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September 18, 2020

All that glitters is not gold


September 18, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The four Nordic countries, which are referred to by many as role models in terms of women’s right and a low crime rate, have been found by Amnesty International to have a disturbingly high level of rape cases because of their failed justice systems.

Amnesty International in its 2019 report states: “Despite being among the top-ranking countries in the world in terms of gender equality, the four Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) have disturbingly high levels of rape, and survivors of sexual violence are being failed by their justice systems.”

The report states that flawed legislation and widespread harmful myths and gender stereotypes have resulted in endemic impunity for rapists across the region.

“It is a paradox that the Nordic countries, which have strong records of upholding gender equality, suffer shockingly high levels of rape,” Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General was reported as saying.

The report also spoke about unreported cases and said: “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and girls fail to report attacks, and those that do, are frequently failed by callous and prejudiced justice systems or outdated laws. 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.”

Whilst the situation facing survivors of rape is not uniform across the four Nordic countries, there are disturbing parallels among their criminal justice systems that ignore, deny and tacitly condone sexual violence against women, the report adds.

Finland: According to the report, every year around 50,000 women in Finland experience sexual violence, including rape. Most of those responsible for these crimes are never brought to justice. In 2017, only 209 convictions were secured for rape.

Some survivors told Amnesty International that they had had positive and supportive experiences with the police and justice system.

Others have described how the lack of understanding reflected deeply entrenched myths about rape and female sexuality that impact directly on access to justice.

Interviewed survivors described the process as stressful, scary and stigmatizing, regardless of the outcome of the case. One survivor told Amnesty International: “At the trial I thought, and said to my counsel, that if I had known what this would be like, I would never have reported the rape.”

Norway: Norwegian authorities have not taken the necessary measures to prevent rape and other forms of sexual violence or to address the consequences when such crimes occur.

Prevailing and erroneous myths about rape make it hard for rape victims to report the crime to the police or to seek medical help. They also influence the way rape cases are handled by the criminal justice system.

Many rapes are not reported to the police, but even those survivors who do turn to the police face a lengthy and often flawed process. One survivor told Amnesty International: "It took almost two years from the time I reported in the autumn of 2016, until the case was closed in the spring of 2018. It is a long time to wait.”

Sweden: Despite the large number of rapes, there are very low prosecution rates in Sweden with only 6 percent of cases involving adults resulting in prosecution in 2017. Low prosecution and conviction rates affect confidence in the justice system.

Nevertheless, in many instances, treatment of rape victims by the police has generally improved in recent years and the 2018 legal reforms require investigating police officers to immediately inform the victim about their right to counsel of their choice, free of charge.

In Sweden, flaws in the judicial processes need to be addressed, particularly in the police's handling of rape cases. The inconsistent application of best practice working methods for investigations of sexual offences against adults and delays in results of forensic analysis were highlighted by representatives of different authorities, while some survivors described unacceptable delays in interviewing identified suspects.

Denmark: Rape in Denmark is hugely under-reported and even when women do go to the police, the chances of prosecution or conviction are very slim. Of the 24,000 women found by a recent study to have experienced rape or attempted rape in 2017 alone, just 890 rapes were reported to the police. Of these, 535 resulted in prosecutions and only 94 in convictions.