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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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Politics in Sweden: Why Sweden’s finance minister is willing to be unpopular

She's been accused of being Sweden's 'most invisible modern finance minister'. But when she emerged from the shadows to present the budget last week, she showed she is also the minister most willing to take unpopular measures, writes The Local's Nordic editor Richard Orange.

Politics in Sweden: Why Sweden's finance minister is willing to be unpopular

The word that Elisabeth Svantesson repeated again and again, in every interview and in every speech around the budget was tuff, or “tough”, using it no fewer than 14 times in a 30-minute interview with Sweden’s public radio broadcaster on Saturday.  

“I know that it’s going to be tough,” she responded when asked why the government hadn’t given Sweden’s municipalities and the regions greater funding to help schools and regional health authorites deal with rising prices. “It’s going to tough for a lot of people next year.” 

But she was unapologetic. For her getting inflation under control was, she said, the “a och o” – the alpha and omega, or beginning and the end – of the budget. 

“If I’d done what some people are calling for and given even more money to the municipalities and the regions,” she argued, it would have meant “an even bigger budget”, which “would have fuelled inflation and then next year and the year after we would have had even bigger problems with increased costs”.

Sweden is facing, she has said again and again, an “economic winter”, and the only responsible way to respond is with a budget that is “restrained”.


For Svantesson, it is better to be criticised in the short term for a miserly budget than to go into the next election as the finance minister who let inflation take an unshakeable grip on the economy.

And if the mark of a good government budget is that it pleases no one but the officials in the finance department, then Svantesson has hit just the right balance. Her budget drew heavy criticism from both left and right, from both business lobby groups and the regional and municipal governments who run most of Sweden’s healthcare and education.  

For the Social Democrats, the decision to give an extra 10 billion kronor a year in direct funding to municipalities and the regions was “a betrayal of the welfare sector”. But for the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, it was caving in to the unreasonable demands of regional governments and municipalities, wasting 40 percent of the extra funds available, which would have been better used to cut taxes. 

In her interview, Svantesson refused to be drawn on whether cuts would be needed to health and education, saying that this was up to the “smart people from different parties” in regional and municipal governments to decide. “They know best how to handle the situation and I don’t want to speak for them.”

Svantesson’s technocratic approach makes her a bit of an exception in Sweden’s current government.   

This is a government forced by its reliance on the far-right Sweden Democrats to drive a populist agenda: it is cutting fuel taxes and biofuels content when action is urgently needed to combat climate change; bringing in a raft of tough measures on crime that many criminologists say risk pushing up prison populations without solving gang crime; and taking measures to reduce immigration many see as illiberal. 

It sometimes feels as if figures like Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer, Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard, and Environment Minister Romina Pourmokhtari – none of them natural populists – do not themselves believe in many of the measures they are working to enact. 

Svantesson, on the other hand, is almost an unpopulist, going so far as to claim in her Saturday interview that she was more willing to take unpopular measures than her predecessors in the job.

“We are,” she boasted. “carrying out some of the tough reprioritisations that other governments have not dared to do”. 

The only nakedly populist tax decision she announced (possibly on the urging of the Sweden Democrats), was a small cut in the level of tax on snus, the tobacco pouches one in five Swedish men and quite a few women have permanently lodged under their upper lips.

“Snus is going to be a few kronor cheaper,” she said, rounding off the Saturday interview. “That’s something many people also think is good.” 

Politics in Sweden is a weekly column looking at the big talking points and issues in Swedish politics. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive an email alert when the column is published. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.