A Turkish newspaper has warned citizens not to travel to Sweden due to the high rate of rape as the row between the two countries over an age of consent court case continues.
Turkish newspaper Günes has furthered tensions between Turkey and Sweden by taking out a banner ad at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport reading, “Travel warning! Do you know that Sweden has the highest rape rate worldwide?” The message is in response to the Swedish reaction to the controversial decision of the Turkish supreme court to effectively lower the age of consent in Turkey from 15 down to only twelve years old.
— Güneş Gazetesi (@gunes_gazetesi) August 19, 2016
The image immediately caught the attention of Twitter users who posted under the hashtag #DontTravelToSweden.
The Swedish Embassy in the Turkish capital of Ankara was also quick to reply to the claim that Sweden has the highest number of rapes in the world linking to a National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå) report on rape statistics in Sweden.
Rumours circulated that the embassy had tried to actively get the sign removed from the airport but the embassy claimed via twitter that “Sweden is a staunch supporter of freedom of speech and has no interest in removal.” The embassy was so provoked by the advertisement that they went as far as to release a full press release tackling the issues of why rape statistics are higher in Sweden.
The embassy wrote, “Sweden has a broad judicial definition of acts that are considered as rape,” and claimed that in Sweden every instance of rape is treated as a separate crime even if it is by the same person, a man and his girlfriend for example. The embassy claims that these two factors, along with women being more willing to report sexual assaults, accounts for the reason the statistics seem so high compared to the rest of the world.
While the factors mentioned by the embassy in Ankara may explain some of the differences, there is a real epidemic of sexual assaults in Sweden that are often under reported by media and police or sometimes not reported at all. Sexual assaults involving migrants in Sweden, especially at music festivals, are becoming a common occurrence though in at least one case media were silent about the issue for over six months.
Though the row over the age of consent decision started when Austrian paper Kronen Zeitung published a headline stating that twelve-year-olds would be legally able to have sex with adults, Sweden became a target of various Turkish politicians and media after Swedish Foreign minister Margot Wallström commented on the issue. Wallström said on Twitter, “Turkish decision to allow sex with children under 15 must be reversed. Children need more protection, not less, against violence, sex abuse.”