The human rights group’s report said “flawed legislation” and “an insidious culture of victim blaming” had resulted in “endemic impunity for rapists in the country”.
“There is this understanding in Denmark that it has already achieved gender equality,” Helle Jacobsen, one of the report’s authors, told CNN. “But when it comes to sexual violence, it is almost impossible to get a conviction for rape, there is a very low number of [women reporting rape], so it means access to justice in Denmark if you are a rape a survivor is almost non existent.”
Blamed and shamed
It added that rape victims find “reporting process and its aftermath immensely traumatizing, particularly when faced with inappropriate questions, flawed investigations and inadequate communication” by authorities.
It shared an anecdote from a 39-year-old journalist, who tried to file a report of rape four times, but on the second attempt “she was taken to a police cell and warned that she could go to prison if she was lying”.
Another woman told Amnesty how intimidated she felt going to the police: “I was just one 21-year-old woman, sitting there with two guys looking at me, saying, ‘are you sure you want to report this?’… I was just a young girl ‘claiming’ to have been raped,” the rights group quoted her as saying.
Jacobsen said the cornerstone of the problem lies in the country’s legislation, which does not define rape based on the lack of consent, but instead uses an “outdated” definition based on sexual violence that pivots on whether coercion or physical violence was involved or “if the victim was unable to resist.”
The Istanbul Convention, which aims to combat different types of violence against women, “very clearly states that all European countries should define rape as sex without consent,” she said. “But Denmark fails to do that, and you see how it factors down to the whole judicial system — from judges, to lawyers, to police, to prosecutors.”
To do so would put the country in line with only eight other European countries that have consent-based definitions of rape: Ireland, UK, Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg and Sweden.
“Together with the survivors campaigning for improved access to justice, we look forward to seeing the draft law,” Amnesty International’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo said in a statement.
“It will be important for other ministries to support this initiative as well as we continue to stress that law is only one piece of the puzzle and needs to be accompanied by proper implementation, appropriate sexuality education and challenging rape myths through awareness-raising.”