes Nyberg; source:  https://www.centerpartiet.se/lokal/stockholmsregionen/stockholms-stad/startsida/om-oss/vara-politiker/claes-nyberg

Centerpartiet (Centre Party) was represented by Claes Nyberg; source: https://www.centerpartiet.se/lokal/stockholmsregionen/stockholms-stad/startsida/om-oss/vara-politiker/claes-nyberg

1: Should feminine hygiene products be free of charge? Centerpartiet is against giving anything away for free. However, if giving hygiene products comes into force, it would be a decision made by kommuner (local authorities).

2: Should sexual advertisement be regulated by law? Centerpartiet is against prohibiting it by law. It’s hard to judge what should be forbidden and later who and how should be sentenced for breaking the law. One would say that something is sexists, the other one would say it’s art. It should be based on discussion, also education in schools, so people decide by themselves what is too offensive in any way.

3: Should law guaranteeing women a right to breastfeeding in public places come into force?  It should not be based on legal solutions. It’s not so much frowned upon anymore in Sweden if there is a woman breastfeeding in a public place; it’s a matter of finding a suitable surrounding to do that. No solution should be forced upon people in that matter.

Question from a listener: How politicians should secure the right for all people to sexual health and promote especially women’s right to it? There is a need to increase awareness about lack of information about postnatal period. Work needs to be done in terms of medical and mental care for women after labour.

Question from a listener: How should sexual education in Sweden develop? One thing that needs to be stated that schools are not a place for politics. Besides, it’s important to talk with youngsters not just about sex, but about relations and closeness as well.

Question from a listener: It the 18th week a good deadline for an abortion? This deadline should be kept, there is no need to change it.

Question from a listener: What is the party’s attitude towards LGBTQ people to have children? Centerpartiet is supporting people who want to build a family. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with that. The party is in favour of legalisation värdmödraskap. This area of life is completely unregulated and this reason is sufficient to create some procedures. The law needs to be adjusted to reality, cause right now children in LGBTQ families do not have the same spectrum of rights as those from heterosexual couples.

Kristdemokraterna

Kristdemokraterna (Christian Democrats Sweden) were represented by Erik Slottner. Openly gay, he’s working on breaking a stereotype of KD as a conservative, intolerant party. He is known for his criticism towards American and Israeli governments and would like to implement gender neutral marriagies in Sweden.

Kristdemokraterna (Christian Democrats Sweden) were represented by Erik Slottner. Openly gay, he’s working on breaking a stereotype of KD as a conservative, intolerant party. He is known for his criticism towards American and Israeli governments and would like to implement gender neutral marriagies in Sweden.

1: Should feminine hygiene products be free of charge? No. There is a need to prioritize needs and redistribution of resources.

2: Should sexual advertisement be regulated by law? No. It’s hard to do that and have freedom of speech. Lines are difficult to draw. However, it’s out of the question that the problem exists and it doesn’t concern only women. Men as well are bombed with ads presenting unreachable manly body type and this process is damaging for both sexes.

3: Should law guaranteeing women a right to breastfeeding in public places come into force?  No, again, this issue is hard to be regulated by law. We, as a society, should reach a point when it’s a normal thing to see a breastfeeding mother in a public place. No law regulation should be needed.

Question from a listener: It the 18th week a good deadline for an abortion? Kristdemokraterna want to keep this deadline.

Question from a listener: How can young women feel safe being out in the town late in the night? And how can their parents feel safe that they will come back home? Work on many fields can be done. Firstly, more resources can be used to make the cities safer, like investing in public cameras. Secondly, proper sexual education would be useful, with spreading role models to follow, stressing respect to female bodies. Lastly, sex crimes should have more severe punishments than today.

Would you like to read more about any subject mentioned in this text? Let me know in the comments below!