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A speech by Minister Blomqvist at the Pride event organized by the Nordic Council of Ministers in Helsinki 8 September 2020

Ministry of Justice 10.9.2020 13.40
Speech

Dear participants,

it is a great honor for me to open this event. 

Indeed, I am very happy that the Helsinki Pride week is taking place, despite the odd circumstances in which we are right now.

The Covid-19 crisis has underlined the importance of the work for human rights and equality. As we all know, the LGBTI people have been among the most vulnerable groups during the crisis. The insecurity and isolation have affected everyone in the society, but especially people that are already in most vulnerable positions due to discrimination or lack of social acceptance.

In a way, the crisis has acted as a magnifying glass for structural inequalities in the society. I think we should take this as an opportunity to identify, where we need to increase our efforts for equality and resilience.  

Against this, events like this are especially important in reassuring that work for equality does continue on different arenas. 

I am especially pleased that this event is organized by the Nordic Council of Ministers, as this marks one of the first concrete steps of the work that we are taking for LGBTI equality in the Nordic cooperation. Last year, the Nordic Council of Ministers made a formal decision to include LGBTI equality to the framework of the Nordic cooperation. This is a significant step and opens up prospects of concrete cooperation at the Nordic level, both for public authorities and civil society organisations. The Nordic LGBTI strategy for the upcoming years will be launched by the end of the year. 

Finland will take over the Presidency of the Nordic Council of ministers in January next year. This means that we will be in a key position to develop structures for the Nordic cooperation. During the year, we will focus our efforts especially to combat harassment and violence experienced by LGBTI people. According to the survey done by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 32% of LGBTI people in Finland have experienced harassment during the last 12 months. This tells that our society is not equally safe for everyone and it is a message that should be taken very seriously. 

Studies show that among the general population the attitudes have become more tolerant towards diversity of gender, gender expression and sexual orientation. At the same time, we must not take the positive development for granted. We must acknowledge the negative backlash of attitudes that can be seen all around Europe. Certain polarization of attitudes is happening in the society and it affects especially people working for gender equality and for equal rights of LGBTI people. 

There is a close link between attitudes and legislation in the society. Progressive legislation strengthens positive attitudes towards diversity. In this context, I want to reassure that the Government is committed to passing the new transgender legislation during this governmental period. What comes to other legislation, partial reform of the Non-discrimination Act will begin at the beginning of 2021. At the moment, an assessment of the Act is ongoing at the Ministry of Justice. Naturally, we want to make sure that the Non-discrimination Act is an effective legal instrument for both victims of discrimination and for the promotion of non-discrimination.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is preparing to reform family leave. The reform will be implemented in such a way that treats everybody equally, including diverse families. The reform will be a major change in attitudes, as it will improve equality between parents and make the lives of diverse families easier. The reform will support all kinds of families and ensure equal leaves for children regardless of the form of the family. Sharing parent responsibilities in everyday life will become easier, and the relationship between both parents and the child will be strengthened from the early childhood. 

Family leave reform takes into account the family concept of today and the flexibility needed by families. The reform is an opportunity to build a family leave scheme in line with today's family concept. Even in terms of wording, obsolete legislation will be brought to a modern level and its language will become gender-neutral and suitable for all families. For example, the reform would give up gender-tied daily allowances. Instead, both parents would receive an equal number of daily allowance days and equal flexibility in their use. 

Finally, I am extremely happy to be able to support the positive development that is happening at this very moment in Finland and in other Nordic countries. I want to wish you fruitful discussions today.