Your rights as a child in Sweden
In Sweden, you are considered to be a child until you turn 18. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is the law in Sweden. The Convention on the Rights of the Child states what rights all children have. There are also other laws in Sweden that exist to protect children. Here you can read about some of the rights and special rules that exist to protect children.
All children have the right to be free from violence. No adult is allowed to strike, kick, push, pull your hair, or threaten you.
If you have been subjected to violence, call the police at 114 14.
If you are in acute danger, call the police at 112.
Visit the website of SOS Alarm External link, opens in new window.
Child marriage is prohibited
Different countries have different age limits for when you are considered an adult and when you are considered a child. The rules for getting married also differ from country to country.
In Sweden, you are a child until the day you turn 18, and before that you cannot get married.
This is because it is believed that children should not bear the responsibility of a marriage. Early marriages can make children feel bad both physically and psychologically, because a child can be prevented from developing into their own, independent person and living the life to which they are entitled.
Once you have reached the age of 18, you decide for yourself whether you want to get married and, if so, to whom. No one is allowed to force or trick someone into marriage. It is illegal to try to force or trick a child into travelling to another country to get married. This is a crime that can lead to imprisonment. It is also illegal to force a child to live in a relationship similar to a marriage. When an adult has sex with a child under the age of 15, it counts as rape.
If someone is under the age of 18 and married
If any of the people in a marriage were under the age of 18 when they married, the marriage will not be valid in Sweden.
If you are under the age of 18 and apply for asylum together with the person to whom you are, instead of with your parents, you are counted as an unaccompanied minor. You will then be appointed a special guardian who will help you in your contact with the authorities.
Where to turn
If you have questions or need help, you can talk to a teacher, counsellor or healthcare professional. You can also contact the Swedish Migration Agency or social services in your municipality. If you have a special guardian, you can also turn to them.
If you are afraid that you or someone you know will be married off, you can call the police at 114 14.
Genital mutilation is prohibited
Genital mutilation, sometimes referred to as female circumcision, occurs in many parts of the world. Genital mutilation is when you cut or stitch up a girl’s vulva or damage it in some other way. No one is allowed to do that to a girl, even if it has been a tradition in the family.
Genital mutilation is completely prohibited in Sweden and is seen as a serious crime. The person who has been subjected to genital mutilation is never punished.
Contact the police at 114 14 if you are afraid that you or someone you know will be subjected to genital mutilation. You can also call Kvinnofridslinjen at 020-50 50 50 to get advice and support. Kvinnofridslinjen is a national helpline for women who have been subjected to threats or violence.
Genital mutilation – female circumcision - 1177 (in swedish) External link, opens in new window.
Yumo – I’ve been subject to female genital mutilation. How can I get help? External link, opens in new window.
You have the right to freedom from honour-related violence and oppression
In some families and extended families, it is important that the family maintain a “good” reputation. There may be rules about what clothes you can wear, who you can hang out with, that you cannot be together with and marry whomever you want, study what you want, or pursue the profession you want.
These rules tend to be the strictest for girls, but there are also rules that apply to boys. If the rules cause you to be poorly treated or punished, this is known as “honour-related violence and oppression”. The poor treatment or punishment may include beatings, threats, or being called mean names. Exposing a child to honour-related violence and oppression is a violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Swedish law.
Sometimes children are forced to control their siblings because the family is worried that rumours about them will spread. But all people have the right to live their own life, the way they want to live it. This applies regardless of your religion or cultural background, what country you come from, or who your family is. All children have the right to live their own lives, and should not have to control anyone else.
Where to turn
If you or someone you know is being subjected to honour-related violence or oppression, you can turn to a teacher at your school, the social services in your municipality, or the Swedish Migration Agency for help. There are also various organisations that can provide support and information about honour-related violence and oppression.
GAPF – National Organisation against Honour-Related Violence (in swedish) External link, opens in new window.: Here you can get support if you or someone you know are being subjected to honour-related violence or oppression. You can call 08-711 60 32, send an e-mail, or use the chat function.
Kärleken är fri (Love is Free) (in swedish): External link, opens in new window. Here you can get support via chat and e-mail if you have questions about honour-related violence or oppression, your rights, love, forced marriage or genital mutilation.
Tris – Girls’ Rights in Society (in swedish) External link, opens in new window.: Here you can get support if you feel limited by your family or relatives or are subjected to threats or violence when you try to make your own choices. Call 010-255 91 91.
The equal value of all people
In Sweden, there are many laws that state that all people are equal and have the same rights. We are entitled to have the same rights and opportunities in life no matter who we are, what we look like, where we come from, what we believe in, who we fall in love with, or how we function.
There are laws to prevent someone from being discriminated against or having their rights violated. As human beings, we are allowed to feel, think and believe as we please, but we are not allowed to do whatever we want. The Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression states that all people have the right to express their thoughts, opinions and feelings, as long as they do not infringe on the rights of someone else. We must all respect the right of our fellow human beings to their own identity and their own life choices.
Gender equality means that boys and girls are equal and should have the same opportunities in life. It also means that adult men and women should have the same rights and obligations. Members of each gender should have equal power to influence society and their own lives.
100 years ago, this was not the case in Sweden. Back then, women didn’t have much power to make decisions about their own lives. It was mostly men who got an education and worked while women stayed at home, taking care of the children, cleaning and doing laundry. A lot has changed since then.
In most families in Sweden today, both parents go to work or study and the children go to preschool, kindergarten, school and after-school care during the day. In the home, both parents often help each other to clean, do laundry, shop and cook, and they take care of the children together.
In order for society to be as fair as possible and give women and men equal power to influence society and their own lives, the Swedish Parliament has decided on various goals for gender equality.
The goals state that
- men and women should have the same opportunity to be financially independent, so that no one is forced to be financially dependent on anyone else
- boys and girls should have equal access to education and the right to choose what educational path they wish to pursue
- men and women should have equal rights to make decisions about their bodies, and men’s violence against women must be eradicated
- household chores should be evenly distributed between men and women. This also means that sisters and brothers in the same family should have equal responsibility for helping with household chores.
Gender identity and sexual orientation
In Sweden, everyone has the right to their own gender identity and sexual orientation. Your gender identity is the gender you feel you are, regardless of what others expect. Your sexual orientation describes the gender of the people to whom you are attracted and fall in love. You have the right to love and be with whomever you want, regardless of whether the person is the same gender or a different gender than yourself.
You don’t have tell other people about your sexual orientation or gender identity unless you want to. There is no sexual orientation or gender identity that violates the law. On the contrary, it is illegal to treat someone unfairly or inferiorly, for example in school or in an organisation, because of the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Where to turn
There are several different organisations and youth guidance centres to which you can turn if you want to know more or if you need support.
RFSL External link, opens in new window.
Through this organisation, you can connect with other LGBTQI+ people, participate in activities and get support. They also have a network for people who are new to Sweden, RFSL Newcomers External link, opens in new window..
UMO – about sex, health and relationships External link, opens in new window.
UMO is a website for everyone aged 13–25 years where you can read more about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Racism assumes that people can be divided into different groups and that people belonging to certain groups are of lesser value. For example, it can involve dividing people into groups according to their skin colour, culture or religion.
In Sweden, there are laws that are supposed to protect people from being subjected to racism. For example, it is forbidden to deny a person a job or housing because of the person’s name or origin. It is also forbidden to wear jewellery or clothing with racist text, swastikas, or other symbols that are racist or offensive to a particular group. It is also not permitted to disseminate information claiming that a group or person is worth less, for example because of their skin colour or religion.
Sometimes when you are treated badly, it can be difficult to know whether or not what you have been subjected to is illegal. Talk to someone you trust about what has happened, such as a teacher or someone else with whom you feel safe.
Read more about children's rights
A booklet on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child External link, opens in new window.
Poster about the Convention on the Rights of the Child External link, opens in new window.
The Ombudsman for Children in Sweden External link, opens in new window.
Bris (Barnens rätt i samhället) External link, opens in new window.
Save the children (Rädda barnen) (in swedish) External link, opens in new window.