Annual Review 2011
Bias motivated speech
- In March, a number of Christian groups launched a campaign entitled Älä alistu (Don’t Submit) featuring a girl who said that her faith had led her away from bisexuality, and that just as murderers can be reformed so can homosexuals. The campaign, which aimed to warn young people against homosexuality and to advocate that they change to heterosexuality, was criticised not only for its position on homosexuality per se but also by mental health professionals as being dangerous to young people. The campaign ran for a week, and as it drew to a close, thousands of people had resigned from the official Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church. Although the Archbishop of the Church emphasised that the campaign was not organised by the Church, the large number of resignations seemed to be linked to the campaign, and resignation statistics returned to normal shortly after the campaign ended. The leader of the Christian Democrats denied that the party was involved with the campaign, stating that it was a spiritual and not a political issue. The organisations behind the campaign are partially funded by Finland’s church tax, causing many to petition the Church Board of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church to stop funding them.
- The Criminal Code was amended to make bias on the grounds of sexual orientation an aggravating factor for common crimes and incitement to hatred, defamation or insulting sexual minorities were criminalised. However, gender identity was not expressly included in the changes.
Bias motivated violence
In May, three men who had attacked participants of Helsinki Pride 2010 with pepper spray and tear gas were each given a four month suspended sentence and ordered to pay compensation. Although the defence denied that the attacks were a hate crime, the men were found guilty of having specifi cally targeted sexual minorities. They were not alone in the attack but were the only ones who were apprehended.
Studies commissioned by the Ministry of Interior revealed that 36% of respondents who identified as LGBT had been the target of bullying in schools because they belonged to sexual or gender minorities, and only 12% of teachers believed that fellow students would be accepting of a student who was open about her/his sexual orientation at school. The study found that LGBT respondents had experienced a much higher incidence rate of bullying than the average survey respondent.
A trans woman whose employer had revoked her promotion when she came out as trans, was found by the local court to have been discriminated against on the grounds of gender identity in contravention of the Gender Equality Act. This case was supported by the Ombudsman for Equality and the employer did not appeal the ruling.
Equality and non-discrimination
- Following the April parliamentary elections, and the subsequent negotiations to form a government, a new government programme was published in June which included the intention to reform the anti-discrimination legislation and the mandate of the Ombudsman for Minorities to cover every ground on an equal basis. This will require the inclusion of gender identity and gender expression in the Gender Equality Act which was still pending at the end of 2011. The reform of the anti-discrimination law was also pending.
- In spring, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs began coordinating an inter-governmental working group on LGBTI issues in which NGOs were represented. In May, the Ministry hosted a meeting in Helsinki of LGBTI friendly focal points from diff erent European governments.
- In autumn, various ministries started developing their programmes, based on the government programme, and these included a number of LGBTI relevant policy issues. In particular, Finland’s first Human Rights Policy Programme was drafted, and the policy programme on children and youth included several explicit references to LGBTI youth and rainbow families.
- The Ombudsman for Equality worked actively on trans issues, entering into dialogue with trans organisations, highlighting injustices faced by members of the trans community, and organising a seminar on the human rights situation of trans and intersex people in Finland.
- The government policy programme did not include marriage equality, so a bill in this regard needed to be drafted by individual Members of Parliament. In September, a cross-party working group began collecting signatures from Members of Parliament to draft legislative changes to Finnish marriage legislation to allow for gender neutral marriages, and equality in adoption rights. The first ones to sign the initiative were Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Alexander Stubb (National Coalition Party) and the Chairs of four government parties, Jutta Urpilainen (Social Democratic Party), Paavo Arhinmäki (Left Alliance), Ville Niinistö (Green Party) and Stefan Wallin (Swedish People’s Party).
- In November, the True Finns Party started pushing for changes in a bill on adoption that would prevent samesex couples from applying for foreign adoption. They want the new law to state clearly that “two adoptive parents” would comprise a man and a woman.
- A working group prepared a reform of the adoption law. LGBTI NGOs pushed for the opening of the possibility of adoption to unmarried couples, including same-sex couples, on an equal footing with married couples. At the end of the year the reform was still pending.
- A reform of the fatherhood law was initiated. Several stakeholders raised the need to broaden the scope of the law to cover all forms of parenthood, including situations where a trans person becomes a biological parent after changing their gender marker.
The Institute for Health and Welfare removed classifications based on transvestism from the Finnish version of the International Classifi cation of Diseases 10th Revision (ICD-10) classifi cation of diseases and health problems. However, transsexualism was retained as a mental disorder.
In September, the National Ethical Committee within social and health care issued a positive statement on access of trans youth under the age of 18 to gender identity related healthcare.
Participation in public/political life
Campaigning for the Presidential elections of 2012 took place in 2011. One of the candidates was Pekka Haavisto (Green Party), an openly gay politician in a registered partnership. His candidacy was of historical significance, and provoked a considerable amount of media debate about the suitability of a gay President and tolerance. A large amount of hate speech was published online in relation to his participation in the election.
Sexual and reproductive rights
- Within the framework of the Human Rights Policy Programme, there was a push from a coalition of NGOs and the Ombudsman for Equality to remove the sterilisation requirement and other measures which lead to the violation of human rights of trans people.
- In November, the Ombudsman for Equality spoke out specifically against the sterilisation requirement for trans individuals.