Monday, December 20, 2010

IF YOU WANT TO UNDERSTAND why Assange is in legal trouble in Sweden for alleged sex crimes, read this Time magazine piece:
Foreign visitors to Stockholm's lively bar scene might be struck by the assertiveness of the nation's women — the typical Swedish female seems to have no qualms about approaching men to start a conversation or initiate a romantic encounter. To Swedish feminists, that confidence is just one part of the country's wider effort to promote women's rights. "The whole society now expects women to be as forward with their sexual will as men. That, after all, is part of achieving gender equality," explains Karine Arakelian, chairwoman of Terrafem, a shelter organization for abused women.

But despite having the freedom to dictate their sexual encounters, Swedish women face a troubling fact: Sweden has by far the highest incidence of reported rapes in Europe, and one of the lowest conviction rates in the developed world. Various international bodies — from the U.N. to Amnesty International — have slammed the country for the prevalence of sex crimes committed by its citizens. In response, the Swedish government has in recent years undertaken aggressive measures to toughen up its sex-crime laws.

And it's in this context that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, currently under police watch in London, finds himself awaiting possible extradition to Sweden to face questioning related to five different sex-crime allegations. The claims, which include rape, stem from sexual encounters Assange had with two women in August that began as consensual but, according to his accusers, became nonconsensual. Assange and his attorneys have claimed that Sweden's public prosecutor is pursuing the former hacker at the behest of the U.S. government, as retribution for the embarrassing diplomatic cables published recently by WikiLeaks. But it's much more likely that political pressure of a different sort has landed Assange under police watch: Sweden's campaign to aggressively pursue all accusations of sex crimes.

On Thursday, a British judge released Assange on conditional bail. Assange had been granted bail on Tuesday but spent the next two days in prison while Swedish prosecutors appealed the decision. Assange has not been charged with a crime, and he denies any wrongdoing. But his arrest is another piece of Sweden's internal dialogue about how the country can counter its sex-crime crisis.
Keep reading, including the end bit: "And for the Swedes who are grappling with the disturbingly high rates of sexual crimes against women, when it comes to nonconsensual sex, what happens behind closed doors should never remain a secret. If anyone can understand that compulsion to expose injustice, it's Assange."