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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  • James

    How can greater gender equality help what appears to be an extension of domestic violence? Some quick Googling tells me that domestic violence is equally prevalent among gay and lesbian couples, which probably can’t be linked to gender inequality.
    What creates people who do abuse their committed partners? I’d assumed that it’s just a dysfunctional relationship model, and that that’s just how the abuser relates to partners, but I don’t have anything to back that up. It looks like it transcends gender? I’m just wondering if these are patterns that are deeper than wider cultural changes can fix.

  • honeybee

    I’m not clear on what gender equality has to do with sexual violence. Heck the highest rates of violence in the world are between 2 men.

    I don’t think the “reasons” that people commit these crimes have anything to do with equality. It has more to do with human nature and sexuality which doesn’t know gender. That some of the highest rates of domestic violence and sexual assault occur between homosexual couples helps to prove this. Alot of stats emerging lately as well that show very high (often unreported) rates of sexual assault that are female on male.

    I think that like murder and every other crime, there will always be such crimes. We do our best to minimize their occurance but at the end of the day you will never eradicate crimes completely.