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Ástandið og yfirvöldin: stríðið um konurnar 1940-1941

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Árið 1961 afhentu systkini Jóhönnu Knudsen, fyrstu lögreglukonunnar og stjórnanda ungmennaeftirlits lögreglunnar 1941–1945, Þjóðskjalasafni fjóra böggla af skjölum úr hennar fórum. Í fylgibréfi sagði: „Það er ófrávíkjanlegt skilyrði fyrir afhendingu þessara gagna að þau verði innsigluð og eigi opnuð til nokkurra afnota fyrr en eftir 50 ár — fimmtíu ár — frá deginum í dag að telja.“ Árið 2012 veitti safnið fræðimönnum skilyrtan aðgang að þessum gögnum og er grein þessi fyrsta ritsmíðin, sem unnin er upp úr þeim og birt á prenti. Þegar innsigli voru rofin á skjalabögglunum, kom í ljós að hér var ekki um að ræða einkaskjöl Jóhönnu heldur voru nú loks komin í leitirnar skjöl ungmennaeftirlits lögreglunnar. Þessi skjöl eru mikilvægar en jafnframt varasamar heimildir um samskipti, sem hundruð íslenskra kvenna áttu við hermenn á styrjaldarárunum. Þau veita einnig nýja innsýn í afstöðu ráðamanna og lögreglunnar til svokallaðra ástandsmála og afskipti yfirvalda af þeim. Í greininni er meðal annars leitað svara við þessum spurningum: Hvers vegna fól Hermann Jónasson, forsætis- og dómsmálaráðherra þjóðstjórnarinnar, Jóhönnu Knudsen, fyrrum yfirhjúkrunarkonu, að hefja lögreglurannsókn á ástandinu 1941? Hverjir voru helstu markhópar þessarar rannsóknar og hvernig samræmdist hún landslögum? Hvernig aflaði Jóhanna upplýsinga um rösklega 500 konur, sem hún skrásetti í þessum áfanga og lögreglustjóri fullyrti að stunduðu allar ólifnað með hermönnum? Teljast upplýsingarnar í skrá lögreglunnar fullgildar sannanir um ólifnað kvennanna? Hélt lögreglan áfram að fylgjast með og skrásetja „ástandskonur“ til stríðsloka? er hugsanlegt að á styrjaldarárunum hafi hér farið fram víðtækustu njósnir sem stundaðar hafa verið um einkalíf fólks á Íslandi? Hvers vegna tók Einar Arnórsson, dómsmálaráðherra utanþingsstjórnarinnar, ákvörðun 1943 um að hnekkja í raun lögum, sem sett voru að frumkvæði Hermanns Jónassonar, með þeim afleiðingum að niður lögðust allar þær stofnanir sem upp hafði verið komið til að forða unglingsstúlkum frá mökum við hermenn? Hvers vegna ákvað Einar Arnórsson að segja Jóhönnu jafnframt upp störfum 1944 og leggja niður ungmennaeftirlit lögreglunnar?
“THe CIRCUMSTANCES“ AND THe AUTHORITIES: The War over Icelandic Women, 1940–1941 Nothing caused more friction between Icelanders and the allied forces during the Second World War than the relations of local women with members of the military, specially referred to in Iceland as the Circumstances, or the momentary situation. Flamed by nationalism, many Icelanders believed these relations were a threat to their society, morality and culture. The government at the beginning of this period consisted of the three largest political parties and officially supported the line that individuals should avoid any relations with foreign troops. Not only were women who associated with military men condemned by most of the media, but many people called them whores. As Icelanders numbered only around 120,000, they also easily overestimated the threat from an allied presence which in 1943 peaked at about 50,000 troops. In 1941, the Reykjavík Chief of Police and Hermann Jónasson, who was both the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, appointed a former head nurse, Jóhanna Knudsen, to investigate the morality of Reykjavík women. Their objective was to fuel public opposition to relationships between women and the soldiers, thereby pressuring members of parliament and other ministers to act. Himself a member of the centre-left Progressive Party, the Prime Minister seemed to doubt the willingness of the conservative Independence Party and the Labour Party to take legislative action. Jóhanna Knudsen’s investigations involved the most extensive prying into people’s private lives in the whole of Icelandic police history. She registered in this instance the names of over 500 women allegedly engaging in relations with troops, and included various data on their personal lives. Since her methods were characterised by her unique interpretation of morality, an intense nationalism and a tendency to view most relations between Icelandic women and the troops in a sexual context, the extent of depravity and prostitution was wildly overstated, including cases of teenagers. Prime Minister Hermann Jónasson appointed a „Morality Committee“ in 1941 which consisted of three young academics, all males. Their mandate was to investigate problems arising from these relations and to propose remedies. Their report amounted to little more than Jóhanna Knudsen’s own conclusions, as the Minister had undoubtedly envisioned. Furthermore, the young, inexperienced Chief of Police accused an additional 2,000 women of immoral contacts with members of the military. This was an absurd allegation, as it implied that almost every third woman aged 15 to 35 was involved sexually with allied troops. Ironically, the troops had been complaining and continued to complain about the aloofness maintained by the vast majority of Icelandic women. Indeed, Jóhanna Knudsen’s now recently declassified registry reveals that the police, with relatively few exceptions, had no proper evidence for their sweeping accusations. While the Morality Committee’s report did temporarily awaken something akin to mass hysteria, this article shows that both the Committee and the police were far more strongly criticised by men and women alike than has hitherto been described in historical accounts. Late in 1941, a draft legislation on juvenile supervision was presented by Hermann Jónasson to members of parliament from the coalition parties. The draft had been composed by a committee consisting primarily of prominent women. Despite these preparations, the all-male Althing rejected the draft. In December 1941, the Minister issued a provisional law based on the draft legislation, after having amended it in the hope of securing a parliamentary majority. This law allowed the authorities to supervise young people up to the age of 20, even though the age majority was 16, and established both reformatory institutions and juvenile tribunals to deal with promiscuity and various other delinquencies. When in 1942 the Althing discussed the provisional law, the Coalition’s own members toned it down, for instance by reducing the maximum age of supervision to 17. While Hermann Jónasson felt these amendments were making the law ineffective, his attitude seemed quite isolated and his government was collapsing. From April 1942 to October 1943, a juvenile tribunal in Reykjavík sent 14 girls to a rural reformatory school, while 26 girls were assigned to stay at separate farms, mostly due to promiscuity. The court rulings were mostly based upon police reports from a recently founded juvenile supervision department, which was directed by Jóhanna Knudsen and resembled a secret service. However, treating these girls like criminals was ill-advised, because their problems were in many cases of a social nature and sometimes resulted from sexual abuse by Icelanders as well as foreign soldiers, though the men themselves do not seem have been prosecuted. Einar Arnórsson, now the Minister of Justice in a non-parliamentary government, decided to dissolve the reformatory school in October 1943, as it seemed to be harming rather than helping the girls involved. The juvenile tribunal was also abolished, relieving all of the girls of its rulings against them. This Minister, who was a judge of the Supreme Court and one of the country’s most respected legal authorities, appears to have felt that the juvenile supervision law was in essence nationalistic, patriarchal and discriminatory, as it was almost solely directed against girls involved with allied troops. In any case he did not agree with the belief of his predecessor and many others that women were threatening the Icelandic nation or culture by their relations with troops. Having effectively invalidated the juvenile supervision law, the Minister of Justice charged the municipal child protection committee of Reykjavík with the main responsibility for handling the city’s juvenile delinquency problems. In turn, the committee demanded the dissolution of the police’s juvenile supervision department. Moreover, leading committee members, both on the left and right, accused Jóhanna Knudsen of having abnormal motives in applying harsh, illegal procedures to victims of sexual abuse. In September 1944, the Minister of Justice terminated Jóhanna Knudsen’s position at the police and dissolved the juvenile supervision department. She had apparently not obeyed his admonitions not to trespass into the field of criminal investigations, which were under the control of a judge. On the other hand, the Minister’s decisions met severe objections from some of the most eminent women of Iceland; the national, Lutheran church; schoolmasters; high-ranking officials; and well-known intellectuals who demanded the re-enforcement of the juvenile supervision law and radical defences against influences from the foreign military. A subsequent government, which included all parties except the Progressive Party, did not accede to these demands. While nationalism remained as strong as ever, the public were inclined to worry less about the Circumstances as the war drew to an end and the allies drastically reduced their forces in the country. Nevertheless, the great majority of Icelanders seemed to remain opposed to women associating with the troops. Of the nearly 400 women who married them, most had left Iceland by the end of 1945.