That was a front page headline in yesterday’s paper. (Without the question mark.)
Every third rapist is apparently a foreigner, and most of those foreigners are Iraqis. That’s what the statistics say. However, if it’s true that only about 20 % of rapes are reported to the police, we have no information about the 80 % of rapes that never get reported. That means we really can’t draw any conclusions about the nationality of the majority of rapists.
My guess is that the majority of rapists in Finland are Finnish. It’s just that the victims don’t report the crime when the rapist is someone they know well, like a boyfriend, a husband, a relative, a friend or a co-worker. Victims are more likely to report the rape when the perpetrator is a stranger. I think that explains at least partly why immigrants are so prominently represented in rape statistics.
However, we can’t deny that foreigners, especially Iraqis, really are strongly represented among the rapists who get caught. We can only speculate the reasons, but I think cultural differences are at the root of this. Maybe these Iraqi men have failed to understand that Finnish women are not prey, even if we don’t wear burkhas, niqabs or even hijabs. The difference between Finnish gender equality and Iraqi male dominated culture is huge, so no wonder there are some clashes.
I used to lead an English conversation group for immigrant men. The aim of the group was to practise English and to acquaint the men with the Finnish culture. As a concession to Islam, there was a different conversation group for women, but some of the men in my group had a problem with a woman being the leader of their group. That wasn’t cultural insensitivity on the part of the organisation who arranged the conversation group and other classes for immigrants. It’s just that the conversation group operated with volunteer work, and I was the only one who had volunteered for the task. So the muslim men had to suck it up and agree to be taught English by a young girl (I was 21 at the time) or not take part in the group.
The positive thing is, all of them chose to come despite their initial shock of having to accept teaching from a girl. Obviously I avoided too revealing clothes, as I would at any job, but I wore trousers and knee-length skirts and I wouldn’t cover my hair. Some of the muslim men kept a perfect poker face while others politely confessed that they were rather at a loss in the situation. But they were all willing to adapt to our culture, and eager to learn how to deal with situations like being taught by a girl in jeans. So I did my best to explain these things to them, and I had fun learning about their cultures at the same time.
When my experience with muslim men from all over the world, including Middle East, was so positive, it amazes me that now the Iraqi men are apparently less inclined to adapt to our culture. Tarik Al-ani, an Iraqi who moved to Finland in 1979 (before I was born!) laments the behaviour of his countrymen in yesterday’s paper. He says rape is not a part of the Iraqi culture, and during Saddam Hussein’s rule it was an offence punishable by death, so a man would think very carefully before raping anyone.
Be that as it may, it’s true that the penalty for rape is ridiculously small in Finland. Usually the sentence is conditional imprisonment and a small sum of money to be paid in compensation to the victim, which means the rapist doesn’t even go to prison. And those rapists who get unconditional prison sentences don’t usually stay in prison for long. The sentences can be as short as 8 months or even less. Not much of a deterrent, is it?
The worst thing in the Finnish rape legislation is the concept of “mild rape,” which is rape committed with the minimum amount of violence. I don’t know if rape can ever be mild. It’s not like it’s comparable to mild violence, like a playful punch in the arm or a poke in the shoulder. The concept “mild rape” is surely something that has been concocted without consulting the victims.
Another thing that’s wrong with the system is that the courts look for mitigating factors in favour of the rapist, such as whether it was his first time, or if he has a steady job or if he is otherwise of a good character, and going to prison would ruin his reputation as an overall good guy. (No, really.) If the court finds mitigating factors, the sentence is only nominal.
Tarik Al-ani is right. Rapists should get longer prison sentences, always unconditional, and there should be no mitigating factors. Who cares if it was the rapist’s first rape? That doesn’t alleviate the victim’s suffering! Proper punishments would send the signal that rape is unacceptable.
But that’s only a part of the solution. Somewhere along the line the integration of immigrants has obviously failed. Some of the immigrants need more thorough education about the ways of our society, especially about the women’s role in it. I don’t mean to say that immigrants should be asked to give up their religion or their traditional values. No, by all means… but they shouldn’t go around raping people, either. Rape can’t be a part of anyone’s traditional values. There’s just no excuse.