Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and domestic violence, and the government enforced the law effectively. Rape is punishable by up to four years’ imprisonment. If the offender uses violence, the offense is considered aggravated, and the penalty may be more severe. The maximum penalty for rape is six years’ imprisonment. All sexual offenses against adults, except sexual harassment, are subject to public prosecution.
There were 1,052 rapes reported in 2015 and 515 in the first six months of the year. Individual reports of an offense may include a series of incidents comprising several criminal acts. In 2015, the most recent period for which government figures were available, 165 persons were convicted of rape, and another 56 persons were convicted of related sexual offenses, such as coercion of an individual into a sexual act and sexual abuse.
Authorities may prosecute domestic abuse under various criminal laws, including laws prohibiting rape, assault and battery, harassment, and disturbing the peace. The penalty for physical domestic violence ranges from a minimum of six months to a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Violence against women, including spousal abuse, continued to be a problem. Violent behavior within a family often went unreported to police. In 2015 police received 32,900 reports of assault offenses (assault, petty assault, aggravated assault). The figures for domestic violence cover violence between present or former family members living in the same domicile; approximately half of these cases involved violence between married or cohabiting couples. According to Statistics Finland, 8,800 persons were victims of domestic violence offenses in 2015, and approximately 68 percent of domestic and intimate partner violence victims were women.
Police may refer potential perpetrators or victims of domestic violence to government social welfare agencies with programs that promote cooperation between cohabiting partners, provide support to victims, and offer anger management counseling and other advisory services for perpetrators.
The government encouraged women to report domestic violence and rape and provided counseling, shelters, and other support services to survivors. It maintained an online portal to provide information, including on safe houses, for victims of violence. The government also funded nongovernmental organizations that provided additional victim services, including a telephone hotline and crisis center.
According to an April 1 article in the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, the number of safe houses available for domestic violence victims continued to be insufficient. According to the article, the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), a research and development institute under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, estimated that establishing a comprehensive network of safe houses would require an annual budget of approximately 40 million euros ($44 million). In 2015 the government allocated 11.3 million euros ($12.4 million) to the existing network of safe houses. The article quoted a THL representative as stating that finding suitable locations for victims also remained a challenge. Walk-in services, shelters, and helplines existed, but many did not offer 24-hour service.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, and the government generally enforced the law. The law defines sexual harassment as a specific, punishable offense. The penalty for sexual harassment ranges from fines up to six months’ imprisonment. The prosecutor general is responsible for investigating sexual harassment complaints. Employers who fail to protect employees from workplace harassment are subject to fines or a maximum of six months in prison. According to the nondiscrimination ombudsman, inappropriate treatment of women in the workplace remained a problem.
Reproductive Rights: In almost all instances, couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.
According to Amnesty International’s 2013 report, Gender Legal Recognition in Finland, one of the preconditions for the government to recognize a person’s gender change is “that he or she has been sterilized or is for some other reason infertile.”
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The government enforced the law. On March 25, the newspaper Turun Sanomat reported that the Turku District Court found a local restaurant owner guilty of discrimination for refusing to serve three customers because of their “ethnic background.” The court fined the restaurant owner for discrimination and ordered the owner to pay compensation of 500 euros ($550) to each customer.
Birth Registration: A child generally acquires citizenship at birth through one or both parents. A child can also acquire citizenship at birth if the child is born in the country and meets certain other criteria, such as if the parents have refugee status in the country or if the child is not eligible for any other country’s citizenship. A local registration office records all births in the Population Information System immediately.
Child Abuse: The law considers all sexual offenses against minors subject to public prosecution, and sexual offenses against a defenseless person (intoxicated or with a disability) are considered as severe as rape.
There was pattern of child abuse by persons under the influence of alcohol or other substances. Assault offenses directed at children under the age of 18 increased from the year before. In 2015 an estimated 5,900 children were victims of abuse. Minors accounted for 18 percent of all victims of assault offenses reported to police, according to Statistics Finland.
The ombudsman for children’s affairs under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health continued to raise public awareness of child abuse and promote the government’s child, youth, and family policy program.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The country prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and authorities enforced the law effectively. Manufacturing, selling, renting, importing, or exporting sexually obscene pictures or recordings of children carries a maximum prison sentence of two years, and aggravated distribution of sexually obscene pictures of children carries a sentence of four months to six years in prison. The law prohibits purchase of sexual services from minors and covers “grooming” (enticement of a child), including in a virtual environment or through mobile telephone contacts.
The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The law regards a person whose age cannot be determined, but who can reasonably be assumed to be under the age of 18, as a child. Sexual abuse of a child carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison, while aggravated sexual abuse of a child carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The law considers intercourse with a minor an aggravated offense with penalties ranging from one to 10 years in prison. The law defines rape of a minor (under 18 years of age) as aggravated rape, the penalty for which ranges from two to 10 years’ imprisonment. In 2015 there were 1,230 reported cases of sexual abuse against children; 87 percent of the child victims of sexual abuse were girls and 13 percent were boys, according to Statistics Finland.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
According to Statistics Finland, in 2015 the Jewish community numbered 1,133 persons, most living in the Helsinki area.
The website Magneettimedia, known for its anti-Semitic content, continued to post discriminatory statements online during the year. The site’s publisher denied that the website was anti-Semitic, instead calling it “critical of the Zionist elite” that included “both Christians and Jews.” In July it posted an article, “Nelson Mandela–Terrorist,” that contained many anti-Semitic aspersions.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in all fields, including employment, education, access to health care, the judicial system, and the provision of other state services. The government effectively enforced these provisions.
Authorities generally enforced laws mandating access to buildings for persons with disabilities, although many older buildings remained inaccessible. Most forms of public transportation were accessible, but problems continued in some geographically isolated areas.
Official law enforcement figures recorded 14 cases of crimes based on bias towards persons with disabilities, including eight physical assaults, one case of damage to property, two thefts, and three cases of threats.
There was some societal tension between ethnic Finns and minority groups, and some racist or xenophobic incidents occurred.
In 2014, the most recent year for which data was available, official figures recorded 829 racist and xenophobic hate crimes. Of these, one was a homicide, 461 were physical assaults including three attempted killings, 80 cases of damage to property or vandalism, 33 cases of theft, 132 cases of threats, 38 cases of disturbance of the peace, and 84 other crimes. Among foreign citizens resident in the country, Somalis experienced the highest frequency of racially motivated crimes. The law does not have a specific category for “race-related crimes” or “hate crimes,” but the presence of racism as a motive or partial motive to any other criminal act is a cause for aggravating the sentence.
According to historical data from the minority ombudsman, discrimination against the country’s approximately 10,000-12,000 Roma extended to all areas of life, mainly but not limited to housing, employment, and access to private services, resulting in their effective exclusion from society. The Romani minority was the most frequent target of racially motivated discrimination, followed by Russian-speakers, Somalis, and Sami. Ethnic Finns were also occasionally victims of racially motivated crimes for associating with members of minority communities.
On March 14, a Southwest Finland District Court judge found two restaurant servers guilty of discrimination against six Romani customers at a Turku eatery in 2015. Contrary to restaurant practice, the servers demanded that the Romani customers pay for their food in advance. The court ordered the servers to pay a fine and pay the victims a total of 3,000 euros ($3,300).
A seasonal influx of adult Romani beggars from Romania to Helsinki and other large cities continued during the summer months. On April 17, Helsingin Sanomat reported that the deputy parliamentary ombudsmen accused Helsinki city authorities of forcing 12 Roma from Eastern Europe to sleep outdoors in temperatures of -13 degrees Fahrenheit during the night of January 7-8.
Social workers continued an information campaign to educate Roma arriving in the country about local child welfare laws. Helsinki city officials and the Deaconess Institute distributed leaflets in English and Romanian highlighting Finnish laws, including those forbidding children from sleeping in cars or on the street. During the three months of summer, a Romanian police officer assisted Finnish police in dealing with problems involving the Romanian Romani community.
According to a study by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, ethnic minorities faced discrimination at the recruitment stage in the labor market (see section 7.d.).
According to research reported by the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner in 2013 (the most recent data available), 41 percent of young Somalis in the country did not go to school or work, compared with approximately 5 percent of young persons in the majority population. Statistics Finland estimated the Somali population in the country to be approximately 17,000 at the end of 2014.
In January a Helsinki City Council alternate member, Olli Sademies, was expelled from the Finns Party and its group in the council for suggesting on Facebook that immigrants from Africa be limited to three children and that African male immigrants be sterilized. In August the prosecutor charged Sademies with incitement of racial hatred.
The government strongly encouraged tolerance and respect for minority groups and sought to address racial discrimination. All government ministries included antiracism provisions in their educational information, personnel policy, and training programs. The government monitored the treatment of national, racial, and ethnic minorities by police, border guards, and teachers. Its nondiscrimination ombudsman monitored and assisted victims of discrimination. The ombudsman supervised compliance with the prohibition of ethnic discrimination and promoted the status and legal protection of all groups exposed to discrimination.
The constitution provides for the protection of the Sami language and culture, and the government financially supported these efforts. The Sami, who constituted less than 0.1 percent of the population, have full political and civil rights as citizens as well as a measure of autonomy in their civil and administrative affairs. A 21-member Sami parliament (Samediggi), popularly elected by the Sami, is responsible for the group’s language, culture, and matters concerning their status as an indigenous people. The Sami parliament is an independent body but operates under the purview of the Ministry of the Interior. It can adopt legally binding resolutions, propose initiatives, and provide policy guidance.
The law provides the right for Sami speakers to use Sami when accessing health services in their homeland area. YLE provided regular domestic service Sami-language television news broadcasts.
Despite constitutional protections, members of the Sami community continued to protest the lack of explicit legislation to safeguard Sami land, resources, and economic livelihood. One major irritant in the Sami peoples’ relationship with the government is a disagreement over plans to open vast tracts of forest used by the Sami people for generations to graze reindeer for commercial use.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression.
In 2014, the last year for which data were available, official law-enforcement figures recorded 40 hate crimes based on bias against LGBTI persons, including 21 physical assaults, one case of disturbance of the peace, four cases of damage to property, nine cases of threats, and five other crimes.
On February 17, parliament approved legislative amendments to allow same-sex couples to change their registered partnerships to marriages by notifying the civil magistrate. The changes, to become effective in March 2017, also remove constraints on transgender individuals that previously required them to be single when their gender transition is recognized.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Between January and October, the nondiscrimination ombudsman oversaw 751 discrimination cases, 38 of which involved religious discrimination (5 percent).
There were isolated incidents in which politicians made discriminatory remarks on social media aimed at members of the Muslim community. On July 19 on Facebook, the then youth leader of the Finns Party, Sebastian Tynkkynen, posted that the country must stop what he called a phenomenon of Islamification, stating “the fewer Muslims we have, the safer.” In his post he wrote that “Islam needs to be ripped out of Finland” and that, although the country cannot limit freedom of speech, it should “start up the reverse vending machine at full swing and empty Finland of those people who have no reason to be in our country.” On August 8, following a complaint from a member of the public, police in the northwestern city of Oulu started a preliminary investigation into whether Tynkkynen incited racial hatred on social media. Tynkkynen later publicly resigned as the Finns Party’s youth leader.
On August 31, the Ministry of the Interior stated that, while violent extremist activity was “moderate” in the country, the arrival of large numbers of migrants had led to increased activity by extreme right-wing and antiforeigner groups. In 2015 authorities recorded 33 suspected cases of violent right-wing extremism and another 16 by antifascist and anarchist elements. The neo-Nazi SVL was suspected in most of the cases (see also section 1.a.).