For more than a year ago I wrote a MyTake called "Norwegian Stereotypes" where I'm discussing misconception about Norway in a humorous way. I decided to make a part two with more serious topics and writing style. The reason I'm writing many MyTakes about Norway is because of curious people, in addition to show that media sometimes shows a false picture of how things really are. #Norway
1. The child protection service kidnaps
One of Norway's biggest and most dangerous misconception is that the child protection service kidnaps children without any reasons. There's some stories about both immigrants and Norwegian citizens fearing the child protection service "Barnevernet" because of they're taking away their children, but it's not happening without a reason.
In Norway it's illegal to use physical punishments on children like beating and hitting because of several studies have shown the negative psychological impact it has on children and the Norwegian society doesn't want to allow parents to teach their children violence is okay. The law is trying to protect vulnerable children from abuse and reducing the amount of people turning to violent crimes. In addition parents who are either drug addicts, sexually abuse, are bullying their children or telling them they hate them frequently also gets their children taken away. Often the parents gets warning multiple times they've to change themselves before the child service takes away their children, so it's not something that's suddenly happening. Exceptions are rare and is usually happening in violent cases.
A case can last months or even years before anything is happening. They're also discussed in the court. The cases were everything is fine doesn't get any media attention because of the readers aren't interested in that, therefor the news that tries to sell is writing about the few catastrophes. When rare cases gets a lot of attention, it seems like they're representing the majority. "Barnevernet" does mistakes, but not as often as people likes to believe.
When the child service first does mistakes, it may be not noticing children who lives in an abusive home and therefor not helping them, which happen more often than them wrongly taking away children. People working in school knows that and they've talked to me about it too. It didn't go wrong for Anders B. Breivik because of "Barnevernet" "kidnapped" any children, but because of nothing happen.
2. Always luxurious prisons
Often when foreign TV-channels shows Norwegian prisons they're showing the modern Bastøy and Halden prison. They're showing that inmates are allowed to go freely around big parts of the day, are allowed making their own food, watch TV, get a free education, work, have an own bathroom, nice interior and so on. Even Anders Behring Breivik, the man who killed 77 people are allowed three prison cells and won at one of several points in court when claiming the government violated the human rights. It's because of the Norwegian society believes in rehabilitation and human rights.
What the medias are showing is mostly true, but not always the case. The sides foreign media are rarely talking about is that not all prisoners have their own cells, an own bathroom, free access to entertainment and gets the same treatment.
In Norway there have been spent much less money on female inmates than male ones until recently. Ravneberg prison was an example on that. While the majority of men were allowed their own prison cells the last decade, four women had to share one cell which caused a lot of conflicts between the inmates and lack of privacy. After the politicians received a lot of complaints they finally built a new prison for women in Evjemoen that looks similar to the male prison Halden. In the documentary "Helene sjekker inn" a journalist visited Ravneberg and was one of the few documentaries showing female prisons in Norway. Norway has also had a long history of having too few female prisons meaning 4 out of 10 had to stay in male prisons in 2016 and some experienced sexual harassment.
Several prisons in East-Norway doesn't have toilets or sinks on the cells which mean the inmates have to ask the guards the permission to use the toilet according to the national broadcast NRK. The inmates may be locked in more than 10 hours per day, so some are using buckets and others have thrown their poop out of the window. In 2017 there were ca. 100 inmates without free access to toilet. Many had to wait several hours or a whole night before the guards could allow them going to the toilet and it's mandatory for the guards to hold the prisoners under supervision when outside of the cell. The European human rights have criticized Norway for that.
In addition UN has criticized Norway for using a lot of isolation. Mentally ill prisoners can stay in a small cell 23/7 and the isolation cells may look similar to these ones used in the US. Often they're not allowed visits, TV, writing letters, read books or draw. They're not allowed a job or education either. Suspected can stay in isolation for ca. 50 hours according to VG news before going to court and being sentenced. Electroshock weapons may also be used in Norway like in any other countries. So Norwegian prisons are for the most time more "luxurious" and better than foreign prisoners, but not always.
3. Mentally ill are always treated well
One of the worst case scenario in Norway is being mentally ill and suicidal regardless of you're an inmate or a law-abiding citizen. If you've one of the most severe mental illnesses and are suicidal, you can be forced into an asylum and in theory being locked in for life and stay on isolation against your will. It's not happening often since most illnesses are treatable, but it has happen sometimes. So even in one of the world's richest countries with an universal healthcare being cured isn't an guarantee.
The more suicidal a patient is, the stricter conditions they've to live under and the less freedom they gets. A woman in her 30s diagnosed with ASD and anorexia spent more than a decade in and out of institutions without signs of betterment and didn't want treatment. She eventually became so suicidal that in 2014 she had to be monitored 24/7 by the staff and were rarely allowed going outside of the building according to VG News. They had to force feed her, help her going to the bathroom etc., in addition to she had to be restrained to a bed or chair several hours per days because of frequent self-harm. They had to save her multiple times to avoid death. She lost in court when suing the state and weren't allowed more freedom. There's laws saying that saving lives in institutions are important, so the law gets interpreted as saving lives at all costs. The European human rights criticized Norway for this and said cases like this in Europe is extremely rare after WWII. There hasn't been any updates lately, but most likely she's still locked in the hospital.
Ca. 500 - 600 people commits suicide per year in Norway and two of three are men, according to FHI (Norwegian institute of public health). The number is similar to rest of Europe, North-America and Australia.
4. Always clean water
Always having clean water is another common misconception about Norway. In 2019 people had to boil their water in small periods in 62 municipalities to avoid getting sick. In 2004 Bergen had Giardia in the water that made 4000 - 6000 people sick. 43 % had irritated bowl syndrome 10 years after the incident, while 26 % had fatigue syndrome after 10 years. In June 2019 Askøy had campylobacter and e-coli in their drinking water. 10 000 - 15 000 residents were affected and 2000 were sick. Two people; a woman in her 70s and an one year old child most likely died because of the water, but had other illnesses before the incident too.
Now the water has been cleaned with chlorine, but residents are still unhappy about the quality. The municipality is poor, so economy gets discussed a lot. The government isn't supposed to give more economical support because of the municipality are supposed to take care of themselves many politicians thinks. (Sources: NRK, BA, BT, TV2, Aftenposten, Forskning and UNI)
5. Freedom speech like in the US
Norway has freedom speech, but not like in the US and has a stricter hate speech law. It may share some similarities to that one in the UK. In Norway spreading and encouraging hate, insulting people based on the groups they belongs to and talking negatively about groups are punishable if it's based on race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, religion and disability according to law § 185. Hate speech based on gender, age, profession, political views and social status may also be punishable under the law § 266, according to politiet.no - the police's homepage. Hate speech that's not violent or are encouraging violence is also punishable.
A man was sentenced to pay ca. 1 666 $ and 18 days probation for mocking the Sami-people, an indigenous group in Norway, on Facebook. He said they belonged in the nature, wore clown suits and smelled like charcoal lighter fluid according to Dagbladet. The Sami people had experienced forced assimilation, their children being taken away and forced into school camps in the 1800s, therefor they gets much protection today.
Vigrid-leader Tore Tvedt had been sentenced to 45 days probation in 2008 for sharing his Nazi-opinions to the public where he had talked negatively about minorities. In 2019 some people advocated for sentencing him to 60 days probation, paying a 1 111 $ fine and that his PC gets confiscated according to ABC nyheter. He had called a minority for "parasites" and "reptiles". In addition he sent emails to headmasters saying they should teach the pupils his ideology. In 2003 he called the minority for "evil murderers" and "parasites that had to be cleansed".