Men's violence against women and domestic violence

Last updated: 28 9 2018

Image Boken om Sverige
This material is from the book About Sweden.

Domestic violence involves, for example, exercising power by controlling, hitting or threatening.

In Sweden, using violence and threats against others is forbidden. It is considered a violation of other people's human rights and is a criminal offence.

Accordingly, the use of violence within the family is also forbidden. Domestic violence includes all types of violence that may occur between family members. Family members here means heterosexual and homosexual partners as well as siblings and other members of the close and extended family. It is a violation of the law to hit your child or your partner. Despite this, violence still occurs within families. In most cases it is men who hit women. Domestic violence may be physical, psychological, financial, material or sexual.

For a child, seeing a parent being assaulted is a serious form of psychological abuse. It is common for violence in the family to be played down and denied by the victim as well as the perpetrator. But children see, hear and feel. It is also common for children to be hit themselves. The constant stress caused by the fear of violence can have an impact on both physical and mental health.

Physical violence includes someone being hit, getting their hair pulled or being pushed. Psychological violence includes being threatened, frightened or belittled – for example, someone saying nasty things about someone else. Psychological violence can also be stopping someone from seeing their friends. Financial violence can be when one partner in a relationship controls all the money and the other does not have enough money to live on. Violence can also be material, such as when someone breaks your things. Sexual violence includes rape and other sexual acts that a person is forced to do or dare not refuse to do.

Honour-related violence

Violence within the family and violence against women exists in all countries and all cultures. Honour-related violence is violence against someone who breaks the family or extended family's norms and traditions.

The most important norm to do with honour is about women's and girls' sexuality, and that girls should be virgins when they marry. Honour-related violence can take the form of strict control and surveillance. This can include not being allowed to decide for yourself who you want to have a relationship with or marry, serious threats of physical violence and, in extreme cases, deadly violence. In Sweden the use of threats and violence against others is a criminal act.

Girls and young women are the most frequent victims of honour-related violence, but boys can also be subjected to it. LGBT persons are a particularly vulnerable group. Honour-related violence is most common in collectivist societies or ones where men hold much more power than women. Both women and men can use honour-related violence against a person who has broken the family's or extended family's norms and traditions. The decision to use violence is taken collectively.

Sweden has signed and ratified the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the associated covenants and protocols. These international commitments uphold every person's right to make decisions about their own life and future, including the right to self-determination over their own body, their sexuality and their choice of partner.

What does the law say?

A man who uses violence against a woman they are closely related to can be convicted of serious violation of a woman's integrity. When the violence applies to other relationships, the culprit can be convicted of serious violation of integrity. A person who has used violence against a close relative can also be convicted of assault or threat.

Help is available

The social services have the ultimate responsibility for providing support and assistance to children, women and men who are living with domestic violence. The municipality also has a responsibility to protect those who are subjected to threats and violence from further exposure, e.g. by providing sheltered housing.

A women's shelter is an organisation that offers support and protection to women and children who have been subjected to domestic violence. The majority of women's shelters are run by charities, with the help of volunteers. Women's shelters and young women's empowerment centres exist throughout the country.

Many municipalities have emergency services for women and children that help those who have been subjected to violence. There are also special emergency services that help men to stop using violence. There is also protection and help for men who are victims of violence.

If you are the victim of threats and violence and need help, you can call Kvinnofridslinjen. Kvinnofridslinjen is always open. It costs nothing to call. You do not need to tell them your name when you call. Telephone number: 020-50 50 50.

Women can also call Terrafem. Terrafem staff speak 50 languages. You can call them on weekdays between 8 am and 5 pm. It costs nothing to call. You can also leave your name and telephone number and Terrafem will call you back. Telephone number: 020-52 10 10.

Prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes

The Swedish Government says that prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes are forms of violence against women. Consequently, the legislation in place does not judge those who are victims of prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes. Instead it is those who purchase sex or force others to sell sex that are committing a crime and are subject to punishment.

Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation is carried out in many countries. Female genital mutilation involves cutting off parts of a woman's external genitalia. It can also involve everything being cut off and the vagina being sewn together.

Health risks

Girls and women can have many problems as a result of female genital mutilation. Many find it difficult to urinate as the urethra may be damaged. Many suffer pain in their lower abdomen and there can be a negative impact on their sexuality. They can have serious problems with menstruation and with infections. There can also be problems when they are pregnant and are going to give birth.

Efforts to tackle female genital mutilation in Sweden

Female genital mutilation is forbidden in Sweden. The law states that female genital mutilation may not be carried out, even if the person gives their consent. People who carry out female genital mutilation can be sent to prison. You can be prosecuted in Sweden, even if the female genital mutilation was carried out in another country. It is also forbidden to sew together a woman's vagina, for example after she has given birth.

All those who work with children and young people in Sweden must notify social services if they think a girl has been subjected to female genital mutilation or is at risk of female genital mutilation.

In Sweden, there are several associations that work to combat female genital mutilation, for example Riksföreningen stoppa kvinnlig könsstympning (RISK) and the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU). Both provide information about female genital mutilation in various languages.

Treatment and assistance for women who are victims of female genital mutilation

If you have question or need treatment and assistance, you can contact the nurse at your school, a guidance centre for young people, gynaecology clinic or hospital women's clinic. Many women have received assistance and can function normally after treatment.