Jens Rydström
Centrum för genus studier, Stockholms universitet 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

I am currently involved in two research projects, "The fifth marital status," which studies the history of the laws on registered partnership in Scandinavia, and "Homosexuality and Criminal Law in Scandinavia, 1864–1999," which traces the construction and deconstruction of homosexuality within the legal discourse in the Nordic countries.

The fifth marital status
The laws on registered partnership in Scandinavia: Their history, gender, and socio-cultural meaning

The Scandinavian laws on registered partnership for homosexuals have caused international commotion, and in many other countries similar legislation is being prepared or already introduced. This has lead to an international demand for analyses of how and why the registered partnership were introduced in Scandinavia. Why were the Scandinavian countries first in the world to create a separate legislation to regulate relationships between homosexuals? Why did they choose to create a separate category, a fifth marital status, for their homosexual citizens? And what consequences does it have, for lesbians and gay men, as well as for society at large?

The project consists of three separate parts. 1) A study of the laws’ history. Through interviews and by studying parliamentary print, committee archives, and press, I want to investigate which considerations and which decisions that were crucial to the Scandinavian model of homosexual integration. 2) A specific gender analysis will concentrate on women’s agency in the decision making and on the laws’ relevance to lesbians. 3) A critical conceptual analysis with a focus on the normative and emancipatory functions of partnership legislation which also will discuss its effects on the concept of family.

A reference group is linked to the project, consisting of professor Yvonne Hirdman, Stockholm University, professor Bente Rosenbeck, Copenhagen University, and Dr. Christen Stormhøj, Roskilde University Centre. The project is funded by FAS, Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research, and it will result in a book in English in 2005.

Homosexuality and Criminal Law in Scandinavia, 1864–1999
The unique position of the Nordic countries as forerunners when it comes to legislation aiming to the inclusion of homosexuals in society has been acknowledged all over the world. So far, however, no research has been done to study the historical reasons that the partnership laws were implemented first in the Nordic countries or their effects on society to-day.

The project aims to study how the normalising forces in society are expressed in legislation and courtroom practice and how the definition itself of the normal is changed over time. One important question is how the attitudes to male and female homosexuality differed, and how the overall development varied between the countries.

One point of departure is that similarities and differences between the Nordic countries concerning criminal law and legal practice can be used to explain the development that has led to anti discrimination laws and laws on registered partnership in all of our countries and autonomous areas, except the Faroe Islands. The period under study begins in 1864, when Sweden introduced a new criminal law, and ends in 1999 when Finland abolished the last discriminatory criminal statutes (a higher age of consent for homosexual acts, and the prohibition to encourage homosexuality).

A research team of four people, Kati Mustola, Finland, Jens Rydström, Sweden, Martin Halsos, Norway, and Wilhelm von Rosen, Denmark, have now been working on a comparative study on Criminal Law and homosexuality in their home countries since 1999. They have already pointed out some interesting similarities and differences both in the laws and their implementation in the four countries (see the NSfK research seminar reports 1999 and 2000). Thorgerdur Thorvaldsdóttir’s part in the project has been to do a research on criminal laws and homosexuality in Iceland and then compare her findings to that of the other Nordic countries. She has studied criminal statistics, the wording of the penal code, and some court cases. Her work has already evoked interest in Iceland, since she is the first person doing research on this topic.

The project is funded by NSfK, Scandinavian Research Council for Criminology, and it will result in a book in English in 2005.

Return to Register