Denmark's female politicians subjected to online abuse

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Denmark's female politicians subjected to online abuse
Mette Abildgaard is one of the politicians to have received online abuse. File photo: Sofie Mathiassen/Scanpix Denmark

Death and rape threats are a common occurrence for female members of parliament, according to a study.


Female MPs are regularly subjected to digital harassment in the form of obscene insults, demeaning comments about appearance, weight and gender and threats of rape and violence, according to a study by Amnesty International and Danish interest organisation Kvinfo.

The study was based interviews with a number of female Danish politicians.

"I have received direct threats of rape. It is absolutely one of the most distressing things I have been sent," Conservative parliamentary group leader Mette Abildgaard said in connection with the study, Ritzau reports.

Amnesty and Kvinfo hope the study will highlight the issue on International Women's Day on Thursday.

Politicians from the Danish People's Party, Conservatives, Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre), Social Democrats, Socialist People's Party, Red Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) and Alternative party all took part in the study.

Slurs including 'cow' (so), 'cunt' (møgfisse) and 'whore' (luder) are all commonplace, according to the report.

Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen of the Red Green Alliance, who is currently on maternity leave, also took part in the study.

"There are a lot of gender-specific words that are used often," Schmidt-Nielsen said to Ritzau.

"There are, of course, also rape threats and descriptions of how 'you should be gang-raped by…', and usually it's Muslims they're referring to," added Schmidt-Nielsen, who regularly speaks in support of minority groups living in Denmark.

Helle Jacobsen, coordinator for gender issues with Amnesty International Denmark, said it is difficult to achieve results through reporting online threats or harassment.

"Online abuse is serious and it is important that [reports] are reacted to," Jacobsen said to Ritzau.

"Specific resources should be set aside by the police and prosecution authorities for the prevention and investigation of online violence and harassment of women," the Amnesty coordinator added.

If not addressed, the problem could have long-term consequences for the number of female representatives in politics, Kvinfo director Henriette Laursen said.

"Our research suggests there is a serious problem for our democracy and freedom," Laursen told Ritzau.

"We ought to take online abuse very seriously because it is linked to the representation of women in politics: female politicians are role models for younger women who are thinking about going into politics," she said.

"If debate is so hard in tone and sexist against women, it will absolutely have an effect on the development of women in politics," Laursen said.

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