Sunday, 20 February 2011
I often think of Sweden as a model country. In many respects, Sweden is a great example of social, political and economic achievement. But there's always an exception.
In a small town somewhere in Sweden, there's a hypermarket. This hypermarket is called Dollar Store. Dollar store has lots of problems with shoplifting. And so, they have devised a plan.
It costs 1500 Swedish crowns to hold a shoplifter until the police arrive. The shoplifter has to pay this fee. But now, they have a choice. Instead of paying the money, they can stand in the shop wearing a big sandwich board. On the sandwich board it says,
'I am a thief. I have stolen from Dollar Store.'
If this wasn't so horrifying, it would be funny. My immediate reaction to this is this is even legal? It feels like a serious infringement on personal integrity, even if it is someone who has committed a crime. We used to sew red letters into the front of the dresses of women who had committed adultery, we used to throw tomatoes at people in the stocks, cut off hands of thieves.
Haven't we moved on since that? Obviously not, in the Dollar Store somewhere in rural Sweden.
Friday, 18 February 2011
The myth of the Swedish sexbomb has been proven in the latest statistics from the Central Statistics Office.
The recently-released figures show that the population of Sweden is rapidly approaching 9.5 million. At the end of 2010, it was 9 415 570 people. This is an increase of 74 888 people since 2009. More people got married, more got divorced and birth rates are increasing.
I reckon it's all thanks to the long, cold winters under the duvet and the wonderful, light, summer nights in the forest.
Sunday, 13 February 2011
The current trial in the UK against Wikileak's Julian Assange has cast the light on cultural attitudes to rape. The Swedish prosecutor is demanding that Julian Assange is returned to Sweden to face two counts of rape. His UK defense lawyer is trying to ridicule the Swedish definition of rape in order to prevent this from happening. In other words,saying what he did is not counted as rape in the UK and therefore he shouldn't be extradited.
One of the women accusing Assange of rape has alleges that he used his body weight to pin her down. In the UK, the lawyer refered to this as simply 'the missionary position'.
The other women accuses Assange of penetrating her when she was asleep/semi asleep and without a condom. The UK lawyer interpreted this as 'half awake' and if you're 'half awake' you are consenting apparently.
The Swedish rape laws are amongst the toughest in the world, and I think that's a good thing. In a country that believes in equality and integrity, I would expect nothing less. The attitude towards rape in Sweden - informed by a strong sense of women's rights - means that it is more likely to be reported to police.
Some 53 rape offences are reported per 100,000 people in Sweden, the highest rate in Europe according to European jutice statistics.
The figures may reflect a higher number of actual rapes committed but it seems more likely that tough attitudes and a broader definition of the crime are more significant factors
Under Swedish law, there are legal gradations of the definition of rape.
There is the most serious kind, involving major violence.
But below that there is the concept of 'regular rape', still involving violence but not violence of the utmost horror.
And below that there is the idea of 'unlawful coercion'. Talking generally, and not about the Assange case, this might involve putting emotional pressure on someone.
The three categories involve prison sentences of 10, six and four years respectively.
So, whatever Mr Assange did, it is in Sweden that he should face the courts. If it is a conspiracy, and he is innocent, it is terrible. But if he is guilty and protected by the UK lawyers, it is even more terrible.
No rapist should walk free. Ever.
Saturday, 12 February 2011
Any foreigner arriving in Stockholm yesterday would have been surprised to see the tons of snow that were dumped on the city from the heavy sky. Even though they couldn't speak Swedish, they would have picked up on one expression - a word that was heard on everybody's lips. A word that had to be the most commmon word of the day yesterday.
The word? Fan!
The meaning? Something like fuck/shit/damn and used in this case in disappointment and dismay as the snow lashed down.
Swearing in Swedish is usually something I try to avoid. I think it's difficult to swear in a foreign language because you don't really understand the nuances and strength of the word in question. It's easy to cause offence.
A recent article in a newspaper took up this issue of swearing in different cultures. All cultures have swear words and most of them are connected to what is considered taboo in that culture. Common themes are religion, genitals, toilet, sex and mothers.
In the Nordic countries, 'mother' isn't such a loaded theme and therefore doesn't feature in the common swear words. The strongest swear words are those connected to genitals, usually the female.
If you know more Swedish words than 'fan' and you're interested in reading more, here's the link: