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Speech by Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson at 16th International Helvi Sipilä Seminar organized by The National Council of Women of Finland 7.3.2022

Ministry of Justice
Publication date 7.3.2022 16.48

Dear audience, ladies and gentlemen

I have the honor to be talking to you about the measures Finland has recently taken to address violence against women, which is serious human rights problem in Finland, like in so many countries. This subject is very important to me. And I am glad to be able to talk about it to you today.

Violence against women is regrettably common in Finland. According to a study published by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in 2014, Finnish women experience violence considerably more often than women living in EU countries on average. 47 per cent of Finnish women aged 18 –74 who responded to the survey had experienced physical or sexual violence after 15 years of age. 30 per cent had experienced physical or sexual violence from their current or former partner after 15 years of age. Over the past year, 5% of Finnish women had experienced physical or sexual violence by a former or current partner. These figures are far too high.

I am pleased to say that the current Government pays particular attention to personal integrity and the reduction of crimes against life and health, especially crimes against children and intimate partner violence.

The Government has launched several legislative and other projects aimed at improving the status of crime victims, addressing violence and increasing equality. I will now present some of these. 

According to the government programme, an action plan for combating violence against women will be prepared. This action plan was published in October 2020. The plan contains altogether 32 measures, and the implementation of the action plan is proceeding as planned.

In accordance with the current Government’s Programme, a working group was appointed in March 2020 to assess broadly the range of ways available to improve the effectiveness of restraining orders, reduce the incidence of violations of restraining orders and improve the safety of victims of intimate partner violence in particular. The report of the working group was published in September 2021, and the preparation is still ongoing based on the professional statements given to the report. 

A project is under way at the Ministry of Justice to prepare clarification of the criminal code as regards to criminalisation of female genital mutilation. In addition, the Ministry of Justice has completed an assessment memorandum on the need for a separate criminalisation of forced marriage.

However, one of the biggest and historically most important legislative projects of this Government is the comprehensive reform of legislation covering sexual offences.

This reform will reinforce the right to physical integrity and to sexual self-determination. The major advancement is that the definition of rape will be based on the absence of consent. 

The victim does not always fight back or actively oppose the offender. Consent-based rape law is the necessary step for recognizing these realities of rape, and for ensuring the victim’s rights fully. 

Finland will soon join those countries that have already modernized their relevant legislation. We have already seen very encouraging results from those countries. For example in Sweden, where a similar legal reform was done in 2018, reports to the police and sentences for rape have increased significantly. This shows that consent-based rape laws can improve the victim’s situation and the pursuit of justice also in practice. 

In our reform in Finland, also several other parts of the laws will be improved. Sexual offences against children will be defined so that the invulnerability of children is fully recognized, both offline and online. 

In addition, amended rules on sexual harassment and unlawful distribution of sexual images will better address current forms of offensive behavior committed in the internet.  

This reform is now in its final stages. A Government Proposal for new legislation was passed to the Parliament very recently. Our aim is that the new legislation will be in force from the beginning of the year 2023.

Dear ladies and gentlemen

Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you. I wish you a good seminar day. The topic is very important and I am sure you will have very interesting discussions. Thank you.

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