The Dilemma of Law: An Examination of Cotrovertial Judicial Decisions in Ethno-Culturally Based Legal Disputes

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Abstract

In October 1989, a 24-year-old Kurdish immigrant from Iraq was brought before the Sandviken Lower Court in Sweden charged with assaulting, coercing and threatening his pregnant ex-girlfriend who had left him to live with another man. Although, the court found the defendant guilty as charged, it nevertheless released him on a suspended sentence and a fine of 3000 Swedish Kronor. Conviction on this type of criminal offence against a person ordinarily carried six months imprisonment, but in this case, when the court came to sentencing the accused, it argued that his “cultural” background provided a mitigating circumstance. According to the court’s judgement, the fact that the accused had a different (non-Swedish) culture meant that his perception of his actions, which were in Swedish law labelled as “assault”, were different. Moreover, the court added that at the time when the assault took place, the accused felt that his integrity had been violated. This ruling was met with protest from several quarters. Lawyers and the judiciary questioned the relevance of the assumed cultural background of the accused for sentencing. Various women’s associations and interest groups highlighted that the ruling legalised violence against women. Immigrant associations, each in their own way, regarded the wording of the judgement as a threat to the precariously balanced ethno-cultural relations in the country. This paper provides a socio-legal analysis of this case, which is among the first legal cases in Sweden concernintg the clash of cultures.

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Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Law and Society

Keywords

  • Legal system, migration, Sweden, Culture, gender, Law, Ethnicity, dispute, socio-legal, sociology of law
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-249
JournalTidskrift för rättssociologi
Volume6
Issue number3/4
Publication statusPublished - 1989
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes