Norway Is Thinking A Step Ahead To Curb Sexual Assault By Refugees

A special class for asylum seekers wants to stop sexual violence before cultural differences lead to tragedy.

Migrants are being offered courses to prevent sexual assault against women in Norway, and to make them understand the customs in a country that they perceive as liberal.

The classes were introduced many years ago but have become increasingly valid in wake of the violent attacks against women by Arabic and African refugees in countries like Germany and Denmark.

“The idea behind this course is to talk about risk situations that can arise when it comes to rapes and sexual assaults,” Linda Hagen, the leader of the course says, launching the class in Norwegian, with an interpreter translating to Arabic.

Hagen discusses the challenges she faces in changing the mindset of men who have been perpetrators in sexual assaults. Her method involves using pictures of women dressed in various ways and determining what the refugees glean from them.

Participants in the course, mostly of Sudanese and Syrian origins, have often stated thing like “she kissed him, it's an invitation to have sex,” and “if she wants come to my place, that means she's consenting.”  Hagen often has had a hard time making refugees understand the differences in standards of the Western countries and the asylum seekers' homelands.

In one lesson, students watch a video featuring a couple making out that becomes increasingly violent; refugees responded with different reactions that saw not all see this as nonconsensual. While all of the asylum seekers present in class agree that rape is bad, not many of them understand what is construed as sexual assault and the situations are hard to grasp for some of them.

Many European countries have avoided addressing the cultural shock which migrants from conservative countries experience when they come to liberal nations, for fear they might defame asylum seekers or play into the hands of anti-immigration policy makers.

But with more than a million refugees seeking asylum this year in the European Union, an increasing number of politicians and activists are in favor of counseling migrants about the social codes of Western societies.

Banner / Thumbnail : Reuters

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