A 27-year-old Swedish man has been cleared of rape because his 13-year-old victim, according to the judge, was curvaceous enough that the man couldn’t possibly have known better, Salon is reporting.
At issue in this case is Sweden’s age-of-consent laws, and the Scandinavian nation’s rape laws that some may consider antiquated.
According to Swedish newspaper The Local, the basic facts of the criminal case are as follows: the unnamed 13-year-old was on the run from foster care when she found herself at a playground in the Stockholm suburb of Västerås. Hungry, thirsty, and with neither money nor a cell phone, she struck up a conversation with the older man, who bought her a drink and eventually brought her to his home. DNA evidence on the victim’s underwear would later be used to confirm that two had sex.
There is no evidence that force was involved.
Under Swedish law, a person can consent to sex at age 15; having sex with a person under that age is considered child rape. However, there’s a rather large loophole in the law: to be guilty of rape, the alleged perpetrator has to know, or have reason to believe, that the victim is underage.
This means that a person who has sex with someone under 15 could attempt to defend himself by saying that he didn’t know the person was underage. And in fact, the unnamed perpetrator in this case did that very thing, and the judge agreed, saying that because the victim was so “well-developed” for her age, he couldn’t possibly have known she was under 15.
Such outcomes in rape trials involving underage victims are not limited to Sweden. Montana judge G. Todd Baugh, according to this Inquisitr report, sentenced a child rapist to only 30 days because the victim was “older than her chronological age.” The victim later committed suicide.
The Sweden case, according to Daily Beast writer Charlotte Lytton, illustrates the problem of enforcing statutory rape laws, especially considering judges who try to consider the victim’s body in the decision.
“The regular refrain espoused by prosecutors and judges—that these girls seem beyond their years, and therefore cannot benefit from the protective laws afforded to others of their age group—is a paltry excuse. Either we design legislation to protect people or we don’t, but denying someone the legal justice they deserve because their chest is a little bigger than average is frankly embarrassing. If the law won’t safeguard these girls, who will?”
The girl’s lawyer, Göran Landerdahl, hopes to bring the case to Sweden’s Supreme Court, with the hope of bringing some attention to the problems associated with the way Sweden’s rape laws, particularly as they apply to young teenagers, are written.
[Image courtesy of: Getty Images/Spencer Platt]