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16th international Helvi Sipilä seminar My Body is Mine – Legislation, Consent and Women’s Rights

International Helvi Sipilä Seminar at the CSW since 2006

Sexual violence is a serious human rights violation and is recognized as a form of gender-based violence under international law. The CEDAW Committee requires States parties to take all appropriate measures to counter it and recommends that the definition of sexual crimes is based on the lack of freely given consent. With the title of My Body is Mine – Legislation, Consent and Women’s Rights, the 16th International Helvi Sipilä Seminar will examine sexual violence as a human rights violation and explore measures, including legislation, education, cooperation, and negotiation, needed to counter it. Finland’s ongoing legal reform on sexual offences will be compared to similar developments globally.

The Seminar takes place on the eve of International Women’s Day, on Monday 7 March 2022 at 15–16.30 CET (16–17.30 Helsinki time). The event is organized online as a webinar and in English.



Opening remarks: Finland’s consent-based legislative reform on sexual offences
Anna-Maja Henriksson, Minister of Justice of Finland

Comment: Legislation, Consent, and Women’s Rights from the perspective of women’s organization
Saara-Sofia Sirén, President of the National Council of Women of Finland, MP

Keynote speech: Sexual equality: the importance of consent-based definitions of rape
Jacqui Hunt, Global Lead – End Sexual Violence at Equality Now

Panel discussion
Puja Mandal, Rise Up! Young Woman Lead at Young Women’s Christian Association YWCA of India
Clara Berglund, Secretary General at the Swedish Women’s Lobby
Päivi Kannisto, Chief, Peace and Security at UN Women

Moderator: Merja Kähkönen, Advocacy Coordinator, The National Council of Women of Finland

Closing words
Fatim Diarra, Chairperson of the Coalition of Finnish Women’s Associations NYTKIS

Download the Concept Note here

Helvi Sipilä was a Finnish lawyer, diplomat and the first female Assistant Secretary-General of the UN. Sipilä received numerous national and international awards including twelve honorary doctorates, and she was granted the honorary title of State Minister in 2001. Helvi Sipilä held leadership position in several associations, including the International Federation of Women Lawyers and the International Council of Women. Helvi Sipilä’s profession in law was exceptional at the time. When she announced the opening of her own law firm in 1943, she became the second woman in the Finnish history to practice as a lawyer. Private entrepreneurship enabled her to engage in extensive social activities, including service as a member of governmental missions.

While Assistant Secretary-General, she was appointed Secretary-General of the UN World Conference on Women in Mexico 1975. She continued to work as a consultant for the UN until 1981, co-creating the UN Fund for the Advancement of Women in 1976, later known as UNIFEM (now part of UN Women), during the UN Decade for Women 1976–1985.

Helvi Sipilä’s legacy lives on in the International Helvi Sipilä Seminar Series, which addresses challenging issues that affect women and their lives locally and globally in the 21st century. The first Seminar was organized at the CSW50 in 2006. The 16th Seminar is organized by the Finnish Federation of Graduate Women, UN Women Finland, the Young Women’s Christian Association of Finland YWCA, the Coalition of Finnish Women’s Associations – NYTKIS and the National Council of Women of Finland.

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