Following the MeToo campaign, which was particularly well-received in Sweden, a number of women behind various allegations of sexual misconduct were convicted of libel.
Women who lie about sexual abuse and accuse innocent men of rape and harassment should not be convicted of libel, according to a group of 35 Swedish celebrities, legal professionals and public debaters who penned an opinion piece in the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.
The signatories, including actress Lo Kauppi, journalist Sven Melander and Julian Assange accuser Anna Ardin, went so far as to demand that “defamation cases linked to MeToo be dropped”.
If they had their way, the women who lied in their social media posts and came out with false accusations about sexual abuse would completely avoid being prosecuted. According to them, defamation sentences in effect compel women to keep silent about abuse.
“The defamation sentences have come with high fines and suspended prison sentences. It is a strong signal to even more women to remain silent and means that our legal system in practice sentences women who report abuse more harshly than the perpetrators who committed it,” the opinion piece said.
The signatories also called to change the application of law to better “reflect out time and perception of a functioning society”. To accomplish this, the number of convictions should be on par with the amount of testimonies and reports. They described it as a society “without blaming women’s sexuality”, where “a man’s honour never outweighs our statutory freedom of speech”.
The open letter demanded increased police resources for training in dealing with victims of sexual crimes and trained treatment teams for rape victims in every Swedish municipality and stressed that a women’s sexual history is is irrelevant in the event of sexual assault.
At the same time, the signatories expressed their support for the feminist initiative called Defamation Fund, which aims to pay damages to the women actually convicted of lying about sexual abuse. The fund is clear that regardless of whether the woman is lying or not, she should avoid damages anyway.
“Defamation Fund, the first support effort, takes place through a fundraiser for the woman who was convicted of aggravated defamation in the Court of Appeal after testifying about a rape with racist elements in a secret group on Facebook,” the opinion piece said. The woman was later awarded a conditional prison sentence and sentenced to damages of SEK 60,000 ($7,000).
In 2017, Sweden became one of the epicentres of the #MeToo movement. Over the course of several months, the nation saw a string of accusations against alleged sexual predators together with dozens of petitions by women of various trades from church officials to prostitutes, with #MeToo and the topic of sexual abuse becoming a staple of the Swedish media discourse ever since.
However, following the MeToo campaign, a number of women behind the various allegations of sexual misconduct were convicted of libel.