This week a Swedish judge acquitted a man who attempted to rape a transgender victim. The perpetrator, who attacked a transgender woman outside of her apartment complex, stated that he believed his victim was a woman. After he pulled off her clothes and grabbed her crotch, the attacker discovered male genitalia. The victim and her ex-partner were able to pull the man off of her before police came to arrest him.
The legal system in Sweden offered no extra help to the victim in court proceedings. The reasoning behind the acquittal of the attacker? The perpetrator claimed that he believed his victim was a woman with female genitalia. The court sided with this explanation adding, as quoted by Queerty, “We believe that he wanted to rape… this woman. But as she proved to be a man, his plan [would] never have been possible.”
There are a number of problems with this logic. First and foremost, definitions of rape and attempted rape should not rest solely with the type of genitalia involved. Male and female bodies can be attacked and physically and emotionally harmed an unsettling number of ways, regardless of age, gender identity or sexual preferences. Secondly, this court decision intrinsically strips the victim of her personhood by making it “impossible” for her to be raped.
The court claims that since the attacker believed he was going to rape a woman with female genitalia his intended crime was basically only possible on an imaginary level, never mind that he forcefully removed clothing and grabbed at the victim’s body with every intention of violating her.
The judge concluded that the rape was “invalid” because the victim was anatomically a male. Instead, the perpetrator was convicted of assault and will pay just over $2,000 in damages to the woman.
The case is not over yet. It is highly likely that it will be turned over the Court of Appeals for further consideration. Sweden has made variable legislative progress for LGBT rights. Edge Boston points out that Sweden was the first country to remove homosexuality from classification as a mental illness. Sweden also allows same-sex couples to marry.
Yet, Sweden also lags far behind in transgender rights. People that have surgery to change genders must still agree to be sterilized. Lawmakers failed to overturn this 40-year-old rule this past February. This newest court decision regarding rape further suggests that transgender people are often considered less-than-human in a country that boasts the highest percentage of men who experience non-consensual rape in Europe. Simplistic, outdated definitions of rape threaten to downplay the severity of this type of attack and may set a disturbing precedent in Sweden.
Photo Credit: Stefano Bolognini