Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape against women or men (the statute is gender neutral), including spousal rape and domestic violence. Rape is not defined by a lack of consent, but rather by whether physical violence, threat, or coercion is involved or if the victim is found to have been unable to resist. Penalties for rape include imprisonment for up to 12 years for aggravated circumstances and up to six years for domestic violence. The government effectively prosecuted persons accused of rape.
A 2020 report by the Crime Prevention Council, a network of crime prevention authorities and professionals, found that more than 6,700 persons were raped or subjected to attempted rape annually between 2008 and 2019. The study suggested that significant numbers of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported. According to police, there were 1,662 reports of rape or attempted rape in 2019 of which 294 involved the abuse of children younger than the age 12. In 2019 there were 314 rape convictions.
Faroese law criminalizes rape with penalties up to 12 years’ imprisonment. The law considers nonconsensual sex with a victim in a “helpless state” to be sexual abuse rather than rape. In certain instances it also reduces the penalty for rape and sexual violence within marriage.
Greenlandic law criminalizes rape. The law does not provide a minimum sentencing for persons convicted of rape but does cap sentencing at 10 years. The law is applied equally regardless of the marital relationship of the offender and the victim. The law provides that sentencing be based on the severity of the case as well as an individual evaluation of the offender. Sentencing was typically between 12 and 18 months.
The government and NGOs operated 24-hour hotlines, counseling centers, and shelters for female survivors of violence throughout the country, including in Greenland and the Faroe Islands. The royal family supported a variety of NGOs working to improve conditions and services at shelters and to assist families afflicted with domestic violence.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides that authorities may order a perpetrator or an employer who allowed or failed to prevent an incident of harassment to pay monetary compensation to victims. The law considers sexual harassment an unsafe working condition and gives labor unions or the Equal Treatment Board the responsibility to resolve it (see also section 7.d.). The government enforced the law effectively.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; to manage their reproductive health; and to have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. The government provides access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, labor, religious, personal status and nationality, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning and managing businesses and property laws. Little discrimination was reported in employment, ownership and management of businesses, or access to credit, education, or housing.
Birth Registration: Most children acquire citizenship from their parents. Stateless persons and certain persons born in the country to noncitizens may acquire citizenship by naturalization, provided, in most cases, that they apply for citizenship before their 21st birthday. The law requires medical practitioners to register promptly the births of children they deliver, and they generally did so.
Child Abuse: Child abuse is illegal and punishable by up to two years in prison. The National Police and Public Prosecutor’s Office actively investigated child abuse cases. According to police statistics, approximately 17 percent of total sexual offenses in Greenland were crimes of “sexual relations with individuals below the age of 15.”
In 2019 Greenlandic police received a record high of 83 reports of sexual assault against children. East Greenland has been recognized for its disproportionate record of sexual abuse. According to a Greenlandic police report in 2019, the town of Tasiilaq reported the highest number of sexual crimes against children and adolescents per year in Greenland. In 2018, 27 percent of Greenland’s sexual assaults against children younger than age 15 occurred in Tasiilaq, while the town accounted for fewer than 4 percent of Greenland’s population. In 2019 a Danish Radio (DR) documentary noted that in Tasiilaq, nearly half of adults younger than age 60 claimed to have experienced sexual abuse as children. During a mandatory COVID-19 lockdown in March and April, reports of sexual assault increased. To combat this, the Greenlandic government banned the sale of alcohol. The Danish Ministry of Social Affairs developed 16 recommendations to address children abuse. The recommendations include support by social workers for vulnerable families and the establishment of substance abuse centers. The Greenlandic government established community centers to provide at-risk children with a safe place to stay on weekends and paydays, when their parents or guardians were most likely to misuse alcohol.
The government’s Children’s Council monitors children’s rights and promotes children’s interests in legislative matters.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. Penalties for the distribution of child pornography include up to a six-year prison sentence. The government generally enforced these laws. The minimum age for consensual sexual activity is 15. The purchase of sexual services from a person younger than 18 is illegal.
The law in Greenland prohibits sexual relations with children younger than age 15; Greenlandic Police determine the penalties for perpetrators.
Displaced Children: The government considered unaccompanied minor refugees and migrants to be vulnerable, and the law includes special rules regarding them. A personal representative was appointed for all unaccompanied children who sought asylum or who stayed in the country without permission.
Institutionalized Children: The ombudsman noted in a 2018 report that the conditions for children at the Sjaelsmark departure center for irregular migrants were likely “to make their childhood substantially more difficult and to restrict their natural development.” In August the government moved all the children and their families to another departure center (see section 2.f.).
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/reported-cases.html.
The Jewish Community in Denmark (Det Jodiske Samfund i Danmark) estimated between 6,000 and 8,000 Jews lived in the country, most in the Copenhagen area.
Representatives of the Jewish community reported 51 anti-Semitic acts against the Jewish community in 2019, 13 percent more than in the previous year. The acts included assault, physical harassment, threats, vandalism, and hate speech. During the year the government cooperated with the Jewish community to provide police protection for the Great Synagogue of Copenhagen as well as other locations of importance to the Jewish community. Jewish community leaders reported continued good relations with police and the ability to communicate their concerns to authorities, including the minister of justice.
On Yom Kippur, the most holy day of the Jewish calendar, the neo-Nazi organization Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) put up posters in 16 cities, including Copenhagen, accusing the Jewish community of pedophilia in connection to circumcision.
In September members of parliament reintroduced, for the third year in a row, a 2018 citizen proposal to ban ritual circumcision of boys younger than age 18. Prime Minister Frederiksen of the governing Social Democratic Party forcefully opposed the circumcision ban on September 11. Representatives of the Muslim and Jewish communities remained concerned about the proposal and its annual reemergence in parliamentary debates.
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
The law prohibits discrimination against and harassment of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. It also mandates access by persons with disabilities to government buildings, education, employment, information, and communications. The government enforced these provisions.
The law provides for the right of free education for all children. The law provides that most children with disabilities be able to attend mainstream classes with nondisabled peers through secondary school.
The right of persons with disabilities to vote or participate in civic affairs was generally not restricted, but some persons with disabilities reported problems in connection with elections, including ballots that were not accessible to blind persons or persons with mental disabilities. The country maintained a system of guardianship for persons considered incapable of managing their own affairs due to psychosocial or mental disabilities. Persons under guardianship who do not possess legal capacity have the right to vote in local and regional elections as well as in elections to the European Parliament, but not in national elections.
Greenland employed a spokesperson to promote the rights and interests of persons with disabilities. According to media reports, persons with disabilities in Greenland continued to lack adequate access to physical aids, counselling, educated professionals, and appropriate housing. Many Greenlanders with disabilities had to be relocated to Denmark because of lack of support resources in Greenland.
Members of National/Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups
In June, two white men killed a black man on the island of Bornholm. One of the perpetrators, who were brothers, was a member of the far-right, anti-immigrant group Stram Kurs. According to the authorities, the victim was beaten with a wooden beam, stabbed multiple times including in the throat, and held down with a knee on his neck. NGOs and activists immediately called the killing a hate crime and organized Black Lives Matter demonstrations in protest. Authorities ruled out calling the murder a hate crime. Bente Pedersen Lund, the lead prosecutor in the case, insisted that the murder was based on a personal relationship between the three men and told the press that the motive “was not racist.” On December 1, both perpetrators were found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
The Ministry of Transport, Building, and Housing continued to implement the government’s action plan for the elimination of “ghettos,” neighborhoods of majority non-Western immigrants, by 2030. The government defined “ghetto” as an area with more than 1,000 residents where the share of immigrants and their descendants from non-Western countries was more than 50 percent. Media widely interpreted “non-Western” to mean Muslim-majority communities. The law requires “ghetto” parents to send toddlers older than the age of one to government-funded daycare to be taught “Danish values,” including Christmas and Easter traditions. Authorities withheld quarterly benefits of up to 4,557 kroner ($716) from noncompliant parents. The law also requires neighborhoods that have been classified as “ghettos” for four years in a row to reduce the amount of public housing in the area by 40 percent. A neighborhood listed as a “ghetto” for four years in a row is classified as a “hard ghetto.” The law requires neighborhoods that have been classified as “hard ghettos” to reduce the amount of public housing in the area by 40 percent to qualify for a change in classification.
In August the public transportation company DSB received complaints after it ran a political advertisement for the Danish People’s Party that read “no to Islam, yes to Denmark.” The advertisement illustrated the mainstream current of anti-Muslim political sentiment and was present within the crossword puzzle of the transportation company’s magazine Ud & Se that was available on public trains. The DSB removed the advertisement after receiving a complaint from a train customer.
Residents of a public housing complex in Helsingor accused authorities of illegal discrimination after forcibly relocating 96 families. The residents believed they were evicted because of their ethnicity and challenged the removal in court. They argued they did not do anything wrong and that the eviction was discriminatory and based on ethnicity. Housing authorities stated the lease terminations were due to accessibility renovations in the building. Media reports suggested that the evictions might have been part of an effort to remove the complex from the government’s “hard ghetto” list.
The law protects the rights of the indigenous Inuit inhabitants of Greenland, who are Danish citizens and whose legal system seeks to accommodate their traditions. Through their elected internally autonomous government, they participated in decisions affecting their lands, culture, traditions, and the exploitation of energy, minerals, and other natural resources. Greenlanders also vote in national elections.
The law affords individuals legal gender recognition, but government guidelines require that individuals undergoing transition receive hormone treatment at one of two designated government-run clinics; private physicians are not permitted to establish this course of treatment.
On March 2, the DIHR found the city of Herning had unfairly discriminated against children from minority backgrounds when it divided its school system in two to separate Danish children from those of non-Danish origin. The municipal government subsequently acknowledged the discrimination against minority children.
Rasmus Paludan, lawyer and founder of the political party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), which cited in its platform “the unacceptable behavior exhibited by Muslims” and what it described as the need to deport all non-Western residents, continued to hold anti-Muslim rallies. In June a court found Paludan guilty of 14 counts of racism, defamation, and reckless driving. As a result Paludan was disbarred for three years, fined, and sentenced to one month of imprisonment; his driver’s license was suspended as well. Despite the court sentencing, Paludan continued to organize protests against Muslims and Quran-burning demonstrations throughout the year in Muslim-majority immigrant neighborhoods across the country, citing freedom of speech. At one demonstration in Aarhus in June, violence erupted after demonstrators threw stones and fireworks at police. One man broke down a police barrier and threatened police with a knife.
In August members of the rightist Nye Borgerlige political party criticized immigrants of Somali heritage and other minority groups after media reports indicated there were higher incidences of COVID-19 infection among certain ethnic minorities.
During the year representatives from the Muslim community reported discrimination against Muslims. Statistics from the Muslim community on anti-Islamic incidents were not available, but according to police figures, there were 110 religiously motivated hate crimes against Muslims in 2019. Representatives from the Muslim community reported that Muslims in the country lived with a sense of increased scrutiny from the government and society.
During the year authorities fined two persons under the law banning masks and face coverings, including burqas and niqabs. Violators face fines ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 kroner ($157 to $1,570). The maximum fine is for those who violate the law four or more times. In response to COVID-19, the Ministry of Justice provided guidance that the law does not apply to face coverings that serve specific health purposes and that masks worn to prevent the spread of coronavirus fall under this exemption.