Despite gender equality, sexual assault still major problem in Norway

Scandinavia is often cited as a leader when it comes to social programs that promote gender equity. A new article in the New York Times addresses the fact that equality hasn’t solved the problem of domestic violence or rape:

One in 10 Norwegian women over the age of 15 has been raped, according to the country’s largest shelter organization, the Secretariat of the Shelter Movement. But at least 80 percent of these cases are never brought to official attention and only 10 percent of those that are end in a conviction, the Justice Ministry says.

The article also addresses the fact that the majority of rapes and sexual assaults are committed by people the survivor knows–often a partner or family member. But the majority of rapes that are actually prosecuted are stranger rapes, adding to the skewed perspective on how sexual assault happens. It makes sense that sexual assault within relationships, just like domestic violence, is less often reported.

What the situation in Norway highlights is the fact that sexual assault is a complicated issue, one that cannot simply be solved even after decades of work toward gender equity. As the article concludes:

Why is sexual violence still so prevalent in countries where gender equality has made such gigantic strides? Some experts, like Ms. Kelly, argue that as a society moves to redistribute power between genders, there might be a transitional period where violence rises as the last expression of male domination.

In the long term, most observers concur that the best antidote to violence is greater gender equality across the board. “The more independent women are from men and the more equal in terms of pay, status, education and everything else, the more likely are we to clamp down on this type of crime,” said Ms. Aas-Hansen of the Justice Ministry. “When a crime has happened in it, the bedroom ceases to be private.”

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