December 07, 2010, 10:20 AM — Just a quick reminder from the other day, when it came out that the charges Sweden is pursuing against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assenge have very little to do with what we in the U.S. would call "rape" -- that is, unwanted sexual activity imposed on the victim by force, fraud or coercion.
News reports appearing since Assange surrendered to British authorities last night sometimes make a point of saying Sweden's attempt to extradite him is strictly for questioning; that he hasn't been formally charged with anything yet.
They aren't as careful to describe the circumstances behind the charge and why the odd Swedish c "sex by surprise," which is the charge for which Assange is actually wanted, means in Western legal terms.
Sweden isn't charging him with rape; it's charging him with not responding quickly enough to his partners' concern about broken condoms. The clearest explanation I've seen of the events leading to the charges is here.
Even one analysis using the charge as a way to push for stronger anti-rape and sexual exploitation laws refers to "sex by surprise" as "quite a minor" charge, and changes the topic to focus on how women making accusations of sexual misbehavior are treated and how often legitimate complaints are ignored or minimized by automatic "blame the victim" reflexes in law enforcement.
Just for comparison, the penalty for "sex by surprise" could carry a charge of 5,000 Kronor -- about $715. A 1992 Dept. of Justice study found the average sentence for rape in the U.S. is 11.8 years, of which 5.4 years are served.
Law enforcement -- not specific laws -- is the key with WikiLeaks.