A man convicted in 2022 in Sweden of raping a 10-year-old girl has been acquitted by an appeals court. The reason for the annulment was a dispute over the meaning of the word children use to describe the female reproductive organs, Swedish media reported. The decision of the court caused a storm among the inhabitants of Sweden.
In 2022, a Swedish district court found a 50-year-old man guilty of raping a 10-year-old girl a year earlier. However, on February 24, the court of appeals overturned this verdict and has just cleared the convicted man, Oisín Cantwell of the daily “Aftonbladet” reported, quoted on Monday by the English-language website The Local.
During the hearing in the district court, the prosecutor argued that the accused man “performed a sexual act by inserting his hand into the vagina” of the girl. Speaking of the vagina, the word “snippa” was used, a popular term among Swedish children for the female reproductive organs. The accused denied the charges against him, but the court found the testimony of the 10-year-old girl to be credible and sentenced him to three years in prison.
He was acquitted of rape
After reviewing the case, the appeals court agreed with the district court’s findings, but four judges said it was “not clear what the girl meant by ‘snippa’ and how far the man’s fingers reached.” After checking the entry in the dictionary, they decided that “snippa” refers to the external genitalia, i.e. the vulva, and is not a synonym for the vagina, which is described in dictionaries as a part of the genital tract.
The 10-year-old admitted that the convict’s fingers were “deep inside”, but she could not say how far. In this situation, the appellate court considered that it could not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the man had inserted his fingers into the vagina, which is a prerequisite for recognition in Sweden rape crimes. As a result, the man’s conviction was challenged, and since the prosecutor had only charged him with rape, the appeals court said it could not consider other potential crimes, such as sexual abuse or harassment. Thus, the now 51-year-old man was cleared of all charges.
According to The Local, the prosecutor now has only one option left: to appeal to the Swedish Supreme Court, which deals with cases that have the potential to set a precedent. If Supreme Court decides to look at the case, “he will not evaluate the evidence, which has already been done, but rather examine how the appeals court handled the fact that it was not clear how to interpret the girl’s words,” the portal assessed.
“Disgusting” court decision
Journalist Oisín Cantwell called the court’s acquittal in the rape case of a 10-year-old girl “the most bizarre verdict” he had ever heard of. He noted that “snippa” is a relatively new word, while the average age of appeals court judges is 66.
Anna Kaldal, a law professor at Stockholm University, told the Swedish news agency TT that the appeals court had not tried to determine what the girl meant by “snippa”. – They looked in the Swedish dictionary, but there are many more things you can do when such a well-established expression comes up. They could have asked the prosecutor to explain what a “snippa” was. A girl or a psychologist who is used to how children use words could be re-interviewed, she said.
The case received wide coverage in Sweden. Local influencer Caroline Svelid launched a social media campaign opposing the appeals court ruling using the hashtag #jagvetvadensnippaär (“I know what snippa is”). “Let’s show the old gentlemen of the appeals court that there are infinitely many people who know what ‘snippa’ means,” she wrote in a post in which she called the court’s decision “disgusting.” The post was shared thousands of times and the hashtag used was one of the most used by Swedish Twitter users on Monday, February 27.
“Snipp” – what does it mean?
“Snippa” is a word coined in the early 2000s by Swedish sex educators. In this way, they wanted to introduce into the language a term for the female genitalia that would not be stigmatizing, sexualized, not too medical, or euphemistic. The new word, derived from the term “snopp” used by boys, quickly caught on and was included in Swedish dictionaries in 2006.
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