Rights group Amnesty International has accused four Nordic countries renowned as bastions of gender equality of having 'shockingly high levels of rape'.
Investigators looked at rape cases in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden and said flawed legislation, harmful myths and gender stereotypes had resulted in 'endemic impunity' for perpetrators.
Amnesty said victims were routinely being failed by investigators thanks to inconsistent techniques and delays in processing evidence.
The report said: 'It is a paradox that Nordic countries, which have strong records of upholding gender equality, suffer shockingly high levels of rape.'
Citing statistics from the European Institute for Gender Equality, the report said an average of 30 per cent of women in Denmark, Finland and Sweden had experienced violence or abuse at the hands of sexual partners, compared to an EU average of 22 per cent.
In Finland, Amnesty said some victims reported positive experiences with law enforcement but that other cases highlighted how 'deeply entrenched myths' about rape had directly impacted access to justice.
Amnesty also said rape in Denmark was 'hugely under-reported', and for those cases that were reported the chances of prosecution or conviction were slim.
It accused Norwegian authorities of not taking necessary measures to prevent rape or address its consequences.
The report praised Sweden for adopting a new law last year redefining rape as sex without consent and introducing a new offence labelled 'negligent rape.'
However, it criticised Swedish police's handling of rape cases, with inconsistent investigative techniques and delays in forensic analysis and in interviewing suspects.
Swedish Home Affairs Minister Mikael Damberg told AFP in a phone interview the report was 'important', but noted that the high level of rape reports was also a sign that victims were willing to report offences to police.
He said the handling of rape cases was already a priority for police and that some of the issues raised were already being addressed. But he conceded there was still work ahead.
'We have homework to do when it comes to making sure that investigations are conducted and that they lead to convictions,' Damberg said.
Source: Daily Mail