The Kingdom of Sweden is a constitutional monarchy with a freely elected multiparty parliamentary form of government. Legislative authority rests in the unicameral parliament (Riksdag). Observers considered the general elections in 2018 to be free and fair. In 2019 a center-left coalition led by Stefan Lofven of the Social Democratic Party assumed office. Lofven lost a vote of no confidence in June but returned as prime minister in July. The king is largely a symbolic head of state. The prime minister is the head of government and exercises executive authority.
The national police are responsible for law enforcement and general order within the country. The Security Service is responsible for national security related to terrorism, extremism, and espionage. The Ministry of Justice provides funding and letters of instruction for both branches of the police’s activities, but it does not control how police perform them. According to the constitution, all branches of police are independent authorities. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were no reports that members of security forces committed abuses.
Significant issues included the existence of criminal libel laws.
The government had mechanisms in place to identify and punish officials who may commit human rights abuses.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.
Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of both women and men, including spousal rape, and domestic violence are illegal, and the government enforced the law effectively. Penalties for violations range from two to 10 years in prison.
The National Council for Crime Prevention (NCCP) reported 9,577 cases of rape in 2020, an increase of approximately 9 percent from 2019. Women and girls were victims in 93 percent of the cases. Domestic violence remained a problem, and 16,616 cases between adults were reported during 2020, a 58 percent increase from 2019. Of these, 13,616 (82 percent) 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 decrease from 1,019 cases involving 1,054 suspected victims in 2019 to 784 cases involving 907 suspected victims in 2020. 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 ranging from a fine to up to two years in prison. The government generally enforced this law.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
NGOs the Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) and Never Forget Pela and Fadime reported on virginity testing and hymenoplasty done by some private medical practitioners. The government condemned these practices and stated they were not compatible with health and medical care legislation.
The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.
Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance law. The government enforced the laws effectively.
The constitution charges public institutions with promoting equality in society and combating discrimination. The constitution prohibits unfavorable treatment of anyone based on ethnic origin, color, or other similar circumstances, and the government generally respected these rights.
Societal discrimination and violence against Roma continued to be a problem.
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 concluded that right-wing extremism was on the rise in the country: right-wing propaganda spread more widely, and more individuals were attracted to it. Neo-Nazi groups operated legally (see section 2.a.). The Nordic Resistance Movement (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.
There were problems around vulnerable EU citizens, the vast majority of whom were Roma from Romania and Bulgaria, who resided in the country. As EU citizens, they are allowed to stay in the country without permission for no more than three months, but authorities did not enforce this limit.
The country’s official minority languages are all varieties of Finnish, Yiddish, Meankieli, Romani Chib, and Sami. During the year the government supported 38 projects with 3.5 million kronor ($410,000) in grants, including a digital platform for culture (Yiddish), a language learning page on Facebook (Meankieli), creative writing (Finnish), digital tools for language promotion for youths (Romani Chib), and a language and sports camp for youths (Sami).
Basic training for police officers included training on identifying and investigating hate crimes. Emergency call responders were 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.
The constitution charges public institutions with promoting opportunities for the Sami people and ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities to preserve and develop a cultural and social life of their own. 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. On November 3, the government announced the creation of a truth commission to chart and investigate policies – including “abuses, rights violations and racism” – affecting the Sami. Another task of the commission is to spread awareness of Sami history and how past abuses affect the Sami people today.
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 legally recognizes 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. 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 passports that were issued are to be rescinded. The law makes it a crime to take a child who is subject to travel restrictions out of the country, with punishment of up to two years in prison for violations.
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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
Leaders of the Jewish community estimated there were 15,000 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 reported hate crimes. Anti-Semitic crimes included threats, verbal abuse, vandalism, graffiti, harassment in schools, and Holocaust denial. Anti-Semitic incidents were often perpetrated by groups associated with neo-Nazi movements or corresponded with events in the Middle East. Swedish Jews were often targeted for actions of the Israeli government.
The most commonly reported incidents 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.
On January 26 – the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day – four anti-Semitic acts of vandalism took place at the Linkoping City Hall and at three media outlets in Linkoping and Norrkoping, small cities approximately 120 and 100 miles from Stockholm, respectively. The perpetrators plastered anti-Semitic messages and Stars of David on building facades and left behind cans of an unidentified powder. The Linkoping police opened four investigations into incitement against ethnic groups. Also on January 26, the words “the Holocaust is a hoax” were projected onto a crane in Gothenburg, the country’s second largest city, for about 10 minutes. Gothenburg police confirmed on January 28 that they had initiated an investigation into the incident.
On May 12, a man was arrested on suspicion of hate speech after singing the anti-Semitic Khaybar chant at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Malmo. In May a 12-year-old Jewish girl filed a police report concerning anti-Semitic harassment to which she had been subjected by schoolmates in a Malmo school. On May 26, a non-Jewish man wearing a kippah was assaulted by several men and was called “Jewish bastard” by at least one of them in Gothenburg.
On March 27, the first night of Passover, baby dolls splashed with red paint were strung outside a synagogue in Norrkoping, next to a flyer with anti-Semitic messages. The Norrkoping police opened a hate crime investigation on March 28.
Police, politicians, media, and Jewish groups have stated that anti-Semitism has been especially prevalent in Malmo. In March the Malmo Municipality published a report on anti-Semitism in schools where all 26 staff and 14 Jewish students interviewed said they had experienced anti-Semitism in Malmo schools and kindergartens. School staff identified anti-Semitic expressions in Malmo’s schools that were connected to the Israel-Palestine conflict, geopolitical relations in the Middle East, and pan-Arabic nationalism.
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.”
In January Prime Minister Lofven announced that Sweden would assume the presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) starting in March 2022. On October 13, the government hosted the Malmo International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism, marking the 20th anniversary of the Stockholm Declaration that created the IHRA, with over 300 participants including Holocaust survivors, high-ranking representatives from more than 35 countries, and leaders of civil society organizations. Forum participants criticized social media platforms for not better policing anti-Semitic hate speech online.
During the year a Jewish neurosurgeon at Nya Karolinska University Hospital (NKS) reported continuing reprisals stemming from his 2017 report that the hospital’s chief of neurosurgery subjected him and two other Jewish colleagues to anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination. In June the Equality Ombudsman concluded its third inquiry into the doctor’s allegation and found its inquiry did not substantiate the allegations that the NKS violated the law’s prohibition on retaliation. In December 2020 the Health and Social Care Inspectorate rejected a formal complaint made in 2019 by the NKS that the doctor posed a risk to patient safety and rebuked the NKS for identifying the doctor’s religion in its complaint.
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 six million kronor ($706,000) to the Swedish Committee against Anti-Semitism and the Living History Forum to increase opportunities for student and teacher study visits to Holocaust memorial sites. On March 18, the government stated that two million kronor ($235,000) of these funds were earmarked for planning and preparation for resuming remembrance trips to the Holocaust memorial sites for high school students and teachers after trips were canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Persons with disabilities were able to access health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. Government regulations require new buildings and public facilities to be fully accessible. The government enforced these provisions. 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.
In 2020 the Equality Ombudsman received 916 reports concerning discrimination related to disability, of which 372 concerned a lack of accessibility. The complaints were mainly about perceived discrimination in working life, education, social services, and trade in goods and services. A large proportion of the complaints concerned the lack of reasonable accommodations in the workplace. In the education system, many cases concerned children and young persons with reading and writing difficulties not receiving sufficient support at school. In the case of trade in goods and services, many of the cases concerned access to premises or services and inadequate communication tools. The NGO Antidiscrimination Agency Norra Skane, the NGO Malmo against Discrimination, and an individual who had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome sued the Swedish Armed Forces in the autumn of 2020 because the military was denying persons with neuropsychiatric disabilities access to basic military training. The armed forces stated these diagnoses were not compatible with military activities, due to the requirements and the environment in which the individual would work; it paid a fine to the plaintiff.
According to the Agency for Participation, the level of education was lower among persons with disabilities than among others in the population. Its reports showed that two reasons were that special support was provided too late and that students with disabilities felt more insecure. Among 30- to 64-year-olds with disabilities, 33 percent had postsecondary education compared with 47 percent for the rest of the population. Within the group of persons with disabilities between the ages of 20 and 36, 9 percent had dropped out of upper secondary school, compared with 3 percent in the rest of the population. In 2019 just over 11,100 students with disabilities attended compulsory special school, just over 6,000 attended upper secondary special school, and 659 students with disabilities attended special resource school. In November the Supreme Court ordered the city of Malmo to pay fines of 20,000 kronor ($2,350) to a student for discrimination based on the student’s disability when a municipal school did not provide the student sufficient assistance within a reasonable time span. Disability NGOs noted the judgment was one of the first of its kind in the country.
The Agency for Participation noted that some polling stations in the general election of 2018 were inaccessible for persons with disabilities. In the 2018 elections, 84 percent of persons with disabilities voted, compared with 91 percent in the rest of the population.
The law prohibits discrimination by state and nonstate actors against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons. The government generally enforced such laws.
Societal discrimination and violence against immigrants continued to be a problem.
Several districts in the country where most 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.
In 2018 the NCCP identified 7,090 police reports with a hate-crime motive, a majority of which had xenophobic motives. Of the reports, 8 percent were anti-Muslim. Anti-Christian and other antireligious hate crimes accounted for 4 percent each.
For 2020 and 2021, the government allocated 22 million kronor ($2.6 million) for grants to increase security for threatened places of worship and other parts of civil society and announced an allocation of 34 million kronor ($4 million) for 2022. All religious communities and civil society actors who believe they have been threatened may apply for the grant. In 2020 a total of 17.3 million kronor ($2 million) was allocated for security measures in 10 different faith communities. Of the amount, 83 percent was granted to Jewish communities, organizations and museums, schools, and elderly care facilities.