Published March 1, 2019
The #MeToo revolution has had an incredible effect on the world, and raised a lot of questions about our legal system here in Iceland. The true effect, in my opinion, is giving women—many of them in pain and distress—a much-needed voice and platform. People are now more ready to believe a woman who comes forward after being subjected to violence, instead of doubting them by default. This is important. It matters when a victim can turn to the system for help in the system, rather than distrusting it.
We at the Grapevine decided to try and find out if the system is ready for the change—because the numbers are not in their favour. There’s a shocking difference between the number of women pressing charges, and the resulting number of convictions. Also, if you look at the disparity between the number of women who seek help at the Stígamót support centre for survivors of sexual abuse, and the number who press charges with the police, there’s a similarly shocking disparity, to say the least.
So what’s wrong here? Are those in charge of the justice system trying to improve it, or is it falling behind the times, at the cost of survivors? Are lawmakers perhaps trying to sit this one out? We asked Iceland’s Minister of Justice, Sigríður Á. Andersen, some tough questions about how the system is reacting to #MeToo, and how the system can be improved to be more accessible and approachable for victims of sexual abuse.
It appears that there is some will to do better, including the establishment of the Bjarkarhlíð centre for victims of sexual violence. This is a huge improvement from what resources were previously available to victims. Furthermore, police officers are being trained to be more specialised in investigating these crimes, whilst treating survivors with respect.
But there will always be grey areas. Some organisations have tried to tackle allegations internally via special committees, following in the footsteps of the Social Democrat party, and the National Church. But such solutions have proven controversial, and could also be improved. Perhaps we need more radical solutions. All we really know is that we need more tools to deal with these issues.
It’s clear that many survivors, politicians, activists and others have gone through an incredible battle to spotlight this important issue, some suffering tremendous pain to do so. And now, it’s time for the system to keep up with society; to evolve and to improve. We need a #Me2.0. We need more education, to be more respectful to each others’ boundaries, and to be aware of the subtle forms of violence people can inflict on others. This is not only the job of the government—this is a collective assignment for all individuals and societies in the world, and a process will never end.
Read the feature article here.