Sunday, 28 June 2015

Sweden - Rape Capital of Europe?

Sweden, it’s up north, it’s cold and dark and, apparently, it’s also the “Rape Capital of Europe” or the “Rape Capital of the West”.  I’ve seen this claim in a couple of contexts, most recently as a claim that Sweden, being an atheist country, is not a safe place to live.   I’m not going to come right out and say that this is an ignorant claim, but I am truly surprised that people making the claim appear to be totally unaware of the internet, and search engines.  How about we use these amazing new tools to see what we can discover about Sweden being called the "rape capital of Europe".

The claim started making its way through the underbelly of the internet in 2009 (for anyone thinking of reproducing this research, be aware that blogs and youtube videos will indicate an earlier appearance - but this is because later comments are included in a date limited search meaning that a video or a blog posted before 2009 but with a comment on the "rape capital of Europe" made in 2011 will appear as being from as early as September 2006 due to a video about the Swedish army - you can minimise this affect by ordering google to list sites by date, which strips away much of the chaff).

An English language expat news outlet based in Sweden called "The Local" posted an article on the 27 April 2009. It's difficult to know what was originally written because this article was last updated in 2013, but it's worth noting the correction down the bottom of the page:

CorrectionAn earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that "rape simply appears to be a more common occurrence in Sweden than in the other EU countries studied, the researchers argue." This was a direct translation from Swedish news agency TT, which later amended its original article to include clarifications from Professor Liz Kelly.

Unfortunately they don't provide a link to the original TT article. Fortunately though, Dagens Nyheter reported the TT article directly. There's an interesting comment by Professor Liz Kelly:

Det finns inte bara en förklaring till det höga talet. Här har ni en bättre anmälningsupptagning än på andra håll, våldtäktsbegreppet har utvidgats och det finns en större vilja hos svenska kvinnor att anmäla våldtäkter även inom relationer. För att klarlägga om det rör sig om en högre verklig förekomst krävs mer forskning, säger professor Kelly.

This is interesting for three reasons, firstly, Liz Kelly is not a particularly Swedish sounding name and also because this translates to:

There isn't one single explanation for the high figures.  Here (in Sweden) we have a higher requirement with respect to official reporting (for rape) than in other countries, the legal definition of rape has been broadened and there is a greater willingness on the part of Swedish women to report rape, even within relationships.  In order to determine whether this relates to a higher level of rape in reality requires further research, Professor Kelly said.

Then, thirdly, if you plug the first sentence into Google Translate, it gets it wrong - it comes back with "There is only one explanation for the high rate".  But if you translate each word individually, you get:

The is not only a explanation to the high century.

I've highlighted the key word for you. It would appear that The Local didn't have someone who could actually read Swedish (och det kan jag förstås). (Those who are keen to try such things can use Google translate on that first sentence with and without the word "inte". Curious.)

Ok. So, we have The Local kicking the whole thing off by reporting that rape occurs more commonly in Sweden despite the fact that the original (reporting, not the actual original report) stated that rape is more commonly reported in Sweden, for at least three reasons. Then the crazies picked it up. If you do a search for "rape capital of the world" (not Europe), you still have Sweden coming up, despite the fact that the Congo and Johannesburg apparently have that honour – and have maintained it for decades. But something very interesting can be seen. In October 2010 conservativepapers.org reported:

According to Swedish Radio on Tuesday, statistics from Sweden’s National Council for Crime Prevention show that the number of reported rapes against children is on the rise. The figures have nearly doubled in the last ten years due to immigration and suggest a link between the influx of Muslim immigrants and the growing number of rapes.

Now, there's some ambivalence there – does "According to Swedish Radio on Tuesday" apply to the following clause or the whole paragraph? A careless reader would assume that Brå were reporting that immigration (and more specifically Muslim immigration) was to blame. Now, this is not entirely incorrect - since Sweden is a nation in which rape is reported and dealt with while many of these immigrants come from countries in which rape is hidden and denied (and/or blamed on the victim) and many of these immigrants are escaping terrible conditions so they aren't necessarily without their own problems (not that that excuses those who rape, understanding possible causal factors that lie in the past should not be confused with a willingness to ignore crimes that are committed in the present). But this confusion as to the cause of the reported figures is not my point. My point is that these reports, which are questionable at best, have since been picked up by the loonies and been disseminated widely, with little, if any, connection to the original context.

The very first link that comes up when I type in “ ‘rape capital of the world’ Sweden” is to a page at the Gatestone Institute which opens with:

Forty years after the Swedish parliament unanimously decided to change the formerly homogenous Sweden into a multicultural country, violent crime has increased by 300% and rapes by 1,472%. Sweden is now number two on the list of rape countries, surpassed only by Lesotho in Southern Africa.

Well, there's nothing like wearing your heart on your sleeve, is there? Or should I say swastika?

But then we take a closer look at the Gatestone Institute.  A quick scan of the archives reveals a certain flavour in their interests. They are a conservative, pro-Israel, anti-Islamic think tank. There's nothing wrong with being pro-Israel, I suppose, but when you start reading the articles you even more quickly come to see that Gatestone is not maintaining a balanced sort of support for Israel to exist in an environment of broader peace across the Middle East, together with criticism of the failings of both Israel and other Middle Eastern regimes. Not at all, Gatestone is completely partisan – what they are producing is basically propaganda (so, in other words, it’s a case of “if you can't beat them, join them” - being pro-Israel, they seem to think they have the moral high ground necessary to call those who disagree with them a nazi).

Gatestone are just the more apparently reasonable face of a wider islamophobic movement. In other places you get statements like "Sweden is now the RAPE CAPITAL of the world.  98% of rapes are committed by Muslims" (on Pinterest, with an image of a (clearly white) hand holding down a resisting (and clearly white) woman and the rubric "Rape is just Muslims being Muslims" and in her comment she doesn't even pretend to have any justification for the figure) or "Sweden's rape problem which led to Stockholm being proclaimed the rape capital of Europe come from the Koran" (from Front Page Magazine, a David Horowitz site, the same David Horowitz who is a member of the Gatestone Institute) and "A Muslim rape epidemic in Sweden has ensured that it now tops the list as the European country with the most rapes per capita" (an unattributed article at Live Leaks with no support for the claim).

But let’s get back to the original claim, shall we?

The claim was that Sweden is not a safe place to be.  This claim was made in the context of an assumption that Sweden is largely atheist, which is not strictly true - only 17% of Swedes self-identify as atheists.  The exact figures are a little confusing because different countries apparently ask different questions, and there are also polls carried out by different organisations (apparently with different agenda).  53% of Swedes apparently believe in some sort of nebulous “life-force” putting them in a wishy-washy category which is not quite in the theist camp by also certainly not in the same camp as anyone who is out and proud with regard to their atheism.  I think it’s fair to say that anyone trying denigrate atheists is not going to be seriously targetting the sort of no-hoper whose opinions languish on the woo-woo side of the often hopelessly vague agnostic demarcation line.

What's more accurate to say is that the church has become less and less relevant in Sweden and few Swedes turn up to church every week.  I don't personally know the numbers because I never went to church when I lived in Sweden except for Luciadagen, a couple of weddings and once or twice to listen to a choir of junior humans because one of them was related to me.


Anyway, it’s a little questionable to call Sweden “an atheist country”.  A better argument, perhaps, is that Sweden does have low crime figures and thus should be a safe place to live, despite being more secular than many countries.  Going by murder figures, this does seem to be about right.  Out of 218 countries listed, Sweden ranked 205 for murder rate. Japan (another country that was mentioned as largely atheist) is 214. Three of the bottom nations are outliers because their population is so minuscule (Liechtenstein, Monaco and San Marino) that a death or two more would shoot them up the ladder. They are effectively the same as a tiny English village, and we all know that murders almost never happen there ...

However, the argument being presented was that Sweden isn't a safe country because of the rapes - when the actual argument that is being spread around the net is that Sweden has a rape problem because of Muslims. Which do these people want to have? Do they want to stick with the argument that the rape problem is due to immigrants (who are largely not atheist) or that the rape problem is due to the vagaries of rape reporting across nations (in which case, atheists are more likely to be honest and open about rapes, be more stringent about sexual violence, both as a society and as a legislative organisation, and have a more honest police force that encourages reports of sexual violence)? Or perhaps a blend?

In any case, what they can't legitimately argue is that a nation which is largely atheist (which sadly enough Sweden isn't quite yet) will have more rapes. To claim so would be ignorant at best and deliberately misleading otherwise.

---

For those who are still in any doubt, I don't believe that the claims that Sweden is the rape capital of Europe are reasonable and I consider any figure above zero as being unacceptable with regard to rape, no matter who is responsible.  And using dodgy rape figures for political gain is highly questionable.