SWEDEN by Elin Gauffin
16 November 2021 over 1000 midwives demonstrated in Stockholm for higher wages and better condition. Today one midwife can be forced to at the same time work with five mothers giving birth.
This summer, the government presented a package to intensify the work against men's violence against women, which they claim is the biggest package ever. Most of the points in the 40 points package are about harsher penalties. Now, several major consultation bodies are opposing the proposal.
The government's new slogan "Men's violence against women must be ended" and their action program are absurd documents. How can this violence be eliminated if the measures put forward are completely up in the air and not a single word touches on the question of why men's violence against women exists?
To start with something positive - that the Swedish state is still talking about "men's violence against women" and not gender-based violence or violence in close relationships, as in many other countries. This leads to the conclusion that it is a systematic violence perpetrated by men against women, which must therefore be part of an all-encompassing oppression of women.
The Government writes: "Ending men's violence against women requires action to prevent it in the first place. Society has a key role to play in achieving this". It’s very strange – as if there is any other arena than society?
But it is society that is the cause of violence. It is an oppressive society, towards women in particular. The fact that men earn more money than women, have greater wealth, better working hours, more free time, higher positions in society - simply that they dominate, is the reason why violence exists "from the beginning". It is intrinsically inseparable from property relations, the economy, the labour market, the role of the family in society and so on - that is, today's class society which is capitalism.
It is impossible to end men's violence against women without a program of economic equality and equity – that is, without a revolutionary perspective.
I did not expect a government of a bourgeois state to adopt a revolutionary approach, but it could at least start from the actual trends of recent years. Men's violence against women has exploded all over the world with the pandemic, including in Sweden.
As Offensiv [ISA in Swedens weekly paper] reported on September 30th, six out of ten women's shelters report increased pressure during the pandemic, but also a continued increase in calls and contacts when restrictions are eased. The National Centre for Women's Safety has reported an increase in calls to the Women's Help telephone line in recent years. This gives a clear picture that gender-based violence is linked to the situation in health care, to the economy as a whole, to domestic work and so on.
The government's analysis is that violence is born within individual men when they are young, and that society must intervene through harsh punishment and more treatment for vulnerable women. Instead, an anti-violence program should strengthen the position of women in society through much greater investments in women's incomes, working conditions, higher wages, a radical increase in the welfare share of the economy at the expense of private enterprise and the banks, and so on.
As long as the oppression of women continues, so will violence. The government is avoiding this obvious fact by skipping over the issue. How can years of increased research, increased coordination, better education on the issue, more resources for women's shelters and social services and so on still lead to an increase in violence?
Instead, harsher punishments are resorted to. SOU 2021:43 proposes, among other things, that the minimum sentence for rape be raised from two to three years' imprisonment, for less serious rape to six months' imprisonment, and for aggravated sexual assault to be raised from six months to one year's imprisonment.
Rape of a child where the perpetrator is at a distance (digitally) and takes part in the assault will also be punishable, even when this does not take place in real time. There is currently a ban on seizing messages, such as text messages, between close relatives; the ban will not apply when aggravated assault is being investigated. The penalties for breaching the contact ban will be increased. Fines for buying sex will be removed and replaced by imprisonment.
The Swedish Judicial Authority, the Public Prosecutor's Office, the Crime Prevention Council, the faculty of Stockholm University and some courts of appeal are among those who condemn the proposals.
For example, the Swedish Judicial Authority argues that the penalty scales for sex offences are currently no lower than for other corresponding offences such as aggravated assault, that a number of harsher measures have been implemented fairly recently and that there is no empirical data to show that harsher penalties would reduce the recidivism rate of sex offenders.
A stricter enforcement of contact bans may be justified, as well as the fact that a ban on buying sex becomes meaningless if offenders can just bail themselves out every time without getting help for their addiction. The question is whether prison sentences without proper correctional treatment have any effect.
When the government writes that women who are victims of violence should not have to go from sheltered accommodation back to the perpetrators' homes because they lack housing and that municipalities are required to give victims of violence priority for housing without at the same time putting an end to housing speculation and start a state-subsidised construction of housing, their impositions echo hollowly.
As for the most vulnerable group – victims of human trafficking – they are appallingly neglected. It is impossible to understand what the empty words mean when the government writes:
"The protection and support of victims of prostitution and human trafficking shall be strengthened, including in cooperation with civil society and in relation to Sweden's commitment to provide safe return for victims of human trafficking". Presumably this means that Sweden intends to continue to deport raped women.
The program of action that the women's movement in Sweden needs must be linked to a resumption of Metoo, to feminist strikes and workers' struggles, and to the international feminist mass movement. It also needs a program against the oppressive capitalist society – for a socialist economy, based on real equality and gender equality.
Bellow is part of the program put forward by Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna, the Swedish section of ISA/ROSA:
● For an active and fighting women's movement. Active opposition to everything from nationalism's antifeminism to macho culture, violence and discrimination.
● United struggle. Sexism and transphobia have the same roots - in the patriarchal family structure. The right to gender-confirming treatment.
● Trade union struggle against the pay gap, stress at work and sexual harassment.
● No to procurement and competition between women's shelters.
● Everyone's right to housing. Preference for victims of domestic violence.
● Extended gender perspective in school from preschool and upwards. Improved and integrated sex education. Increased knowledge about oppression of honor in all parts of society.
● Functional prison care and other treatment of men who beat and rape.
● Dismiss sexist judges, judges and police. For a socialist democratically controlled state, controlled by the masses from below.
● Eliminate men's violence against women by making men and women equal in society in terms of economy, power, health, social status, etc. - developed in a democratic socialistic society.
● Socialist feminism sees how the oppression of women is rooted in class society and that working class struggle is needed to fundamentally change the whole of society. Abolish capitalism with its exploitation of women's work and bodies.