Sunday, May 27, 2018


7.1 Undocumented Women 
 Undocumented migrants are one of the most vulnerable groups in Swedish society, moreover, due to their irregular status, such migrants are an under-researched group and are not included in the country’s Cause of Death Register (CDR).

In its resolution of 4 February 2014 on undocumented women migrants in the European Union (2013/2115(INI)), the European Parliament highlighted the following: 

“Migrant women are more vulnerable to physical abuse in general, but undocumented ones are even more so because their legal status puts them in such a position where they cannot reach to the police or hospitals or shelters for help and their abuser knows this and exploits this situation. Undocumented migrant women who find themselves in an abusive situation cannot even readily access women’s shelters. Most state-run women’s shelters require some form of identification in order to receive the person, so the victims are left with the awful choice between remaining in the abusive situation or becoming homeless.”

Over the years, Sweden has increased asylum seekers social rights.37 In Sweden, most survivors of domestic violence have access to support services regardless of immigration status, because access to welfare state services is based on residence within a municipality as opposed to a particular immigration status. However, the grey area is for undocumented migrants, as they are not covered by the benefits system because a residence permit and personal identification number are needed for registration with the Swedish Social Insurance Agency. Many shelters thus struggle to house undocumented survivors; the exact number of undocumented migrants in Sweden is not known.

The Swedish government-commissioned inquiry “to explore the incidence of violence, threats and violations affecting foreign women and their children who have been granted residence permits on the grounds of ties with a person resident in Sweden”.38 Even for documented migrants the seeking of support from abuse can be difficult when they rely on a partner for their legal status in the country. In the inquiry it was concluded that the probationary period exacerbates unequal power relationships in intimate relationships:

“The legislation means that it is the foreigner, and most often a woman, who alone bears the risk if the relationship ends during the first years, and moreover alone, or together with her child, must bear the consequences of violence. The person with whom an immigrant has ties, usually a man, is, on the other hand, able to make use of the legislation through his superior situation. Our investigations indicate that the number of men who systematically exploit the legislation is by no means small.”39 

The fear of deportation often traps undocumented women (along with those who are dependent upon their spouse’s visa), and clearly it is not uncommon for abusers to take advantage of their position. 

7.2 Transgender Women  
Transgender persons are especially exposed to different types of violence, including domestic violence and violence in close relationships. In the experience coming from the coalition of NGOs, it has been shown that transgender women face serious difficulties in accessing shelters or support centres due to their gender identity and/or expression. This further exposes them to violence, discrimination and exclusion.40

In Sweden, the Government has presented proposals to strengthen the protection of transgender people under criminal law. The legislative amendments would mean that transgender people would be afforded full protection under the hate crime legislation. In addition, if a motive for an offence was to violate a person or group of people based on gender identity or gender expression, this would constitute an aggravating circumstance. 

The Government has also proposed that 'transgender identity or expression' a basis for discrimination in the Discrimination Act be replaced with 'gender identity or gender expression'. Under the proposal, all individuals will be protected against discrimination regardless of how their gender identity or gender expression relates to what is perceived to be the norm. 

The legislative amendments should enter into force on 1 July 2018, except for the amendments to the provisions on agitation against a national or ethnic group in the Freedom of the Press Act and the Penal Code, which will enter into force on 1 January 2019.41 

Also, a number of women’s emergency shelters have embarked on training programmes that will enable them to deal with the special needs of LGBT women exposed to violence. The activities of the women’s shelters need to be expanded so that LGBT women can receive the help and assistance they require.42 

7.3 Islamic Women 
 Men’s violence against women in the context of Muslims is particularly difficult given the religious connotations of severing their faith while challenging gender-based violence. Muslim women felt a need to register a formal organization that acknowledged their experiences of linguistic and cultural misunderstandings as well as prejudicial treatment at “conventional” women’s centres. Thus, the Sisters Shelter Somaya shelter43 was established in 1998 in Stockholm by a group of women living in a suburb that had many inhabitants with Muslim and foreign backgrounds.

The founders were themselves Muslims: some immigrants, some converts to Islam. Many resented being met with the presumption that they needed to leave their religion and assimilate with the non-Muslim majority. One support worker said “A woman who comes to us does not want to get rid of God; she wants to get rid of her husband”. Somaya publicly declared itself to contribute with competence in the Swedish legal and welfare system as well as in various languages, including Swedish. Moreover, the organization affirmed that it offered a shelter where violence against women was not presented as a particularly “Muslim problem” rooted in Islam.

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