Rights and obli­ga­tions for everybody in Sweden

On the following page, you will find information regarding your rights as a Swedish resident, as well obligations you have towards fellow residents.


  • Sweden is a democratic country with low corruption. All people are equal before the law. Sweden is also a secular state, which means that legislation and political decisions are separate from religion.
  • In Sweden, all people are considered equal and have the same rights regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, ethnic background, religion or disability. All people have the right to decide over their own lives and their own bodies, without influence from society or other people, including their family.
  • It is important to respect these rights. It is punishable, for example, to use violence against women and to discriminate against someone on the basis of their sexual orientation.
  • In Sweden, everyone under the age of 18 is a child by law. There are several laws that exist to protect children and guarantee them a safe upbringing free from, for example, violence, child labour and forced marriage. Violating children's rights can be punishable or it may lead to the child being taken into care by the social services.
  • If you feel you are struggling as a parent/guardian, you can get help and support from the municipality, for example, at a healthcare centre, at school or the social services. Social services in Sweden exist to help parents/ guardians and their children so that the family can stay together and feel safe and well.

Swedish law guarantees you freedoms and rights in Sweden. However, there are also obligations that you as a resident must understand and follow. You must also respect the rights of others and you are expected to contribute to society.

Rule of law

Regardless of nationality, culture, status in society or religion, as a Swedish resident, you must follow Swedish law.

In Sweden, anyone suspected of a crime is considered innocent until proven guilty.

Persons who break the law may be prosecuted and sentenced. Punishments include fines, paying damages or imprisonment.

You cannot receive a lesser sentence by paying someone a bribe. Bribing an official or civil servant is a crime in Sweden. Sweden has a low level of corruption, which means you cannot pay bribes to get a job, a better grade or certificate, or faster and better healthcare.

Respect for human rights

Swedish society values personal freedom and equality greatly. Therefore, everyone in Sweden has the same rights and must be treated equally, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or disability. No one is to be subjected to violence or ill-treatment, threatened, or forced to live a life they do not want.

Freedom of religion

Everyone in Sweden has the right to choose and practise the religion or faith they want. Everyone has the right not to believe in any religion, to change their religion or to stop believing. Being able to choose which religion or faith you want is a human right. There are laws that protect these rights.

Gender equality

Gender equality means that women, men and people of a different gender identity have the same rights, opportunities and obligations. For example, everyone, regardless of gender, has the same right to education, and has equal responsibility for the care of the home and children.

Rights of sexual minorities

In Sweden, every person has the right to love, meet, live with or marry whomever they choose. You have the right to marry a person of the same sex as you or a person of a different sex. There are laws that protect your right to love whoever you want and it is illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of their sexual orientation.

The Pride flag and two men kissing each other

The Pride Festival is a big event in Sweden that celebrates everyone's right to love who they want and be who they are. Photo: Sofia Sabel/imagebank.sweden.se

Gender-based violence

No one can be forced to be someone they do not want to be. No one can be forced into certain gender norms, obligations or limitations because of gender or sexual orientation. Forcing someone to live a certain way or restricting someone because of their gender or sexual orientation is a crime in Sweden.

Sweden has come a long way in making sure that persons of all genders are treated equally. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. Gender-based violence affects women to a much greater extent than men. Gender-based violence can be physical, psychological, emotional, verbal, social or financial. Examples include threatening someone or preventing them from having contact with other people, as well as forcing someone to have sex against their will.

Forced marriage

In Sweden, it is illegal to force someone to enter into marriage. Attempting and preparing a forced marriage, or misleading someone into travelling abroad with the aim of forcing them to marry through force or exploitation, is a crime.

Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is considered gender-based violence. Performing FGM is a serious crime in Sweden, as is attempting to influence someone else to perform it. It is a crime to withhold information about the planning of FGM. If you receive information about the planning of FGM, you are required to notify the Swedish authorities.

If you or someone you know has been subjected to violence, you must report it to the police by calling 114 14. Call 112 if it is an emergency. You can also contact the police station where you live.

The following help is available to you if you are exposed to violence:

  • The municipality where you live is responsible for protecting people from violence, for example, by offering sheltered accommodation.
  • Social services must provide support and help to children and adults who live with intimate partner violence and honour-related violence and oppression.
  • In Sweden, there are women's shelters that offer support and protection to women and children who have been exposed to intimate partner violence or honour-related violence and oppression. There are special emergency helplines and shelters for girls and young women (Tjejjourer).
  • In many municipalities, there are crisis centres that help people who are exposed to violence or help men to stop using violence. If you are exposed to threats and violence, you can call the Women's Peace Line (Kvinnofridslinjen), which is always open. It is free to call and you do not have to say your name when you call. The telephone number is 020-50 50 50.

You can find more information on the Women's Peace Line's website: Kvinnofridslinjen External link, opens in new window., where the information is available in several languages.

You can also read more on the police's website: The Swedish Police Authority External link, opens in new window.

Children’s rights

According to Swedish law, all persons under the age of 18 are children. Children in Sweden have the right to education, health, safety and a good upbringing. Children have the right to express their thoughts, feelings and concerns. Their views are important in matters that affect them, although the child's legal guardian has the responsibility to decide what is best for the child.

In Sweden, it is forbidden to hit or physically punish children. You can read about tha and much more in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is Swedish law.

Read about the children's rights on the Ombudsman for Children's (Barnombudsmannen) website. External link, opens in new window.

Read about the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Barnkonventionen) External link, opens in new window.

Poster about the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Barnkonventionen) External link, opens in new window.

The Swedish Migrations Agency also offers information aimed specifically at children. Feel free to read by yourself or together with your child, about what life is like for children in Sweden.

The role of social services

If you are worried about the relationship you have with your child, or if you are worried about your child's behaviour, you can contact the social services in your municipality, your child's preschool or school, or the healthcare system.

Social services work together with the family to support the family members and their well-being. Sometimes social services need to intervene and take care of children who are in danger. Social services will not remove a child as soon as a family is having trouble or is in need of support.

Separating a child from its parents is only done in exceptional cases, as it can be a very difficult experience for the child. A child is only removed when it is more harmful for the child to remain with their parents than to be separated from them, and in cases of serious neglect or violence.

Social services are available in every municipality. They work under a law called the Social Services Act. The Social Services Act deals with the right to care and social care that everyone in the municipality has. It contains rules for how society should help those who need help but who cannot get help from anyone else.

Read more about Social Services' mission:

Questions and answers about LVU, the abbreviation of the Swedish Care of Young Persons (Special Provisions) Act (SFS 1990:52) External link, opens in new window.

Child marriage

Marriage where one or both persons are under the age of 18 is a crime in Sweden and legally invalid even if it was valid in the country where the marriage took place. All sexual interactions with children under the age of 15 is a criminal act and the perpetrator can be convicted of rape. After the age of 15, people have the right to choose for themselves whether they want to participate in sexual activities and with whom. This also applies to people who are in a relationship with each other, are married or cohabiting.

Discus­sion ques­tions

  • We need to follow the laws and respect the values of the country where we are. Do you feel that you need more information about how it works in Sweden to gain a better understanding?

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