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POLICE

Violence against women: A look at the Swedish government’s 40-point plan

Sweden's government has announced a nationwide plan to fight male violence against women after several recent killings of women by their current or former partners. The proposals include tougher sentences but also preventative work.

Violence against women: A look at the Swedish government's 40-point plan
The proposals include strengthening sentences for several crimes against women, but no concrete support for shelters. File photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

The government says that its measures are intended to work towards the following goals: “Violence must be prevented and the men who commit crimes against women must be punished. Women who are exposed to crime should get the help they need.”

“This is the most comprehensive package against men’s violence against women for at least 20 years,” Justice Minister Morgan Johansson told a press conference where he announced the measures with Minister for Gender Equality Märta Stenevi and Interior Minister Mikael Damberg.

Märta Stenevi said efforts are needed to change norms “so that no boys will grow up and become men who beat and rape”.

Preventative work 

The measures include a national focus on violence prevention, including initiatives aimed at sharing knowledge and strengthening cooperation between relevant authorities. This includes both early stage preventative work (to stop men at risk of violence from committing crimes) but also initiatives to reduce the risk of re-offending.

From autumn 2022, school curriculums will be changed so that the subject that was previously called “sex and relationships” will also address gender equality. And the government proposes initiatives to raise awareness of its consent law, which makes explicit in legislation that passivity does not equal consent.

As well as schools, sports associations were highlighted as a part of society to be involved in preventative work, and Sweden’s Center for Sports Research (CIF) will be asked to identify opportunities to introduce anti-violence initiatives.

Better victim support

The government pledged to review “possible ways to provide women’s and girls’ shelters and other non-profit organisations that work with crime victims better planning conditions” but stopped short of promising funding. One of the challenges these organisations face is their reliance on donations and government support, which is often only guaranteed for a fixed time, therefore making long-term work difficult.

It did say that it would review the need for more funding for The National Center for Women’s Peace (NCK), which runs a phone line for victims of crime and which reported an increase in calls in recent years.

And it noted: “Women exposed to violence should not have to leave a shelter and return to the perpetrator of violence because they lack a permanent home.” An inquiry will therefore look into municipalities’ responsibilities in providing housing for women and children exposed to violence, for example whether people in this situation can be prioritised.

Vulnerable groups

The report outlined the need to support particularly vulnerable groups, including those who are involved in pornography and victims of human trafficking, but also foreign residents who are in Sweden on a permit based on their relationship. 

“In some situations, there needs to be an opportunity to grant a person a residence permit despite the fact that the relationship on which the permit was based on has ceased, e.g. due to violence in the relationship,” it noted, saying that an investigation will be launched into possible changes to Sweden’s migration laws to protect these people from the threat of deportation.

Stricter penalties

The proposals also include tougher penalties for crimes including rape, hate crimes with a gender motive, violation of a woman’s integrity, and soliciting. Some of these harsher penalties had already been submitted, others are currently being investigated and some will now be added to the agenda.

One example of a review that the government says it will now act on will see punishments of fines for paying for sex removed, so that the crime is punishable by imprisonment only. The government now plans to put this to parliament.

And as well as increasing the sentences, the government proposes lowering the threshold for issuing restraining orders, making it easier to use electronic tags on people subject to restraining orders, and increasing the punishment for violating such orders.

And the government will investigate whether it should be made easier to deprive perpetrators of contact with their children. 

“We have far too many cases where women live with a protected identity, but still somehow have to solve the issue of contact with the father. We must move away from the view that the man does not hit his children and therefore should have contact with them,” said Johansson.

Improving skills and methods used by authorities

When The Local has spoken to people working in the field of male violence, a commonly raised obstacle is limited understanding of how to deal with these crimes by police and other authorities.

Seven of the 40 measures outlined by the government relate to development of skills and methods, including more in-depth statistics on violence against women; skills development within the police including improved understanding of mental health issues and how to work with other agencies or social services; mapping the research currently being done into violence against women, and a review into the situation for women and children who have been exposed to violence and are living under a protected identity.

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TERRORISM

Sweden to make it illegal to be active in a terrorist organisation

Sweden's government has submitted a new terror bill which could help convince Turkey that the country is acting to crack down on Swedish residents active in the Kurdish PKK terror group.

Sweden to make it illegal to be active in a terrorist organisation

The new proposal, titled “a special penalty provision for participation in a terrorist organisation”, will make participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation in any way that “promotes, strengthens or supports” the organisation punishable with up to four years in prison. 

“This is a wider criminalisation that takes aim at a slew of activities within a terrorist organisation that don’t need to be concretely connected to a specific terrorist crime,” Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer told a press conference.

“Sweden has an increased terrorist threat which must be taken very seriously,” he continued. “Now the government is putting forward a legislative proposal which means that both participation in and financing of participation in terrorist organisations will be punishable.” 

Actions such as handling equipment, organising camps or locations for meetings, cooking or being in charge of transport for designated terrorist organisations would be criminalised under the new law, which Strömmer stressed was a “considerable widening of the scope compared to current legislation”.

In November, the country amended its constitution to allow the proposed bill to move forward, as it was deemed to infringe on Sweden’s freedom of association laws.

The proposal will now go to Sweden’s Council on Legislation, which judged a previous proposal to ban membership of a terror organisation, brought in in the wake the 2017 Stockholm terror attack, as in conflict with Sweden’s constitution right to free association. 

Under the proposal, serious cases of the new crime will be punishable by up to eight years in prison, while those found guilty of holding a leadership position in a terror organisation could be jailed for 18 years or even for life. 

The proposal criminalises all forms of support for terror organisations, regardless of whether it is financial or other ways of taking part in it, promoting it and strengthening it. 

Strömmer noted that “partaking in a demonstration or at a meeting will not in itself be punishable”, adding that said flag-waving in itself would not be criminalised but such activities could potentially be used as evidence in court.

The government hopes to be able to submit the proposal to parliament on March 7th, and for it to come into force by June 1st. 

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