Is Sweden really the rape capital of the world?

Plot 1007.pngToday, Nigel Farage said that Malmö in Sweden was the rape capital of Europe, accusing the large influx of refugees for causing an increasing in crime and violence. Donald Trump made a similar confused reference to Sweden in a rally recently. If you look at reported rapes, Sweden has indeed one of the highest rates in the world, after Botswana. But does this mean that women in Sweden are much less safe than elsewhere?

The high rape rates in Sweden can be mostly accounted for by the way the are counted, as this article reported:

In Sweden there has been this ambition explicitly to record every case of sexual violence separately, to make it visible in the statistics. So, for instance, when a woman comes to the police and she says my husband or my fiance raped me almost every day during the last year, the police have to record each of these events, which might be more than 300 events. In many other countries it would just be one record – one victim, one type of crime, one record.”

The thing is, the number of reported rapes has been going up in Sweden – it’s almost trebled in just the last seven years. In 2003, about 2,200 offences were reported by the police, compared to nearly 6,000 in 2010. So something’s going on.

But Klara Selin says the statistics don’t represent a major crime epidemic, rather a shift in attitudes. The public debate about this sort of crime in Sweden over the past two decades has had the effect of raising awareness, she says, and encouraging women to go to the police if they have been attacked.

In the graph above, I have plotted reported rapes per 100’000 inhabitants (data from the United Nations) against the World Economic Forum gender gap index. It is importance to note that reported rapes are not the same thing as actual rapes. Sweden ranks unsurprisingly among the highest in the WEF ranking, also if you look at popular support for gender equality. There is an intriguing positive correlation. It is not very strong, but on average, countries with higher gender equality tend to have higher rates of reported rapes. This would suggest that, in line with the argument made by Klara Selin, women are more likely to report rapes to the police when gender equality is more widespread. In contrast, if you look at the lower left corner, countries such as Algeria, the United Emirates, Lebanon and Japan have both low score on gender equality and low reported rapes. This may suggest that reported rapes may not only be a poor indicator of sexual violence against women, but counterintuitively, higher levels of reported rapes may actually be an indicator of higher gender equality: in countries where gender equality is low, and where sexual violence against women is more likely to be widespread, sexual violence is also more likely to go unreported.

One thought on “Is Sweden really the rape capital of the world?

  1. Pingback: Is Gender Equality Really Exist? | My BS & Co

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