Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of both women and men, including spousal rape and domestic violence, is illegal, and the government enforced the law effectively. Penalties range from two to 10 years in prison.
The National Council for Crime Prevention (NCCP) reported 8,580 cases of rape in 2019, an increase of approximately 8 percent compared with the previous year. Women and girls were victims in 92 percent of the cases. In 2019, 1,510 cases were taken to court (10 percent more than in 2018). The number of rape convictions increased by 75 percent between 2017 (190 convictions) and 2019 (333), since a new law based the criminal liability on the absence of consent. Domestic violence remained a problem, and 10,500 cases between adults were reported during 2019. Of these cases, 8,820 were violence against women.
The law provides for the protection of survivors from contact with their abusers. When necessary, authorities helped survivors to protect their identities or to obtain new identities and homes. Both national and local governments helped fund volunteer groups that provided shelter and other assistance for abused women.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Honor-related violence often involved immigrants from the Middle East or South Asia. The national support line for those who need advice in situations concerning honor-related violence reported a significant increase of calls from 223 in 2018 to 427 calls in 2019. The calls mostly concerned child or forced marriage, abduction or being held abroad, or female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C).
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.
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 provided 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, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance law. Women were underrepresented in high-ranking positions in both the public and the private sectors. 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 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. Rape of a child carries a penalty of two to 10 years in prison.
Child, 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 government does not recognize a foreign child marriage if either of the parties was a Swedish citizen or resident in Sweden at the time of marriage. According to changes in the law during the year, compelling or allowing a child to marry is punishable by up to two years in prison. Municipalities’ social welfare services can petition administrative courts to issue travel restrictions to protect at-risk children from being taken out of the country for marriage. Such children are not to be issued passports, and issued passports are to be rescinded. The law makes it a crime to take a child under travel restrictions out of the country, with a punishment of up to two years in prison.
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.
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 .
Leaders of the Jewish community estimated there were 20,000 Jews in the country and approximately 6,000 registered members of Jewish congregations. The NCCP registered 280 anti-Semitic crimes in 2018, compared with 182 in 2016. Anti-Semitic crimes accounted for 4 percent of all hate crimes. Anti-Semitic crimes included threats, verbal abuse, vandalism, graffiti, harassment in schools, and Holocaust denial. Anti-Semitic incidents were often associated with neo-Nazi movements, 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 hate speech (45 percent of complaints), unlawful threats or harassment (34 percent), vandalism or graffiti (8 percent), and defamation (8 percent). Of the 182 investigations opened in 2016, 52 percent were dismissed; 37 percent were directly dismissed without a formal investigation due to lack of evidence. Formal charges were brought in 9 percent of the cases.
Media reported that on Yom Kippur, the most holy day of the Jewish calendar, approximately 10 members of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) demonstrated outside the synagogue in Norrkoping. The NRM also distributed flyers with anti-Semitic messages and hung posters with anti-Semitic messages in 10 cities. The Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities expressed disgust over the actions and called for the government to ban the organization. On October 1, the Swedish Committee against Anti-Semitism requested increased action and awareness from police and judicial agencies regarding anti-Semitic crimes in an opinion piece in the major newspaper, Dagens Nyheter.
In 2019 the government-appointed an all-party committee to consider the introduction of specific criminal liability for participation in a racist organization and a ban on racist organizations, such as the NRM.
In February unknown persons left a bag with a Star of David on it containing soap and anti-Semitic literature outside an exhibition about the Holocaust in Norrkoping.
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 advisory, first issued in 2010, regarding travel in southern Sweden, because Jews in Malmo could be “subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment.” A small group of young men participated in anti-Semitic chants during August riots that were sparked after a right-wing group burned a Quran.
In January the prime minister endorsed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, including its examples. In the same month, the prime minister visited Jerusalem and the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland.
In January the equality ombudsman concluded the first of three inquiries into a Jewish doctor’s allegations of anti-Semitism at New Karolinska Hospital and found that the hospital did not comply with its duty under the law to investigate alleged harassment. In November the equality ombudsman concluded the second inquiry and found that the doctor’s union, the Swedish Medical Association, also violated the law. The union had advised the doctor to file a criminal case, since it assessed a union complaint would be unsuccessful and risked harming the relationship between the union and the employer. The equality ombudsman found that the union would not have advised a member in this way if the grounds for the complaint had been disability or sex, and therefore it had discriminated against the doctor on the basis of ethnicity. The third inquiry continued at year’s end.
For 2019 and 2020, 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 believe they have been threatened may apply for the grant. In 2019 a total of 9.2 million kronor ($1.1 million) was allocated for security measures in 10 different faith communities. Of the amount, 57 percent was granted to the Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities.
On February 27, the government allocated an additional 10 million kronor ($1.1 million) to increase knowledge-based activities about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism as a part of a special initiative connected to the high-level forum on Remembrance of the Holocaust and addressing contemporary anti-Semitism.
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, a government agency whose primary task is to train minors to be conscious media users and to protect them from harmful media influences, initiated a No Hate Speech Movement campaign and worked to stop anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The government allocated five million kronor ($571,000) annually from 2018 to 2020 to strengthen opportunities for study visits to Holocaust memorial sites and allow more students and teachers to visit them.
Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. 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.
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 has concluded that right-wing extremism was on the rise in Sweden: Right-wing propaganda spread more widely, and more individuals were attracted to the movement. Neo-Nazi groups operated legally (see section 2.a.). The NRM was the largest white supremacy group with approximately 160 active members. The NRM registered as a political party and participated in the parliamentary and local elections in 2018 but did not win any seats. Rallies organized by the NRM attracted 500-600 participants.
The National Coordinator for Vulnerable EU Citizens estimated in 2019 that 4,500-5,000 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. Police stated that most Roma were in the country voluntarily but that there were cases of trafficking and forced begging. When the coordinator’s work finished, NGOs criticized the final report as insufficiently thorough.
Several districts in the country where a majority of the population was of immigrant origin or parentage suffered social segregation from the rest of the country. 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.
The country’s official minority languages are all varieties of Finnish, Yiddish, Meankieli, Romani Chib, and Sami. In 2019 government supported with grants a language workshop (Yiddish), a festival and summer camp (Meankieli), children’s reading with support of retired citizens as volunteers (Finnish), interviewing and writing about the Romani experience (Romani Chib), and a writing competition (Sami).
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 acts as an advisory body to the government and has limited decision-making powers in matters related to preserving the Sami culture, language, and schooling. The national parliament and government regulations govern 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 history.
Citing laws from the 14th and 15th century, the Supreme Court ruled that the Girjas Sami village, not the government, has the exclusive right to administer hunting and fishing in their area. The case, which lasted more than a decade, only applied to Girjas, but other Sami villages filed similar cases.
Antidiscrimination laws exist; apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals; and were enforced. In the assessment of a crime’s penalty, special consideration must be given if the crime was motivated by a person’s or group’s sexual orientation.
In 2018 the NCCP identified 7,090 police reports with a hate-crime motive, a majority with xenophobic motives. Of the reports, 8 percent were anti-Muslim. Anti-Christian, and other antireligious hate crimes accounted for 4 percent each.
In August, Swedish followers of a Danish right-wing extremist in Malmo burned a Quran. Right-wing extremists also burned Qurans in September in predominantly Muslim suburbs of Stockholm and Malmo. The Danish far-right Hard Line (Stram Kurs) party claimed responsibility for the burnings, which were filmed and posted on the internet. The August burning of the Quran in Malmo provoked rioting, but the September Quran burnings did not.
The basic training for police officers includes training on identifying and investigating hate crimes. Emergency call responders are continuously trained in identifying hate crime motives in crime reports. Police cooperated with Victim Support Sweden, which helps and supports victims, witnesses, and others affected by crime.
Police in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo have democracy and anti-hate-crime groups. The National Center for Preventing Violent Extremism under the auspices of the NCCP serves as a clearinghouse for information, best practices, and support of municipalities, agencies, and other actors.