Rights group Amnesty International yesterday accused four Nordic countries renowned as bastions of gender equality of having "shockingly high levels of rape" and of failing the victims.
An Amnesty report looked at rape cases in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden and said flawed legislation, harmful myths and gender stereotypes had resulted in "endemic impunity" for perpetrators.
"It is a paradox that Nordic countries, which have strong records of upholding gender equality, suffer shockingly high levels of rape," Amnesty International's secretary general Kumi Naidoo said in a statement.
Citing statistics from the European Institute for Gender Equality, the report said an average of 30 percent of women in Denmark, Finland and Sweden had experienced violence or abuse at the hands of sexual partners, compared to an EU average of 22 percent.
In Finland, Amnesty said some victims reported positive experiences with law enforcement but that other cases highlighted how "deeply entrenched myths" about rape had directly impacted access to justice.
It accused Norwegian authorities of not taking necessary measures to prevent rape or address its consequences.
Amnesty also said rape in Denmark was "hugely under-reported", and for those cases that were reported the chances of prosecution or conviction were slim.
The report praised Sweden for adopting a new law last year redefining rape as sex without consent and introducing a new offence labelled "negligent rape."
However, it criticised Swedish police's handling of rape cases, with inconsistent investigative techniques and delays in forensic analysis and in interviewing suspects.
Swedish Home Affairs Minister Mikael Damberg told AFP in a phone interview the report was "important", but noted that the high level of rape reports was also a sign that victims were willing to report offences to police.
He said the handling of rape cases was already a priority for police and that some of the issues raised were already being addressed.
But he conceded there was still work ahead.