Madeleine Leijonhufvud – Professor emerita in criminal law and key proponent of sexual consent law

Affecting and changing individual perceptions and behaviors that are deeply rooted in societal structures and norms requires persistence and strong proponents. With the societal view on sex and responsibilities associated with sex being a much debated topic in Sweden today, sexual offense legislation is likely to face a revolutionary change in how these issues are interpreted. Madeleine Leijonhufvud has dedicated her life to counteracting injustices, and has been one of the most prominent proponents of the proposed legislation on sexual assault. This law will improve on the current legislation by requiring full consent from both parties. One thing is given; we have this new proposed law proposition today thanks to Madeleine’s relentless work.

Madeleine was the first woman in Sweden to obtain a PhD in criminal law and has been a lecturer and researcher at Stockholm University. In addition to this, she possesses extensive experience from her years on the Disciplinary Board of the Swedish Bar Association, and as the chairperson of the Swedish Union Jusek for several years. She has also been the Deputy General Director of the Swedish Research Council, among other respectable commissions. Criminal law has, however, continued to constitute the core of her work, and her passion for improving conditions, especially for women and children, has been a motivating force for engaging in public debates on the topic. Madeleine has not been able to just accept injustices but considers it her responsibility to emphasize and drive these issues forward. In doing so, she has encountered resistance from part of the General Public, politicians and lawyers, but has never given up the struggle to improve society. Today, as a pensioner, she is still active and a strongly influential person engaged in the organization FATTA, which stands up against sexual violence and advocates for legislation on sexual consent.

In her talk, Madeleine will share her views on why there has been, and still is, a resistance among the general public and policy makers to changing the current sexual offense legislation in Sweden, what this change will mean and why it is important. She will also explain how this new legislation will fundamentally change the deeply rooted societal perception that it is solely the woman who is responsible for sexually-related situations. Sexual assault is not a force of nature that women, who are the vast majority of victims, have to suffer from. Madeleine wants to shift focus to the perpetrators. The main goal of the new law is not to imprison sexual predators – the main goal is to use it as a tool to create new societal norms and reduce sexual assaults.