What national laws exist to address and prevent domestic violence? How is domestic violence defined in the legal framework of Sweden?
In Sweden, the following laws exist to address and prevent domestic violence, criminalised in the Swedish Criminal Code:
Section 3 – violation of a child’s integrity
A person who commits a criminal act that constitutes:
1. murder, manslaughter, assault, gross assault or exceptionally gross assault under Chapter 3, Section 1, 2, 5 or 6;
2. kidnapping, unlawful deprivation of liberty, unlawful coercion, gross unlawful coercion, making an unlawful threat, making a gross unlawful threat, gross violation of the privacy of the home or molestation under Chapter 4, Section 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 or 7;
3. rape, gross rape, sexual assault, gross sexual assault, rape of a child, gross rape of a child, sexual exploitation of a child, sexual assault of a child, gross sexual assault of a child or sexual molestation of a child, sexual molestation, gross sexual molestation of a child or gross sexual molestation under Chapter 6, Section 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 or 10;
4. damage to property or gross damage to property under Chapter 12, Section 1 or 3; or 5. punishable attempts to commit an offence under points 1–4, is, if the act has been witnessed by a child who is or has previously been a family member of both the perpetrator and the person against whom the act is committed, guilty of violation of a child’s integrity and is sentenced to imprisonment for at most two years. If the offence is minor, the sentence is a fine or imprisonment for at most six months.
If the offence is gross, the person is guilty of gross violation of a child’s integrity and is sentenced to imprisonment for at least nine months and at most four years. When assessing whether the offence is gross, particular consideration is given to whether the act that was witnessed was of very serious nature or whether the perpetrator displayed particular ruthlessness. Act 2022:1043
Section 4a – gross violation of integrity and gross violation of a woman’s integrity
A person who commits criminal acts under Chapter 3
or 4, Chapter 5, Section 1 or 2, Chapter 6 or 12 or under Section 24 of the Non-Contact Orders Act (1988:688) against a person with whom they are or have previously been in a close relationship is, if each of the acts was part of a repeated violation of the person’s integrity and the acts were liable to severely damage the person’s self-esteem, guilty of gross violation of integrity and is sentenced to imprisonment for at least one year and at most six years. If acts referred to in the first paragraph were committed by a man against a woman to whom he is or has been married, or with whom he is or has been cohabiting under circumstances similar to marriage, he is instead guilty of gross violation of a woman’s integrity and is sentenced to the same penalty. Act 2021:1108.
Section 4e – honour-based oppression
A person who commits criminal acts against a person under Chapter 3 or 4, Chapter 5, Section 1 or 2, Chapter 6 or 12 or under Section 24 of the Non-Contact Orders Act (1988:688) and a motive was to preserve or restore the honour of a person or of an immediate or wider family or some other similar group, is, if each of the acts was part of a repeated violation of the person’s integrity and the acts were liable to severely damage the person’s self-esteem, guilty of honour-based oppression and is sentenced to imprisonment for at least one year and at most six years. Act 2022:310.
In the Swedish Criminal Code, the matter of domestic violence is also addressed by the following.
Chapter 3 – On offences against life and health
Section 1 – murder
A person who takes the life of another person is guilty of murder and is sentenced to imprisonment for a fixed term of at least ten and at most eighteen years, or for life. As grounds for life imprisonment, particular consideration is given to whether the act was preceded by careful planning, was characterised by particular cunning, aimed to promote or conceal other offences, involved severe suffering for the victim or was otherwise particularly ruthless. Act 2019:805
Section 5 – assault
A person who inflicts bodily injury, illness or pain on another person or renders them helpless or in some other similar state is guilty of assault and is sentenced to imprisonment for at most two years or, if the offence is minor, to a fine or imprisonment for at most six months. Act 1998:393.
Section 6 – gross assault
If an offence referred to in Section 5 is considered gross, the person is guilty of gross assault and is sentenced to imprisonment for at least one year and six months and at most six years. When assessing whether the offence is gross, particular consideration is given to whether the act was lifethreatening or whether the perpetrator inflicted severe bodily injury or serious illness or otherwise displayed particular ruthlessness or brutality.
If the offence is considered exceptionally gross, the person is guilty of exceptionally gross assault and is sentenced to imprisonment for at least five and at most ten years. When assessing whether the offence is exceptionally gross, particular consideration is given to whether the bodily injury is permanent, or whether the act caused exceptional suffering, or whether the perpetrator displayed exceptional ruthlessness. Act 2017:332.
Chapter 4 – On offences against liberty and peace
Section 1a – trafficking in human beings
A person who, in cases other than those referred to in Section 1, by: 1. unlawful coercion; 2. deception; 3. exploitation of another person’s vulnerable situation that severely restricts that person’s alternatives; or 4. other such improper means that severely restrict another person’s alternatives, recruits, transports, transfers, harbours or receives a person in order for that person to be exploited for sexual purposes, the removal of organs, military service, forced labour or some other activity in a situation that involves distress for that person 1 a § Den som, i annat fall än som avses i 1 §, genom 1. olaga tvång, 2. vilseledande, 3. utnyttjande av någons utsatta belägenhet som allvarligt begränsar personens alternativ, eller 4. annat sådant otillbörligt medel om det allvarligt begränsar personens alternativ rekryterar, transporterar, överför, inhyser eller tar emot en person i syfte att han eller hon ska exploateras för sexuella ändamål, avlägsnande av organ, krigstjänst, tvångsarbete eller annan verksamhet i en situation som innebär nödläge för den 32 is guilty of trafficking in human beings… Act 2018:601.
Section 5 – unlawful coercion or makes an unlawful threat
A person who exercises unlawful coercion or makes an unlawful threat with intent to influence the formation of public opinion or infringe freedom of action within a political organisation or a professional or business association, and thereby endangers freedom of speech, assembly or association, is guilty of an offence against civil liberties and is sentenced to imprisonment for at most six years.
Section 7 – Indecent assault
Anyone who physically assaults someone else or exposes someone else to disturbing contacts or other reckless behaviour is sentenced to a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of one year for harassment if the act is likely to violate the victim’s peace in a significant way. Act (2017:1136).
Chapter 6 – On sexual offences
Section 1 – rape
A person who performs vaginal, anal or oral intercourse, or some other sexual act that in view of the seriousness of the violation is comparable to sexual intercourse, with a person who is not participating voluntarily is guilty of rape and is sentenced to imprisonment for at least three and at most six years and is sentenced to imprisonment for at least three and at most six years. The same applies to a person who induces another person who is not participating voluntarily to undertake or submit to such an act. When assessing whether participation is voluntary or not, particular consideration is given to whether voluntariness was expressed by word or deed or in some other way.
If an offence referred to in the first paragraph is gross, the person is guilty of gross rape….. Act 2022:1043.
Section 1 a – negligent rape
A person who commits an act referred to in Section 1 and is grossly negligent regarding the circumstance that the other person is not participating voluntarily is guilty of negligent rape and is sentenced to imprisonment for at most four years. If, in view of the circumstances, the act is less serious, the person is not held responsible. Act 2018:618.
Section 2 – sexual assault and gross sexual assault
A person who performs a sexual act other than those referred to in Section 1 with a person who is not participating voluntarily is guilty of sexual assault and is sentenced to imprisonment for at least six months and at most two years. The same applies to a person who induces another person who is not participating voluntarily to undertake or submit to such an act. When assessing whether participation was voluntary or not, Section 1, first paragraph, third and fourth sentences apply. If the offence is less serious, the sentence is imprisonment for at most one year. If the offence is gross, the person is guilty of gross sexual assault and is sentenced to imprisonment. Act 2022:1043.
Section 3 – negligent sexual assault
A person who commits an act referred to in Section 2 and is grossly negligent regarding the circumstance that the other person is not participating voluntarily is guilty of negligent sexual assault….. . Act 2018:618.
Section 4 – rape of a child and gross rape of a child
A person who performs vaginal, anal or oral intercourse, or another sexual act that in view of the seriousness of the violation is comparable to sexual intercourse, with a child under fifteen years of age is guilty of rape of a child.
If an offence referred to in the first or second paragraph is gross, the person is guilty of gross rape of a child. Act 2022:1043
For further laws relevant to offences of domestic violence in Sweden (in Swedish) please follow the link: https://www.nck.uu.se/kunskapsbanken/amnesguider/vad-sager-lagen/
2. Law enforcement and protective orders
What types of protection orders are available for victims of domestic violence?
In Sweden, a victim of a crime has the right to bring a support person to the hearing and trial. This can be a person he or she trusts, such as a relative or a person from the women’s or victim’s shelter.
In certain more serious offences, such as assault, sexual offences and violation of privacy, the district court may appoint a counsellor to help the victim before the trial. In sexual offences, the victim must always have a counsel unless it is obvious that it is not necessary. A notification of this must be made immediately when a preliminary investigation is initiated. The counsellor then participates in questioning. He or she also helps with claims for damages during the trial itself. The rules on the right to a counsellor are set out in Act 1988:609 on counsellors.
3. Support for victims
What support services are available for victims of domestic violence in Sweden?
In Sweden, social services are obliged and legally responsible for providing support and assistance to women and men in heterosexual and LGBTQ relationships who are victims of violence. This may involve sheltered accommodation, counselling, support talks or financial assistance if necessary. Children who have experienced violence are also entitled to help. The following are further support services available for victims of domestic violence:
For some years now, witness support has been available in most courts. This can be one or more people who help victims and witnesses settle in when they come to court. They can explain how a trial works. But they can also help with practical matters such as showing victims and witnesses where there are waiting rooms so they do not have to sit with the suspect. Witness support workers are often people involved in the local victim support centre or law students.
Right to financial compensation
Victims also have the right to get help with compensation claims.
Victims of crime who are being stalked or harassed can have a restraining order issued by the public prosecutor’s office.
Safety for victims
If measures such as a restraining order do not have the desired effect, additional measures may be required to protect the victim. In order for the right protective measures to be taken, knowledge of possible threats is needed.
Protected personal data on various levels (3 levels) (followed by an approved application)
As a victim of crime, the victim needs to come into contact with several different authorities. To make it easier for victims, the Swedish Victim Support Authority has developed the website Victim Guide: https://www.brottsofferguiden.se/
Are there sufficient numbers of shelters or safe houses for individuals fleeing domestic violence situations?
In 2020, the National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden released a report providing an overview of the number of shelters in the country, the number of places for adults and children, staffing and funding. It also provides information on the quality of sheltered accommodation for victims of domestic violence: https://www.socialstyrelsen.se/globalassets/sharepoint-dokument/artikelkatalog/ovrigt/2020-6-6817.pdf
The results show the following:
- Half of the country’s municipalities have at least one shelter. Most shelters are located in the metropolitan regions.
- All shelters accept women and 38 per cent accept men. The shelters that accept men exposed to violence state that they do not place them in the collective accommodation together with women, but in in separate apartments.
- Some shelters state that they accept men and boys who are exposed to honour-related violence because of their sexual orientation. One reason for the higher proportion of men being accommodated may be that more shelters have detached apartments.
- The result also shows that sheltered accommodation have difficulties accepting people who need other support than what can be offered at the accommodation. This may include people with a physical or mental disability or active substance abuse.
- Also, more support is needed after moving out, both for adults and for children, such as long-term housing solutions.
- Women exposed to violence with substance abuse and addiction problems are at risk of not getting access to support and help based on their need for protection. Social services often does not identify and offer programmes to these people. The National Board of Health and Welfare assesses that support and interventions for women exposed to violence in abuse and addiction need to be developed.
On October 2023, the government adopted a bill proposing to make sheltered accommodation a new form of placement subject to authorisation and quality requirements. The proposals also strengthen the rights of accompanying children. The legislative changes are proposed to enter into force on 1 April 2024.
The reform means, among other things, that
- Shelters are introduced as a new housing measure in the Social Services Act.
- Each municipality is responsible for ensuring that there is access to sheltered accommodation.
- The children’s rights perspective is strengthened: children accompanying a guardian will have their own decisions on measures, increased right to schooling and the possibility of a health examination.
- Sheltered accommodation must be of good quality.
- Private providers who run sheltered accommodation must have a licence from the Health and Care Inspectorate (IVO); municipalities that run sheltered accommodation must notify IVO.
How is counselling or psychological support provided to victims?
Counselling or psychological support is provided in various ways, by the health-care sector, social services and/or NGOs. Victims may also seek counselling and psychological support privately.
4. Preventive measures
Are there educational campaigns aimed at raising awareness about domestic violence in Sweden?
In Sweden, since 2018, knowledge of men’s violence against women and intimate partner violence has been compulsory in undergraduate programmes for professions that involve encounters with women and children exposed to violence. The change in the degree descriptions in the Higher Education Ordinance is part of Sweden’s efforts to combat violence following the Istanbul Convention. As a result, Swedish universities offer courses in men’s violence against women and intimate partner violence. Notwithstanding there are many campaigns taking place by state authorities, municipalities, regions and counties and NGOs to raise awareness of domestic violence.
What national initiatives or programs exist to prevent domestic violence? How does the government work with NGOs and other organisations to address domestic violence prevention?
The Swedish Gender Equality Agency has made an inventory of violence prevention work around Sweden. The compilation provides several examples of methods and materials for working to prevent violence: Jämställdhetsmyndighetens rapport “Våldsförebyggande arbete. Sammanställning av Jämställdhetsmyndighetens enkät avseende nationellt arbete med våldsprevention” (2018) pdf
The Swedish Gender Equality Agency has also compiled the Nordic experiences of violence prevention work that were shared during the fourth international conference on men and gender equality, ICMEO (Stockholm 15-16 May 2018): Jämställdhetsmyndighetens skrift “Varaktig framgång i stället för projekt. Nordiska erfarenheter av våldsförebyggande arbete” (2018) pdf
More about prevention in Sweden can be found here: https://www.nck.uu.se/kunskapsbanken/webbstod-for-kommuner/att-arbeta-forebyggande/valdsforebyggande-arbete-kommer/
5. Data and research
Is there ongoing research on the causes and effects of domestic violence in Sweden?
A lot of research regarding domestic violence is conducted by various researchers. Difficult to mention one ongoing as there many ongoing from various perspectives. On NCK’s website, relevant research is regularly updated: https://www.nck.uu.se/kunskapsbanken/forskare/?amne=0&disciplin=0&sok=
Research and publications by NCK: https://www.nck.uu.se/kunskapsbanken/nck-s-publikationer/
Research and publications by other authorities: https://www.nck.uu.se/kunskapsbanken/medverkande-myndigheter/
How regularly is information on domestic violence updated and made publicly accessible?
As far as statistics are concerned, various sources (government agencies, municipalities) provide statistics on deadly intimate partner violence, reported crimes, exposure to crime, protected personal data, and the work of municipalities. These statistical sources are updated normally every year.
6. Collaboration with international organisations
Is Sweden involved in any international collaborations or partnerships to address domestic violence?
The National Centre for Knowledge on Men’s Violence against Women (NCK) has been commissioned by the Swedish government to increase the knowledge on men’s violence against women in Sweden, and to develop methods for the treatment and care of women subjected to violence. As a result, NCK attends to delegations (governmental officials, politicians, NGO actors and others) from different parts of the world to raise awareness of the issue and inform about how NCK work with the issue of domestic violence. These visits take place quite regularly and may lead to influencing other countries’ work.
How does Sweden engage with global initiatives focused on combating domestic violence? Are there specific international conventions or treaties related to domestic violence that Sweden has ratified or adopted?
International conventions or treaties related to domestic violence that Sweden has ratified or adopted:
- Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women
- Istanbul Convention Action against violence against women and domestic violence
- Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR)
- Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
- Convention against Torture and Other Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC or Children’s Convention)
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
- The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR)
- The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, or Charter of Rights, adopted in 2000. The Lisbon Treaty made it binding on Sweden and other EU countries.
- The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
- EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
- Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (Forced marriage (including child marriage) is a matter of human trafficking. Currently, there are discussions taking place to strengthen the DIRECTIVE 2011/36/EU to further highlight forced marriage as a matter of human trafficking at the EU level.)