Sweden has seen a surge of sexual assaults that marred the country’s traditional summer festivals. Curiously, only a fraction of reported cases have actually made it to court, as the majority of them have been dropped for lack of evidence. A renowned Swedish criminal lawyer has accused the Swedish justice system of “eternal cosseting of rapists.”
According to criminal lawyer Elisabeth Massi Fritz, who has represented a number of victims in Sweden’s most high-profile rape cases, attitudes and values that allow blaming the victim should not be tolerated.
“If it is not consensual, then it is rape. It is as simple as that,” Elisabeth Massi Fritz told Finnish newspaperHufvudstadsbladet.
According to Massi Fritz, Swedish courts require higher standard of proof in rape cases, compared to other offences. Additionally, courts tend to arrive at contradictory conclusions because there appears to be confusion in regard to rape and sexual assault in Swedish criminal law.
“Victims are being constantly distrusted and blamed, whereas the perpetrators are being cosseted,” Massi Fritz said.
In recent years, a number of gang rapes on ferries between Finland and Sweden made international headlines. However, subsequent trials saw the alleged perpetrators walk free. Massi Fritz, who represented the victim in the notorious “Cinderella case” in 2015, when a woman was gang-raped by three men on board the ferry M/S Cinderella, pointed out that ferry rapes are special from an investigative point of view, as police are rarely found on board and cases end up being reported with delays. According to her, this leads to the loss of important pieces of evidence.
The wave of sexual attacks, which occurred both on ferries, at summer festivals and in everyday life, triggered a debate on the matter of consent in Sweden. The basic idea of the proposal, backed by the opposition parties, is to assume that a person by definition does not want to have sex.According to Massi Fritz, the current legislation is not good enough anymore, since it requires beatings, violence, threats, or a particularly vulnerable situation for a sex offense to be classified as rape. This is an out an outdated approach that is based on a view of women that belongs in the past, she argued.
“Anything other than ‘yes’ should be a ‘no.’ Sexual intercourse should be based on voluntary participation and reciprocity and nothing else,” Massi Fritz said, advocating the introduction of a negligence clause to avoid possible acquittals on the grounds that the accused possibly failed to understand the victim correctly.
The topic of sexual violence against women is an extremely tender issue in Sweden right now, where a clandestine rape epidemic seems to be raging. According to a report by Lars Hedegaard and Ingrid Carlqvist of the Gatestone Institute, violent crime has increased by 300 percent and rapes by an incredible 1,472 percent since the formerly homogenous Sweden state turned multicultural in the 1970’s. According to their figures, Sweden is only surpassed by South Africa and Lesotho as regards the number of rape cases.Born to Christian Syrian parents from Lebanon, 49-year-old Elisabeth Massi Fritz worked as a criminal lawyer for 25 years and chose specifically to represent victims. She is also the only lawyer in Sweden specializing in so-called “crimes of honor,” involving religious beliefs, marriage and sex. Over the years, she received numerous awards and was proclaimed Lawyer of the Year and Woman of the Year in Sweden.