Those convicted of stalking may face up to four years in prison, if a bill from Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir becomes law, Fréttablaðið reports. The bill is being welcomed by women’s shelter workers and the police alike.
As it stands now, Icelandic law is sorely lacking when it comes to making stalking a punishable offense. Restraining orders do exist, but police have long expressed frustration with the use of this limited preventative measure, as restraining orders are not always obeyed. Furthermore, it can be very difficult to get a restraining order in the first place.
In Iceland, the vast majority of victims of stalking are women, and some 65 women sought sanctuary at the Women’s Shelter due to being stalked, usually by former spouses or ex-boyfriends, comprising 16% of the total number of women who went to the shelter. Sigþrúður Guðmundsdóttir, the managing director of the shelter, told reporters that stalkers will seek to harass their victims both online and in person, in some cases compelling these women to quit their jobs or even leave the country.
“It may sound harmless to get a message every once in a while, or to see [the stalker] every now and then,” she said. “But [stalking] is done with the express purpose of inciting fear, often after a violent relationship. Their presence is a reminder that he still has power over these women.”
If this bill becomes law—and it being a ruling coalition bill from a government minister, its passage is likely—stalkers could at last face real, legal consequences for their actions.
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