If you’ve made friends from a Nordic country, better hope they’re not from Denmark. Unless you have family ties there you won’t be able to visit them. Read more here.
The Belgian government’s recent decisions regarding austerity measures and pension age have spiked all kinds of reactions from the people. From strikes and protests to concrete support, Belgium’s future remains in question.
Slovak nation to decide in referendum in february whether it agrees with same sex marriage, adoption of children within these marriages and optional sex education in schools.
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Football is a sport that unites people of all colors and ethnicities. To this day, ethnic minority groups find opportunities in professional football hard to come by in Denmark as appearances speak louder than talent. Read more here.
By Tarek Ali Ahmad and Julia Middlemiss
Is au pairing a job or a cultural exchange? Labour organisations and political parties in Denmark claim that regulations for au pairs, mostly young girls from The Philippines, should be updated to modern times.
A less than common love story
By Jordan Bond
Tales of bestiality – having sex with animals – are things of folklore and myth to most people.
Although it’s usually something only spoken of in hushed whispers, bestiality is more common than you might think. A 1974 study of 1,000 American men and women found that 5 per cent and 2 per cent of subjects respectively reported at least one sexual experience with an animal.
When the topic does show its head, however, it is a thing of covert and macabre fascination. When Washington man Kenneth Pinyan died from a ruptured colon after having sex with a horse in 2005, the resulting Seattle Times story about the death was the paper’s most read article online that year. Zoo, a 2007 film about the life and death of Pinyan, caused controversy at both Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals.
Working in the IT department at a university library in north-western Germany, Michael Kiok could pass as any other 52-year-old man. If he told you he has been in a relationship with a female named Cessy for the last 10 years, you wouldn’t bat an eyelid – until, that is, he told you that Cessy is a dog.
As one of Germany’s most public pro-zoophilia figures, Michael says being a zoophile is more than just being sexually attracted to animals. He says it’s also about having a personal, intimate relationship with an animal, with just as much depth as a human relationship (he knows – he was married to a woman for 10 years). Purely sexual relationships with animals, devoid of any emotional connection, he tells me, is left to ‘beasties’.
Michael says he regards his 10-year-old German Shepherd Cessy as an equal, and while he takes care of her basic needs, like food and shelter, he gives her as much freedom as possible.
“Most times it’s a normal relationship between a dog and its owner – its human. The difference is that I regard her not as inferior or below me, but that I regard her to be on the same level of value as me.”
The fight for public acceptance
Michael was one of the founders and the former chairman of ZETA – a German-based group fighting for the rights and respect of zoophiles worldwide.
Germany banned bestiality in 2013, something Michael says he’s “enraged” about.
“I always tried to do as few illegal things as possible, and now without having done anything other than before, now I’m a criminal,” he says, visibly frustrated.
Michael says there’s an active anti-bestiality scene in Germany. Groups have demonstrated at his door and given leaflets with pictures of tortured dogs on them to his neighbours. He says very few people talk to him in his neighbourhood these days.
Michael says he’s never had penetrative sex with Cessy, but she enjoys being masturbated by him.
Cessy makes it obvious that she’s enjoying herself, Michael says.
“She makes humping movements and begins to pant. It takes half a minute, or a minute if it’s long, then she jumps down to the floor and it’s over.”
The struggle to suppress his identity
Although Michael first had intercourse with an animal when he was 38 years old, he says the feelings he has for animals started developing when he hit puberty, at around 11 or 12.
Michael managed to keep his secret for decades after, but says hiding for the rest of his life was not an option.
“I think it’s an essential part of the personality; you can’t try to deny it. I did it until my forties, but you will use more mental energy than you can produce, and over decades you end up with depression and psychosomatic phenomenons if you suppress these feelings.”
Heterosexual, homosexual, zoophile
The belief that being a zoophile is a sexual orientation, on par with heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality, may not be a common one, but Michael believes this is entirely true.
“All the criteria are fulfilled with me and the people I know. So if this is the criteria, then it is a sexual orientation.”
Michael says he will continue to fight to make zoophilia legal, and would like to see Germany, then Europe, turn the law around.
“I hope that the view of animals as an equal will reduce the exploiting of animals in any way.
“I’m building a world that I can live in, so of course [I will fight] for the rest of my life.”
Good news for welfare organisations, but some question whether the law change is necessary
By Jordan Bond
If you like having sex with dogs, you’d better be quick: Denmark is making the practice illegal in 2015.
Danish Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Dan Jørgensen announced in October that he would be making an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act to outlaw sex with animals next year.
Already illegal in most other European countries, the minister feared Denmark would become a “sanctuary for people with these inclinations”.
In an emailed response, the minister’s office said the likely punishment for a first time offender would be the same as animal cruelty, which is already illegal, and stands at a maximum of 2,000 Danish kroner (€270).
Bestiality, the act of having sex with an animal, is one of the few sexual taboos that has not become more normalized over the last 50 years. The greater acceptance of contraception, pre-marital sex, abortion and alternative orientations means bestiality is now one of the few areas of sexually-related behaviour that has not seen vastly greater acceptance by the western world in the last half-century.
A victory for animal welfare organisations
Despite being seen as a smaller animal rights issue than scientific testing, food production and the clothes industry, there’s no doubt that animal rights organisations actively campaign against bestiality, and this comes as a victory.
PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) stance on bestiality makes it clear that any sexual involvement with an animal is unjustifiable and unquestionably abuse.
“It’s obvious that an animal is unable to give consent to sex – in other words, it’s rape,” PETA’s press officer Ben Williamson said in an email.
But Oliver Burdinski, a zoophile (someone who is sexually attracted to non-human animals) refutes this allegation. He says he never has and never would harm an animal – in fact he welcomes laws that prosecute those who do.
Burdinski says he no longer has a sexual relationship with his 12-year-old dog Joey because Joey no longer has the drive. He says because he played a passive role in their sex life, and Joey the active role, he doesn’t understand how that could be construed as abuse or rape.
Opposing PETA’s position, Burdinski says dogs are able to give consent.
“Everyone who has an animal, maybe a dog or a horse knows if their animal wants something or doesn’t. You know if your dog wants to go out on a walk, or wants to eat, or is happy or not happy.
“An animal can’t talk, but it can show what it feels and what it wants.”
Hear more from Oliver about the nature of his relationship with Joey below.
The effects of long-term abuse
But further afield from zoophiles like Oliver are those who tend to hide in the shadows. There is little doubt that there are some who harm animals physically and sexually – something that is already illegal in Denmark. Some of these people, like zoosadists, abuse animals for their own sexual gratification.
Mette S. Herskin, a behaviour and stress biologist from Aarhus University tells me that there is no truth to the belief that animals, and more specifically mammals, don’t feel as much pain as humans do.
She says if an animal is repeatedly harmed over periods of time, a “lack or responsiveness, almost apathy, where they stop responding to stimuli” can occur.
Although pain is still very much felt, the animal learns that there may be no way to escape and starts to shut down their behavioural responses, she says.
“They will develop some kind of depression-like symptoms where they stop responding very much to the pain. They kind of just lock the world away and turn inwards.”
Deviants feel little guilt
Dr Karen Munk, a deviance psychologist at Aarhus University, says scientists are still unaware of what causes sexually deviant behaviours.
She says scientists do see patterns in paedophilia, which may carry over to other types of sexually deviant behaviour.
Those with deviant sexualities know they outrage society, but often don’t feel bad for committing these acts, Dr Munk says.
“They are completely excited and find it wonderful. They don’t feel bad.”
Dr Munk says often sexual deviants are not aware that they are doing any harm to the other party. She says they would be horrified if they found out they were hurting them because of their strong feelings of affection for the other.
The amendment and ethics
Former chairman of the Danish Ethical Council for Animals Peter Sandøe says animal abuse has and always will be wrong, and those who commit those crimes are currently punished under Danish law. However, he says he struggles to see the ethical problem in some sexual situations.
“I think if you have a male animal penetrating a human it’s very difficult to see where the animal welfare issue could be.”
He believes amending the law to make all sex with animals illegal may make it difficult to find the worst offenders.
“Those who are part of the environment but treat animals decently cannot be whistleblowers because they would incriminate themselves,” Sandøe says.
“It just seems to me the completely wrong response.”
Sandøe describes the law as a ‘”feel-good legislation” – something that makes most happy but will have very little effect, if any.
“It just seems to hang there and make people feel like we’re a very civilised society because we have such a law.”
The law will bring Denmark in line with an EU directive and other European countries including Germany, France, Britain and neighbouring Sweden.
Domestic violence is unisex. Men also fall victims to family abuse. How do authorities and social services in some Scandinavian countries tackle the cases? To take a glimpse into that and the struggles of the male victimhood, read more here.
The salmon swimming in the Norwegian sea might never imagine them be in the center of a political discussion in another part of the world. But since the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident, there has been an undercurrent beneath the peaceful Norwegian sea.
By Yiwei Wu
“When Nobel decided that the Norwegian parliament should be responsible for the prize in the early 20th century, Norway was not into big power politics. However, many things have changed and today Norway has close alliance with the United States, which has the largest military force in the world,” says Ola Tunander, research professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).
He adds, “The original idea of Alfred Nobel was to award people who have contributed to peace. For example, reducing the standing army or holding peace conferences.”
There has been debate about the Nobel Peace Prize for years. It’s still a problem whether today’s prize is according to the testament of Mr. Nobel or if it has too wide interpretation.
“Not only the Peace Prize Committee is important, the secretary of the Committee is also important (for the prize).” he adds, “And it has been the same person since 1990, for more than twenty years.”
The person he mentioned is Geir Lundestad, who serves as the director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute and also as the secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. However, Geir Lundestad is not a member of the committee itself and is retiring at the end of 2014.
“First, it is him who decides who is shortlisted because there are so many people nominated. Second, in general the secretary is more competent so he has a lot of influence. Geir Lundestad is an expert in American history and has a wide network in the United States, which has been reported to have influence on the prize.” says Ola Tunander.
All five member of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee are Norwegian nationals and most of them are former politicians. They come from different parties and roughly represent the parties in the Norwegian parliament.
The Conservative-led coalition that won power in elections in 2013 will gain a 3-2 majority on the committee from 2015. This could mean more prizes favored by Norway’s right-wing. And little-known individuals who fight for democracy and human rights may
have larger chance to win the prize.
“The way the Committee is put together also makes it difficult to follow the original intent of the prize.” says Ola Tunander.
When it comes to the frozen Sino-Norwegian relationship concerning 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, he says that when Liu Xiaobo leaves jail, maybe he can come to Oslo to receive the prize and it will again become a big media event. After that, there would be a solution to develop a better relationship with China.
This year, the Norwegian government refused an official meeting with Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader. “As a state, leaders usually don’t meet representatives of a region that wants to gain independence. For example, Norwegian prime minister doesn’t meet with the Scottish independence leader, or leaders of Catalan independent movement or so on. In China, Dalai Lama is such a representative. But Norwegian media report this as a choice
between morality and economy growth, using headlines like Soul or Salmon.”
Since the Bosnian War ended in 1995, the international community has been helping Bosnia and Herzegovina find the 30,000 people who went missing. Soon, the search will be handed over to national authorities in the politically and ethnically split country. Read the story here.
By Ole Ellekrog and Emerald O’Brien
By Yiwei Wu
“We have seen a change in our exports to China after 2010. From a market share of close to 90% for salmon from Norway, we have seen recent figures of close to 30 % for our salmon.” says Christian Chramer, director of communications at the Norwegian Seafood Council.
The new ban in dialog
There is still disagreement on the new regulation between the Chinese and Norwegian authorities about Norwegian salmon.
According to a statement made by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, all whole Norwegian salmon dated after September 9 will be rejected from China for health reasons. However, non-whole salmon, such as fillets, or head-less and gutted fish, will be allowed.
The reason for stopping imports is that Chinese authorities require assurance that the salmon is from Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA)-free areas. The regulation aims to prevent infection of ISA to Chinese stocks.
The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) , the Chinese authority that regulates food safety, says currently there is no official ban on whole Norwegian salmon exported to China. And consumers can still buy Norwegian salmon from major supermarkets.
Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries says they are still in dialog with the Chinese authorities about the issue.
Norwegian salmon dilemma after Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo
This is not the first time that Norwegian salmon has been thrust into the spotlight. On December 13, 2010, just three days after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese authorities implemented and enforced an extensive test regime that targeted fresh Norwegian aquaculture products.
“We are aware of speculations in national and international media about a possible connection between the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize and the new measures targeting fresh aquaculture products,” says Ivar Andreas Helbak, senior adviser from the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries.
“We do question the rationale for the measures taken under the rights and obligations of member states, including China, to WTO (World Trade Organization) and OIE (World organization for animal health).” she adds.
Though there is a growing market for salmon in China, new regulation related to whole salmon from Norway has been a challenge for Norwegian exporters. And this has led to reduced salmon trade between the two countries.
The Norwegian Seafood Council says there was another veterinary regulation from China in early 2011. It only targeted Norwegian salmon while other salmon exporting countries had a different veterinary regulation in effect.
For health or for policies?
“Infectious salmon anemia (ISA) is harmless to humans and is not easy to spread among fish,” says Lillehaug Atle, fish health expert from Norwegian Veterinary Institute.
“There might be regulation about live fish, but not slaughtered fish,” he adds,”The infection is connected to live fish, not to slaughtered fish. For whole salmon, there’s no indication that slaughtered fish is a risk for importing country. The risk of transferring the disease from dinner table to fish stocks is very very small.”
The virus which causes Infectious salmon anemia (ISA) is widespread amongst Atlantic salmon. Up to now, there is no effective way to stop the disease completely. It is almost impossible to ensure that the salmon is from ISA-free areas. But the outbreak is less than five cases each year in Norway.
“For Norway, the hands have been tied,” says Helge Lurås, the founder and director of the Center for International and Strategic Analysis (SISA).
He adds, “Norway has limited influence on China because China doesn’t rely on Norway. For China, Norway is only a minor country on a minor stage. Though China still has interest in the Arctic area, it is up to China to change the frozen relationship with Norway since 2010. I think Norway is an example that the Communist Party set for other countries, to scare other countries.”
There was media coverage about the ‘secret talks’ between the two countries. However, it was stopped because Norwegian government thought it was too demanding.
According to NRK, the Norwegian state owned broadcaster, one of the requirements from the Chinese authorities is that Norway must not allow the Nobel Committee to award the Peace Prize to a Chinese who openly criticizes the regime’s human rights violations.
Facts about the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize
There has been a lot of discussion about the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident, who is still in jail in Liaoning Province, China.
“I have seen so many cases that lawyers and human rights activists be put in jail for no reason in China. I don’t care who Liu Xiaobo is and I don’t need to.” says Tianxiao Peng. He is a Chinese student who has been threatened by local police when he tried to start an assembly.
Geir Lundestad, director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo and secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee since 1990, says he is proud of the decision to award Liu Xiaobo. “Norwegian salmon can be sold to other countries. If China doesn’t want Norwegian salmon, there are other countries who want it. It’s a strange regulation because Norwegian salmon is exported to many other strict countries as well.”
“Actually the Norwegian government doesn’t like the decision (to award Liu Xiaobo),” he adds,” But it seems impossible to prove to the Chinese government that the Committee is independent. While it is rare that the Committee awards someone for the same reason, no one can promise never to award a Chinese dissident again, even the Norwegian government can’t.”
The Nobel Peace Committee has five members and is appointed by the Norwegian parliament. All the members are Norwegian nationals and most of them are retired politicians from the parliament.
Postcolonial Greenland has had an ongoing struggle between the Danish and Greenlandic language. An identity crisis that still affects young Greenlandic Danes today. Read the story here.
The Danish national sex education provider is changing its curriculum to focus on teaching kids how to have babies, in the face of three decades of decline in the birth rate. Will it actually make a difference? Read more here.
By James Zhang and Alex Bond
Why did Norway, a wealthy country renown for skiing-prowess give up the chance to show the skill of their athletes on home turf? We travelled North to investigate.
Denmark is leading the way in telemedicine. They are moving away from traditional face-to-face psychological treatments towards online alternatives, helping to ease economical pressures and geographical barriers.
Sweden considers itself at the forefront of gender equality, enshrining it in its education, language and politics. This movement is now being pushed to toddlers through progressive gender equality preschools in the Scandinavian nation. Read more here