Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape and domestic violence, are illegal, and the government enforced the law effectively. Penalties range from two to 10 years in prison.
Amnesty International alleged that “rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls remained widespread but there were few convictions.” In 2017 only 111 cases of the 3,430 reported were prosecuted. Authorities apprehended and prosecuted abusers in most cases of domestic violence reported to them. On October 2, the Malmo district court sentenced a man to four years and 10 months in prison for aggravated rape of a woman in a massage salon.
The law provides for protection of survivors from contact with their abusers. When necessary, authorities helped survivors protect their identities or obtain new identities and homes. Both national and local governments helped fund volunteer groups that provided shelter and other assistance for abused women.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C. The government developed a national action plan to prevent FGM/C and work with victims.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Honor-related violence often involved immigrants from the Middle East or South Asia. In 2017 the Swedish Prison and Probation Services estimated that 97 persons were in prison for committing honor-related violence.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides for criminal penalties from a fine to up to two years in prison. The government generally enforced this law. During the year a flood of stories of assault and harassment forced the resignations of several high-profile persons.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance law. Women were underrepresented in high-ranking positions in both the public and the private sectors.
Gender-based discrimination with respect to access to credit, owning or managing a business, and access to education and housing is prohibited and was not commonly reported. The government enforced the laws effectively.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. The tax authority immediately registered in the national population register all children born in the country, regardless of their parents’ citizenship or immigration or residency status in the country.
Child Abuse: The law prohibits parents or other caretakers from abusing children mentally or physically. Penalties for such range from a fine up to 10 years in prison. Cases of child abuse were reported. Authorities may remove abused children from their homes and place them in foster care. The children’s ombudsman published a number of reports and publications for children and those working to protect children from abuse.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 18, and it is illegal for anyone under 18 to marry. The government will legally recognize as valid the marriage of anyone who comes to the country after the age of 18, even if they were married abroad before the age of 18. The country does not recognize a foreign child marriage if either of the parties was a Swedish citizen or resident in the country at the time of marriage.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes “contact with children under 15 for sexual purposes,” including internet contact intended to lead to sexual assault. Penalties range from fines to one year in prison. The law prohibits the sale of children; penalties range from two to 10 years in prison. It also bans child pornography with penalties ranging from fines to six years in prison. Authorities enforced the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15.
Displaced Children: Stockholm police reported underage children, mainly from Morocco, Algeria, and other countries in North Africa, lived on the streets. Many of these children had sought asylum in the country, but did not qualify and were at risk of removal. Social Services offered accommodation for children or foster families regardless of asylum status.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
Leaders of the Jewish community estimated there were 20,000 to 30,000 Jews in the country and approximately 6,000 registered members of Jewish congregations. The National Council for Crime Prevention (NCCP) registered 182 anti-Semitic crimes in 2016, the latest year available, compared with 277 in 2015, a decrease of approximately 34 percent. Anti-Semitic crimes included threats, verbal abuse, vandalism, graffiti, and harassment in schools. Anti-Semitic incidents were often associated with neo-Nazi movements and events in the Middle East and the actions of the Israeli government. Swedish Jews were often blamed for Israeli policies.
The most common forms of anti-Semitism were unlawful threats or harassment (49 percent of complaints), hate speech (27 percent), vandalism or graffiti (10 percent), and defamation (5 percent). Ten violent anti-Semitic hate crimes were reported in 2016, the latest year available, an increase from eight such crimes in 2015. Authorities initiated an investigation in 58 percent of the complaints of anti-Semitism reported in 2015; 37 percent were directly dismissed due to lack of evidence. Formal charges were brought in only 4 percent of the cases.
Police, politicians, media, and Jewish groups have stated that anti-Semitism has been especially prevalent in Malmo. The Simon Wiesenthal Center left in place its travel warning, first issued in 2010, regarding travel in southern Sweden, because Jews in Malmo could be “subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment.”
On June 21, three men in their early 20s (one Syrian, and two Palestinians) were sentenced for attempting to firebomb the synagogue in Gothenburg in December 2017. One of the Palestinian men was sentenced to two years in prison and expulsion; the others were sentenced to two years and 15 months in prison. The man facing expulsion appealed his sentence. The appellate court ruled on September 12 that he would not be expelled after serving his prison sentence due to his “special refugee status.” The prosecutor general appealed the decision not to extradite the Palestinian to the Supreme Court in October.
The newspaper Expressen reported on August 31 that a number of Sweden Democrats candidates in the general election had made anti-Semitic comments on social media. Martin Sihlen, a candidate for the municipal government in Orkelljunga, questioned the number of people murdered in the Holocaust, referred to the “Jewish plague,” and wrote online that “Hitler did not lie about the Jews” and that “Hitler was not bad.” Per Olsson, a candidate for the municipal government in Oskarshamn, shared an image of Anne Frank wearing a shirt reading “Coolest Jew in the Shower Room,” as well as a photo of Adolf Hitler. Raghu Jacobssen, a candidate for the municipal government in Stenungsund, wrote: “As long as the Rothschilds run the economy, and as such the modern slavery on this planet, there will be antisemitism. #Jews #Israel.” He also shared an image stating: “What’s the difference between a cow and the Holocaust? You can’t milk a cow for 70 years straight.” The Sweden Democrats expelled the three candidates in response to media reports about their activities online.
The government allocated 22 million kronor ($2.5 million) for grants to increase security for threatened places of worship and other parts of civil society. All religious communities and civil society actors who feel they have been threatened may apply for the grant.
The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency continued to cooperate with religious communities on a national level to promote dialogue and prevent conflicts leading to anti-Semitic incidents. It continued to train police officers to detect hate crimes and visited high schools to raise awareness of such crimes and encourage more victims to report abuses. The government made information available in several languages for victims of hate crimes and provided interpreters to facilitate reporting. Police hate-crime officers operated throughout the country.
The Living History Forum is a public authority commissioned to address societal problems related to religious and ethnic tolerance, democracy, and human rights using the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity as its starting point. The Forum sensitized the public, and particularly the young, to the need to respect the equal value of all persons, with a specific focus on teaching about the Holocaust as a means of fighting Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.
The Media Council initiated a No Hate Speech Movement campaign and worked to stop anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The government allocated five million kronor ($575,000) annually for 2018-20 to strengthen the opportunities for study visits to Holocaust memorial sites, which allowed more students and teachers to visit them.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. In May new legislation expanded these protections to cover businesses with fewer than 10 employees. The government effectively enforced these provisions and held accountable those responsible for violations.
Government regulations require new buildings and public facilities to be fully accessible. Observers reported cases of insufficient access to privately owned buildings used by the public, such as apartments, restaurants, and bars. Some means of public transportation remained inaccessible.
Societal discrimination and violence against immigrants and Roma continued to be problems during the year.
Police registered reports of xenophobic crimes, some of which were linked to neo-Nazi or white supremacy ideology. Police investigated and the district attorney’s office prosecuted race-related crimes. The Security Service estimated the violent extreme right-wing group at 500 persons. Expo, a private foundation that researches and maps antidemocratic, right-wing extremists and racist tendencies in the country, noted increased radicalization and activities in the white supremacist groups. Neo-Nazi groups operated legally (see section 2.a.). The NRM was the largest white supremacy group with approximately 160 active members, strengthened by several hundred additional supporters who attend rallies. The NRM registered as a political party and participated in the general elections in September. It did not win any seats in any of the elections.
The Red Cross estimated that 4,700 “vulnerable EU citizens,” the vast majority of whom were Roma from Romania and Bulgaria, resided in the country in abject poverty at any given time. As EU citizens, they are allowed to stay in the country without permission for up to three months, but authorities did not enforce this limit. The police stated that most Roma were in the country voluntarily but that there were cases of trafficking and forced begging.
In its report published on February 27, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance noted a de facto segregation of the Rinkeby-Kista district of Stockholm, where 80 percent of the population was of immigrant origin or parentage, from the rest of the country’s society. The result was lower levels of education, higher levels of unemployment, and separation from the country’s mainstream culture mainly due to poor Swedish-language skills.
In December 2017 the Civil Right Defenders together with Stockholm University concluded in a report that being singled out by police due to ethnicity was a common experience for members of certain ethnic groups, including Afro-Swedes, Muslims, and Roma, mainly from marginalized residential areas of major cities.
The approximately 20,000 Sami in the country are full citizens with the right to vote in elections and participate in the government, including as members of the country’s parliament. They are not, however, represented as a group in parliament. A 31-member elected administrative authority called the Sami parliament (Sametinget) also represented Sami. The Sami parliament acted as an advisory body to the government and had limited decision-making powers in matters related to preserving the Sami culture, language, and schooling. The national parliament and government regulations governed the Sami parliament’s operations.
Longstanding tensions between the Sami and the government over land and natural resources persisted, as did tensions between the Sami and private landowners over reindeer grazing rights. Certain Sami have grazing and fishing rights, depending on their tribal history.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Antidiscrimination laws exist; apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals; and were enforced. In 2017 the NCCP reported 550 hate crimes based on sexual orientation and 80 reports of transphobic hate crimes.
Effective June 1, transphobia was defined as a hate crime.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
In 2016 the NCCP identified 6,415 police reports with a hate crime motive, a majority with xenophobic motives.
In May the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) raised concerns in its periodic review over the level of racist hate crimes towards Afro-Swedes, Jews, Muslims, and Roma. The CERD also expressed concern over racist and extremist organizations’ right to arrange public demonstrations.
An inquiry of all the country’s Muslim congregations by Uppsala University showed that vandalism against mosques was common. During 2017 at least one Muslim place of worship was vandalized every week.
The police established democracy and hate crime groups in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo. In January the government opened a National Center for Preventing Violent Extremism under the auspices of the NCCP. The center serves as a clearinghouse for information, best practices, and support of municipalities, agencies, and other actors.