6. Exploitation of the female body

Exploitation of the female body can be physical such as rape, trafficking, prostitution and humiliating pornography; or mental such as objectification and ideals that are both unattainable and a danger to health.

Objectification and exploitation

In a rapidly-developing, globalized communications society we are facing new challenges all the time. The digital landscape allows information to reach more people, including more young people, more rapidly than before. The internet and social media have created new patterns and avenues for exploiting women’s bodies. These are normalizing objectification, hate, threat and violence. Legislation must keep up with this development.

The Swedish Marketing Practices Act does not cover manipulation of images of the human body and most therefore be amended. Retouched and manipulated images create unattainable and injurious ideals. This affects women’s self-image and how they value their body. It can lead to increased fixation on appearance, eating disorders, unhealthy dietary and training habits. An example of laws introduced in other countries to counter unhealthy body ideals is the prohibition of the use of models with too low BMI.

When the ultimate consequences of a gender-unequal society not only make themselves felt but are allowed a place in our society, we must react. We need legislation against sexist advertising, marketing and the objectification of women on TV and in films.

Pornography and human trafficking

The global trade in women’s and children’s bodies is today a multi-milliard industry, appearing not only in prostitution but also in pornography. Research over several decades shows major damage due to commercial pornography. Both the porn industry and sex trafficking concern power relationships and are often linked to organized criminality.

That the female body is saleable is confirmed continuously through pornography. The porn industry is heavily marked by the power structure that places men above, and belittles, women. The present so-called “mainstream-pornography” almost always includes violence and not infrequently elements resembling torture, where women are exposed to painful, humiliating and violent sexual acts. This type of pornographic film must not exist.

The development of digital communication permits pornography to reach increasingly young groups. The average age at which children are viewing violent porn for the first time is now 11 years. An enquiry into the injurious effects of porn is needed.

No to sex purchase

S-kvinnor was a driving force in the introduction of the Swedish sex purchase law, which criminalizes a person who purchases sex but not one who sells. The law is important in preventing and counteracting prostitution and human trafficking. We know that the industry would be considerably more widespread without a sex purchase law. This becomes evident in comparison with countries that have legalized sex purchase, where major brothel complexes are growing up without control of the black sex commerce. The sex purchase act also has a normalizing effect – it shows that Sweden does not accept trading in the human body.

Knowledge of prostitution is growing in our society but cooperation between various instances, for example the police, social services and the health services, needs to improve. All those who wish to leave prostitution must get the support and help they need. Today the penalty for sex purchase is fines or a year’s imprisonment, but sex purchase should always lead to deprivation of liberty. Very few people are being prosecuted for sex purchase: this crime must be given a higher priority, and it requires more resources.

When Swedish citizens purchase sexual services abroad the sex purchase law does not apply. For this to be possible it is necessary that the crime be excepted from double criminal responsibility, that is, that the crime becomes equally illegal abroad and in Sweden. Exceptions from double criminality apply to a number of other serious sexual crimes and should also apply to sex purchase.

Sexual crime

Zero tolerance must apply to all forms of sexual harassment. We must never accept or normalize that girls’ and women’s life spaces are limited because others assume the right to help themselves to their bodies, either in the private or the public sphere.

For a sexual act to be defined as rape it is currently required that the perpetrator uses threats, violence; or exploits a person in a helpless condition; but there has been a major review of the sexual crimes legislation. It shows that many victims did not resist. It has been established that this is a common protective behavior to avoid further injury, and has been misinterpreted as consent. S-kvinnor supports the proposal that sex must always be based on consent and that a necessary condition of gross negligence must be introduced in the law.

S-kvinnor also sees the importance of prioritizing and respecting the victims throughout the whole care chain and legal process, and of giving her the right support. Giving all who report a rapist a plaintiff’s representative is a first step. Knowledge of sexual crimes needs to be expanded throughout the whole judicial system.

Men’s violence against women

According to the National Centre for Knowledge on Men’s Violence Against Women (NCK) more than one woman in ten in Sweden has been subjected to violence in a close relationship. Every year around 15 women are murdered by a man in a close relationship. The murder is almost always preceded by threats and violence which was not stopped. Inequitable salaries and pensions, together with today’s housing situation, are contributing to women’s difficulties in leaving unhealthy relationships if they are dependent on their husbands.

Men’s violence against women is not only a problem for women, it is a societal problem. Violence must be prevented and the victims protected. Work with values and masculinity norms is exceedingly important and must penetrate the whole of society, in particular schools and athletics movements.

Our women’s refuges state that they are obliged to refuse women help owing to lack of space. There are great differences between how the municipalities prioritize action against men’s violence against women. The municipalities must undertake responsibility and have a clear plan of action to combat such violence. A long-term scheme for financing girls’ and women’s refuges must be ensured, in accordance with the national strategy for preventing and combating men’s violence against women. But where our municipalities do not accept their full responsibility, the government should, during a transitional period, share the financing of these refuges. This is so that the women’s refuges may be able to build up their operations slowly and not fail because of local official ignorance. At the same time the legislation for municipal responsibility regarding men’s violence against women, and financing this responsibility, should be further tightened up.

Elderly women constitute a group often forgotten when one talks about men’s violence against women; but violence is no respecter of pensions. On the other hand there is a risk that their social lives may be restricted, possibly increasing their vulnerability. Therefore, it is important to have an elderly perspective on these issues.

Crimes of honor represent a challenge for the whole of society. Parallel societies based on patriarchal structures must always be opposed. Knowledge of oppression in the name of honor and the special character of honor violence must be disseminated. This is threats and violence perpetrated and/or sanctioned by several persons in a close relation to the threatened person. All instances, school, social services, care services and the judicial system must have the right tools for identifying, meeting and opposing honor crime. Honor crime must be introduced as an aggravating circumstance to highlight the serious nature of the crime.

Child- and forced marriage is forbidden in Sweden. The increased protection introduced in 2014 against child- and forced marriage has not had the desired effect, so the application of this law must be revised.

Surrogacy

Based on the principle of the equality of all people, no person shall be considered a means for another’s need, and traffic in women’s bodies is never acceptable. For this reason, neither commercial or altruistic surrogacy must be legalized.

S-kvinnor’s demands:
  • Act against all forms of exploitation and objectification of the female body.
  • Legislate against sexist advertising, marketing and objectification of women on TV and in films.
  • Introduce a zero-acceptance vision of men’s violence against women.
  • Seek the establishment of a commission of enquiry into the harmful effects of pornography and how pornographic films with elements resembling torture and pain may be countered and forbidden.
  • Act against sex purchase and prostitution through greater cooperation among various social instances.
  • Tighten up the sex purchase law so that purchase always leads to punishment in the form of deprivation of liberty.
  • The Swedish sex purchase law must also apply to Swedish citizens who purchase sexual services abroad.
  • Increase the penalty for sex offences. The rape legislation must cover consent and gross negligence.
  • Guarantee long-term financing of our girls’ and women’s refuges.
  • Introduce honor crime as an aggravating circumstance, together with measures to increase knowledge as a tool for identifying, meeting, preventing and fighting honor crime.
  • The application of the law on greater protection against child- and forced marriages to be revised and enforced.
  • Oppose surrogacy both nationally and internationally.
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