Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and the government enforced the law effectively. Rape is punishable by up to four years’ imprisonment. If the offender used violence, the offense is considered aggravated, and the penalty may be more severe. The maximum penalties are six years’ imprisonment for rape and 10 years for aggravated rape. All sexual offenses against adults, except sexual harassment, are subject to public prosecution. Sexual offenses against a defenseless person (intoxicated or with a disability) are considered as severe as rape.
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, as one out of every five women reported in a survey by the Ministry of Interior in May that they have been a victim of intimate partner violence. In July the Helsinki District Court found a man guilty in the strangling death of a woman and sentenced him to life in prison. Courts had convicted the man on three prior occasions for killing women by strangulation; he had been released after completing his prison sentence on each occasion.
The government body that manages shelters for victims of domestic violence reported a 9-percent increase in demand for its services in 2017 over the previous year, and victim rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) highlighted lack of sufficient shelter space as a high priority. The national police carried out a number of new training initiatives to improve response to domestic violence complaints and emphasize a victim-centered approach to early abuse investigations. According to Statistics Finland, in 2017 approximately 69 percent of the victims of domestic and intimate-partner violence were women.
The government encouraged women to report rape and domestic violence and provided counseling, shelters, and other support services to survivors.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C under the statutes for assault, aggravated assault, and minor assault, although prosecutors have never indicted any perpetrators under the relevant statutes. The law considers the risk of being compelled to undergo FGM/C sufficient grounds for asylum. NGOs reported cases in which citizens were taken abroad for the purpose of undergoing FGM/C. Police reported they were investigating a small number of cases of suspected FGM/C, although no cases went to trial by year’s end.
Sexual Harassment: The law defines sexual harassment as a specific, punishable offense with penalties ranging from fines up to six months’ imprisonment. Employers who fail to protect employees from workplace harassment are subject to the same penalties. The prosecutor general is responsible for investigating sexual harassment complaints. The government generally enforced the law.
On June 18, the Helsinki District Court fined Teuvo Hakkarainen, a member of parliament from the True Finns Party, 3,060 euros ($3,520) for assault and sexual harassment of his fellow parliamentarian, Veera Ruoho (National Coalition Party). According to True Finns’ parliamentary leader Leena Meri, the group contemplated no further disciplinary action against Hakkarainen, although party chairman Jussi Halla-aho promised to “talk” to Hakkarainen about the matter. The prosecutor announced he would appeal the sentence.
A survey published in February by the Confederation of Finnish Industries reported that 12 percent of the female respondents and 2 percent of the male respondents had experienced sexual harassment during the preceding year.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The government enforced the law effectively.
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 immediately.
Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse, defining children as individuals younger than age 16. The law defines rape of a minor (younger than 18 years) as aggravated rape. Rape of a child carries a minimum penalty of one-year imprisonment and a maximum of six years. Child negligence and physical or psychological violence carry penalties of up to six months in prison and up to two years in prison, respectively. Aggravating factors may increase the length of the prison term.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 18, but the law allows exceptions. Minors who want to marry must submit an application to the Ministry of Justice providing a justification based on religious beliefs, cultural practices, or pregnancy. The minister of justice makes the final ruling on whether to approve a request to marry.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The country prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, including the sale, offering, or procuring of children for prostitution, and child pornography. 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. Authorities enforced the law effectively.
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 younger than 18, as a child.
From January to March, police received 329 reports of sexual exploitation of children, an increase of 17.9 percent over the same period in 2017. The MTV television station reported that on July 20 the Northern Karelian District Court convicted a 51-year-old man of six counts of sexual exploitation of children between the ages of 10 and 13. The court also convicted him of the aggravated sexual assault of a minor close relative. The court sentenced the man to three years and 10 months in prison.
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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
Government statistics and Jewish leaders place the size of the Jewish population between 1,500 and 2,500 individuals, most living in the Helsinki area.
The Jewish community continued to be the target of harassment, with anti-Semitic acts accounting for 3.8 percent of all hate crimes reported in 2017, despite Jews’ making up less than 1 percent of the population. High-profile Jewish sites in Helsinki were regular targets for graffiti during the year.
Major consumer brands continued to boycott the Karkkainen chain of department stores due to anti-Semitic public statements by the company’s owner, Juha Karkkainen. Karkkainen funded the newspaper KauppaSuomi, a periodical with a claimed circulation of 270,000, which published anti-Semitic editorials.
In response to reports in 2017 about the high number of hate crimes targeting the Jewish population, on January 14, then-speaker of parliament Maria Lohela spoke publically at an event at the Helsinki Synagogue and pledged the government’s support to defend all Jews in the country.
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 disabilities in all fields, including the provision of 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. Despite public notifications from the Ministry of Justice regarding a need for accessible polling facilities, disabled voters continued to encounter inaccessible polling stations or stations where they had to compromise the secrecy of their ballot in order to vote.
Most forms of public transportation were accessible, but problems continued in some geographically isolated areas.
The law does not include a specific “hate crime” statute; instead, the presence of racism as a motive is considered a factor in sentencing. In 2017, the most recent year for which data were available, official police figures recorded 1,165 complaints of crimes motivated by discrimination based on ethnicity, an 8 percent increase compared to 2016 but on par with 2015 levels. Among the categories of victims, the sharpest increase was seen against the Muslim population. Of these, 236 were physical assaults, 70 cases of damage to property or theft, 302 verbal assaults, and 223 other crimes.
The Romani community numbered 10,000 to 12,000 persons. They reported discrimination in employment and daily life. For example, in August a court found a taxi driver in the city of Turku guilty of ethnic discrimination after he refused to drive two Roma, a mother and child. The driver admitted in court that he denied service to the two individuals based on their ethnicity. The court fined the driver 2,800 euros ($3,220).
In addition to the Romani minority, Russian-speakers, Somalis, and Sami experienced discrimination. Persons of Somali heritage in particular reported being stopped and asked for proof of residence by police, who are empowered to enforce immigration laws. Somali-Finns also reported persistent discrimination in employment. A survey conducted by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights in 2015-16 and released in December 2017 found 45 percent of citizens of Sub-Saharan African descent experienced discrimination.
On August 18, the NRM and the Nationalist Alliance marched in Turku to commemorate the first anniversary of a terrorist attack. At least three subnational leaders of the True Finns Party participated in the Nationalist Alliance’s march. An anti-Nazi counterdemonstration was organized to coincide with the Nationalist Alliance’s march.
The government strongly encouraged tolerance and respect for minority groups, sought to address racial discrimination, and assisted victims.
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 Justice. It can adopt legally binding resolutions, propose initiatives, and provide policy guidance.
Despite constitutional protections, members of the Sami community continued to protest a lack of explicit laws safeguarding Sami land, resources, language, and economic livelihood and to call for greater inclusion in political decision-making processes. The Sami parliament and the Ministry of Justice sought to resolve ongoing disagreements concerning criteria for membership in the Sami community and voting rights.
Sami activists continued to dispute the 2017 law restricting traditional fishing practices in the Teno River on the grounds they were unable to exercise their free, prior, and informed consent in its drafting. In September activists protested along the proposed route for an Arctic railroad that would connect southern Finland with either the Barents or Norwegian Sea, citing its effect of bisecting reindeer grazing land and increasing related mining activities.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Nonetheless, the law requires that a transgender person present a medical statement affirming their gender identity and a certificate of infertility before the government will legally recognize their gender identity. A certificate of infertility is conditional upon medical sterilization of a transgender person. While the law prohibits “conversion therapy” in medical settings, it continued to be practiced in private and informal associations.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
In 2016, the latest year for which data is available, the nondiscrimination ombudsman received 891 discrimination complaints, 37 (or 4 percent) of which involved religious discrimination.
According to the Ministry of Interior’s annual report Violent Extremism in Finland–Situation Overview 1/2018, police identified 50 violent extremist offenses during 2017, including assault, ethnic agitation, and attempted aggravated assault. Of those offenses, approximately one dozen were committed by right-wing extremists, which the ministry described as having “the biggest impact on everyday security.” The ministry investigates separately offenses committed by organized national or international hate groups.
In January the Helsinki Court of Appeal extended by three months the two-year prison sentence given to NRM leader Jesse Torniainen for aggravated assault against a counterprotester, who later died, at the Helsinki Railway Square in 2016.