How Sweden could bring in tougher sentences for sex offenders

A new government inquiry suggests locking convicted rapists up for at least three years, one year more than Sweden's current two-year minimum.

How Sweden could bring in tougher sentences for sex offenders
An inquiry has found it necessary to strengthen the punishments for sexual violations. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

The proposal comes after Sweden’s Social Democrat-Green government in January 2020 appointed a commission to look into stricter laws and sentencing of sexual crimes. Led by court of appeal judge Göran Nilsson, the commission included experts from Lund University, the police and the National Board of Health and Welfare, and it presented its findings and final conclusions earlier this week.

It suggests a series of changes, including that sexual crimes that take place remotely, for example on the internet, should be expanded to include a broader definition of the crime. This would mean, for example, that convincing an underage person to commit sexual acts, film them and send to the perpetrator could be classified not only as sexual exploitation, as today, but as sexual assault or even rape.

Other changes include increasing the minimum rape (våldtäkt) sentence from two years’ imprisonment to three years, and increasing the minimum penalty for rape of a comparably less aggravated nature (våldtäkt som är mindre grov) to at least six months in jail.

The commission further suggests increasing the minimum sentence for sexual assault (sexuellt övergrepp) to six months’ imprisonment, and increasing the minimum sentence for rape of a child (våldtäkt mot barn) from two years in jail to three years in jail.

It also suggests increasing the sentence for buying sex from a fine to imprisonment, for up to a year.

Swedish Justice Minister Morgan Johansson said the government would next put forward a bill to parliament based on the commssion’s report. There is no clear timeframe for when this will happen, but if parliament gives the green light, the changes could come into force on January 1st, 2023.

It is not the first time Sweden aims to step up its rape laws. In 2020, Sweden saw a two-year rise of 75 percent in convictions, a result which rights campaigners hailed as a success for a law change in 2018 that changed the definition of rape to make all non-consensual sex illegal. 

Previously a factor such as threat, force, or the victim having been taken advantage of in a vulnerable situation (such as under the influence of drugs or alcohol) was necessary for a rape classification. Under the new law, both participants need to have actively signalled consent either verbally or otherwise. With this law, Sweden became the tenth country in western Europe to class non-consensual sex as rape.

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Russia threatens ‘countermeasures’ over Sweden’s Nato membership

Russia vowed 'countermeasures' over Sweden's entry into Nato, in a message from its Stockholm embassy.

Russia threatens 'countermeasures' over Sweden's Nato membership

Sweden on Monday cleared the final hurdle to become the 32nd member of the alliance, when last holdout Hungary’s parliament ratified the Nordic country’s membership.

“Russia will take countermeasures of a political and military-technical nature in order to minimise threats to its national security,” the embassy said in a post on Telegram.

It added that their “concrete content” would depend on the extent of Sweden’s integration into Nato, “including the possible deployment in this country of Nato troops, military assets and weapons”.

Sweden dropped two centuries of military non-alignment in applying for Nato membership alongside Finland in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“It is a sovereign matter for Sweden to choose its security policy. At the same time, the country’s entry into a military alliance hostile to Russia will have negative consequences for stability in Northern Europe and around the Baltic Sea, which remains our common area,” the Russian embassy said in its post.

It stressed that the Baltic would never be a “Nato lake” as some observers have dubbed it. Sweden’s accession means that all the countries bordering the Baltic Sea, except Russia, are now Nato members.

It’s not the first time Moscow has threatened “political and military-technical” measures in response to Nato enlargement, which it also did when Finland last year joined the alliance.

Experts have previously interpreted it as for example moving military units and infrastructure, and increasing military exercises.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on Wednesday played down Russia’s comments.

“It is well known that Russia doesn’t like that Sweden or Finland become Nato members, but we choose our own paths,” he told Swedish news agency TT.