Retroactive Responsibility: A Comparison of Argumentation on State redress for Historical Institutional Child Abuse in Sweden and Denmark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

State redress for abuse and neglect in children’s homes has been debated in all Scandinavian countries since early 2000s. In Sweden, an official apology was issued in 2011, and a temporary law enabled Swedish care leavers to apply for compensation of SEK 250,000 during 2013 and 2014. In Denmark, proposals for an official apology have repeatedly been turned down in Parliament. In this article, I compare argumentation for and against state redress in the two countries. Any claim for historical justice raises questions about how to understand the injustices committed: do they safely belong to the past, or to an extended present? Using the concept ‘politics of time’, I show that Danish opponents of the proposed apology have stressed the time distance, while proponents for state redress in both countries have stressed the need to deal with all too present memories of abuse. Another main argument against state redress in the Danish political debate was that we should not anachronistically judge historical actors against the moral framework of the present. I argue that a ‘retroactivity dilemma’ is inevitably raised in redress processes, and discuss the changing notions of retroactive responsibility during the Swedish policy process.

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  • Örebro University
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Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History
Translated title of the contributionRetroactive Responsibility: A Comparison of Argumentation on State redress for Historical Institutional Child Abuse in Sweden and Denmark
Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of History
Early online date2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jun 7
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes

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