New York Times spotlights Norway rape

“One in ten Norwegian women over the age of 15 has been raped,” The New York Times has reported in an article seized upon by Norway’s media on Wednesday.

The article tells the chilling story of a wife made victim by her husband, while Norway's Secretariat of the Shelter Movement is a source for rape figures. Ministry of Justice numbers point to 80 percent of such cases going unreported, with a 10 percent conviction rate for the few cases that end in court, the report says.

The article on marital rape, and a society with an alleged blind spot face with certain realities, comes at a time when Norwegian newspapers have reported on a surge of “after hours” sexual assaults. However, the New York Times report challenges the focus on “outdoor” rape to instead tackle taboo marriage cases indicative of a widespread societal problem.

The US newspaper reported that Norway and 126 other countries in the world do not yet “explicitly criminalize rape within marriage”, according to a United Nations report on the rights of women.

But Norwegian newspaper VG quoted the New York Times' own source, Tove Smaadahl of the Shelter Secretariat, arguing that "this criticism is not justified".

"The law applies to everybody, and it says that rape is prohibited. That applies regardless of the type of relationship," she told VG.

She was nevertheless glad The New York Times and other foreign media had taken up the cause against sexual assault in Norway.

“It makes the world more aware that Scandinavian countries also have problems,” Smaadahl told VG.

The New York Times article chronicled the sights witnessed by Oslo’s main shelters, where hundreds of women every year took shelter from the sexual assaults of “ambassadors, policemen and company directors”. 

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Civil and church weddings in Norway almost equal

Numbers of Norwegian civil weddings are catching up with church ceremonies, according to latest figures.

Civil and church weddings in Norway almost equal
Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB scanpix

The increased number of civil weddings, which was 331 higher in 2016 than in 2015, while, the number of church weddings dropped by 379 between 2015 and 2016, according to Statistics Norway figures.

The trends point towards an imminent levelling of church and civil weddings in Norway, writes newspaper Dagen.

In 2016, there were 285 more church marriages than civil marriages, compared to 2,647 in 2010.

The difference has dropped from over 7,000 at the beginning of the 2000s, and is the smallest since Statistics Norway began recording civil weddings in 1986.

Norwegian Humanist Association (Human-Etisk Forbund) press manager Jen Brun-Pedersen told broadcaster NRK that the figures reflect the fact that there are now just as many people who do not believe in God in Norway as there are people that actively practice a religion.

“Many Norwegians probably take the church seriously enough to choose to marry somewhere else if they don’t believe in God. That also indicates greater respect amongst people – the church is not just used as a pretty space, detached from faith and belief,” he said.

The trend may also reflect the fact that civil marriages are more flexible, Brun Pedersen added.

“People can then go to their respective religious communities afterwards to be given blessings, with priests contributing with speeches or ceremonies afterwards,” he said.

Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien told NRK that the church had long been aware of the development, and said that there were many reasons for the changes in marriage trends.

“One reason could be that many people are getting married later, or are marrying for the second or third time, so might want a more simple ceremony, rather than one that is big and ceremonious,” she said.

Haugland said that the church could meet the challenge by offering weddings with simpler premises and more personalisation.

Church weddings will soon be available outside of the churches themselves, should priests agree to conduct them, according to NRK’s report.

“But the content will remain important nonetheless. We would like to offer a wedding that includes everything the church conveys, with blessings, prayer and the Christian message of love,” Haugland told the broadcaster. 

READ ALSO: Thousands leave the Church of Norway