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Review Legislation on Sexual Privacy

A new report is critical of the Icelandic justice system’s treatment of survivors of digital sexual violence, Fréttablaðið reports. The report states that survivors do not receive enough support and even experience victim-shaming from police representatives. Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir will begin a review of legislation and law enforcement in connection with the protection of individuals’ sexual privacy.

Legislation needs updating

“In light of societal and technological changes, the Icelandic General Penal Code is not fit for purpose to ensure efficient protection of sexual privacy,” states the report’s summary. It was commissioned by the government and written by lawyer María Rún Bjarnadóttir. The author chose to use the term sexual privacy (kynferðisleg friðhelgi), rather than “digital sexual violence,” as it is a broader term, and thus extends to more kinds of behaviour, in addition to framing technology in a neutral way.

The document points out that “although reports of violations have increased year to year since the 2015 legislation, the number of cases that have advanced through the justice system have decreased.” The report calls for harsher sentencing of digital sexual violence, training for representatives within the justice system, and more protection of survivors and their sexual privacy.

No anonymity for survivors

Unlike other forms of sexual violence, digital sexual violence is not defined as a sexual offence within the Icelandic justice system. This leads to significant differences in how such cases are handled. For one, while sexual offenders are automatically charged, reporting digital sexual violence to police does not lead to charges unless the survivor consents. Furthermore, survivors of digital sexual offences do not have the right to remain anonymous either in the handling of such cases nor in court rulings, as do survivors of violations that are defined as sexual offences. Survivors therefore fear that pressing charges or going to court will lead to further distribution of pictures or videos – or unwanted attention.

The Icelandic government discussed the report at a meeting last Friday. A notice from the government states that the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Social Affairs will consider the report’s proposed changes and review the relevant legislation.

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