Vice-President of the Government (and Minister of the Presidency, Parliamentary Relations and Equality)
It is with great appreciation that I participate in this session on Good practices and mobilization of civil society in the fight against gender-based violence. Thank you for the Spanish government for bringing up this most important issue and for having an opportunity to present the perspective of the Finnish civil society.
Spain tackles the issue of violence against women with such significance that shows the way both in the European Union and globally. We are highly impressed about the strong commitment Spain has shown to the fight against gender-based violence both with legal reforms and programs. We are truly inspired of the work of the State Observatory on Violence against Women and the Social Forum against Trafficking and its role to link both public institutions and civil society organizations. And we look forward to the results of the data collected, as well as the roadmap linked to the financial commitments for the coming years.
Gender inequality is a threat to international peace and security. We are thankful for Spain for your strength in the negotiations to promote the role of women and the civil society in the United Nations Security Council to adopt the Resolution 2242. This resolution laid new solid, ambitious foundations for the progress on the Women, Peace and Security agenda.
The promotion of women’s rights by women’s organizations has long traditions in Finland. Women’s movement has a central role to play in the Finnish society. The National Council of Women of Finland – established in 1911 by the first female parliamentarians, gathers 60 member organizations in which there are 400 000 women, 20 per cent of all women of Finland as members. 12 member organizations have been established more than 100 years ago and 27 of them more than 75 years ago.
The World Economic Forum’s 2018 Gender Gap Index report ranks Finland world’s the fourth best gender-equal country. But statistics do not necessary mean that everything related to gender is perfect.
Finland has one of the highest numbers of violence against women in Europe. Violence against women is regarded as the most severe human rights violation in our country. Every third woman has experienced physical and/or sexual violence by her intimate partner. Violence against women causes both human suffering and high economic costs to societies. In the European Union violence against women costs 226 billion euros each year, which represent almost 2 per cent of the annual EU budget.
Women and girls that face multiple discrimination, such as indigenous women, immigrant women, women with disabilities and women belonging to sexual minorities are often also most vulnerable to violence. Special attention needs to be paid to these groups.
Finland has committed to the prevention and elimination of violence against women through the three P’s – Prevention, Protection and Prosecution– as set out in the Beijing Platform for Action and the European Council Istanbul Convention ratified in Finland in 2015.
Finland has a four year national action plan for implementing the Istanbul Convention. It includes measures for the prevention of violence, protection of victims, bringing perpetrators to justice and enhanced coordination of activities.
Women can’t stay silent.
During more than 100 years multiple women’s organizations have raised their voice to end violence against women. In recent years the governments have started paying deeper attention into violence against women. At present women’s NGO’s work against violence on international, regional and local level in policy and advocacy work, often with a special focus on prevention.
A key element in the successful promotion of women’s rights has been close cooperation of women’s organizations and the female members of the Parliament – this has taken place all the way since women received the full political rights in 1906. Women’s informal networking both in the Parliament and women’s movement have promoted women’s rights and prevented violence against women. Numerous legislative and policy measures have been achieved by cooperation and networking of these active women from different political parties. Women are united even though the official positions of the political parties are different.
The latest example in Finland of women’s cooperation in order to combat violence against women took place just a few days ago. Mediation is still a typical method to be sentenced for women who faced male violence. The women’s network in the Parliament unanimously supported the position of the National Council of Women to prohibit mediation as an alternative dispute resolution process in (relation to) all forms of violence against women. Instead of mediation women who faced violence must have an opportunity to have court proceedings presided over by a neutral judge.
The Finnish criminal code currently defines rape as sexual intercourse that includes the use or threat of violence against the victim, or as sexual intercourse with a person who is unable to defend herself. Women’s organizations have lobbied in order to add the lack of consent as the characteristics of a rape. A citizens’ initiative on the consent law gained 57,000 signatures in six months in 2018 which means that it will be presented to the Parliament after the upcoming Parliamentary elections in April. The objective of the initiative is to re-define rape as non-consensual sexual intercourse.
Gender-based violence, sexual harassment and abuse exist in all spheres of the society. Online harassment, linked to violence against women, is a new phenomenon that needs serious attention. According to a recent UN report, 73 percent of women had reported experiencing online abuse. More than two thirds of female victims of cyberstalking also experience at least one form of physical, or sexual violence, from an intimate partner. Sexual and reproductive rights are a substantial part of the human identity and require specific awareness to be protected.
Women and girls are the main targets of online violence. According to the European Women’s Lobby’s #HerNetHerRights report it is a growing phenomenon and human rights violation. And according to a recent UN report, 73 percent of women had reported experiencing online abuse and are 27 times more likely than men to be harassed online.
In our modern world the vicious circle of violence deepens: more than two third of women victims of cyberstalking also experience at least one form of physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner.
Women and girls are also targets because of what they do. Feminists, female politicians and decision makers, NGO and human rights activists and journalists are at specific risk. The aim to silence powerful and brave women and to limit their participation and freedom of speech can´t be accepted. People should never be afraid to express their opinion or take up public positions.
The Istanbul convention requires online violence as a form of violence against women and girls. This should be recognized in national implementation of the convention, as well as in policies and strategies at all levels. Prevention of online violence requires strong commitment and cooperation between governments, women´s organizations and other actors.
European Women’s Lobby’s campaign organizes education and consultation for the female politicians to avoid online sexual harassment.
MONIKA – Multicultural Women’s Association provides multisectoral services for women and children with an immigrant background who have experienced violence. MONIKA has recently started two forms of online services. They have established safe, easy-to-use online service with several languages to discuss violence-related issues with trained crisis workers.
An online peer support group is a closed form of online service through which people can process experiences of violence together with other group members, under the guidance of a group leader.
Women’s Line and Seta – LGBTI Rights in Finland have organized a pioneering nation-wide anonymous online peer support group for transfeminines who have faced violence. The discussions concentrate on fundamental rights and provide professional support on how to recognize various forms of violence and how to recover.
Physical sexual harassment is prohibited in Finland through the Act on Equality between Women and Men. The National Council of Women of Finland has promoted women’s rights with a multiannual program of gender equality acts. This program has empowered the Finnish society to be more gender equal and received more than 300 acts to promote women’s rights from all spheres of society, from ministries, the Parliament, universities, cities, media and various NGO’s. In addition, a high level forum has committed to the program and gender equality acts. On the international women’s day work-related sexual harassment was on the agenda in the seminar of these various bodies.
In Finland victim support services are developed and mainly provided by women’s organizations. Currently, NGOs are largely responsible for organizing services for victims and perpetrators and low-threshold support services.
Often the majority of services for victims of violence against women, services for victims of sexual violence, stalking and forced marriage, are run by civil society organizations. These organizations have a long-standing tradition of providing shelter, legal advice, medical and psychological counselling. They also run hotlines and other essential services. However, many such services experience funding insecurity and operate in small geographic areas only.
Progress has already been made. Since the ratification of the Istanbul convention, the number of places in shelters for persons affected or at risk of violence has been increased by over 50 per cent. The regional coverage of the shelter network has been improved, and the number of family increased (202). However, being still under a half of the recommended number of the Council of Europe (550). Of the 27 shelters in Finland, 20 are maintained by NGOs and funded by the state. With the constant lobby work of Rusetti – the National Organization for Women with Disabilities women’s shelters are accessible.
In 2017, the first Sexual Assault Support Centre was launched in the Women’s Hospital in Helsinki and more such support centres will be opened around Finland. The victims of rape and other acts of sexual violence should be offered support also after 30 days from the crime. Women’s organizations underline the need for low-threshold support services for non-acute sexual violence. In addition, vulnerable groups such as migrant women, women with disabilities and gender and sexual minorities, should be taken better into account while planning and providing services.
MARAK – moniammatillinen riskinarviointi
MARAK on menetelmä, jolla pyritään auttamaan vakavaa parisuhdeväkivaltaa kokeneita uhreja tai sen uhan alla eläviä henkilöitä. Ideana on laatia moniammatillisessa työryhmässä väkivallan uhrille tai uhan alla elävälle henkilölle turvasuunnitelma ja tätä kautta parantaa tämän turvallisuutta…. effective multi-agency co-operation?
Preventive work requires sufficient resources. Resources should be allocated to NGOs that can provide both the preventive work and support services in the same place.
The European Women’s Lobby Observatory plays a key role in identifying burning issues and monitoring progress towards a Europe free from male violence against women. The EWL Observatory’s main objectives are to identify critical and emerging issues in order to feed the policy work of the EWL to advocate for improved policies and service provision for prevention and support of women victims of male violence. The EWL Observatory on violence against women comprises experts from 30 countries in Europe and several international and European women’s organizations.
In Europe 1 in 3 women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15. 50 women die every week from male domestic violence. Every second woman has faced sexual harassment. 75 % of women in top management positions have experienced sexual harassment at work. 1 in 4 women experience physical and/or sexual violence during pregnancy.
Shelters and services for women victims of violence such as hotlines or rape crisis centers are closing down everywhere in Europe, due to austerity measures and lack of funding.
The work of women’s organizations in combating violence against women must be recognized. Appropriate financial and human resources for activities carried out by non-governmental organizations and civil society to end violence against women must be allocated and secured.
We need a zero tolerance towards all forms of violence. Safe spaces and supportive environment are needed, free from harassment and violence. Sexual harassment and violence against women in, in its all forms, must be brought into daylight: they can no longer remain taboos. Tackling all forms of sexual harassment and violence is required.