Political clout doesn’t translate into justice for women in Finland

As usual, Finland has shown up with high marks on one of those “quality of life” studies. This report was done by The Daily Beast, and puts the country as number 5 in the world in a “Best Places for Women” article.

Finland probably deserves the award, especially when it is compared with the lowest places on the list. I am talking about country’s like Chad and Yemen, where women are virtual slaves.

Yet, there is one intriguing thing about the statistics for Finland in this report. Of the top 5 countries, it ranks tops in the area of politics. However, the nation has the lowest ranking among these “winners” when it comes to justice.

Finland has the most ministers in government of any country in the world. It’s longtime president, Tarja Halonen, is female. Thus, the political clout of women in Finland doesn’t surprise me one iota. 

Halonen herself is a former Minister of Justice. In fact, the current one is a female, also.

What I am wondering, however, as an interested foreigner, is why such political influence doesn’t translate into more just treatment for women. What is it about Finland that makes this statistic (a score of 80 compared with a score of 100 for politics) so low?

I am really just musing. I do not have enough interest or time to do a research study on the issue.

However, I have done a little Internet surfing and thinking on my personal experience. My findings of course are purely unscientific and anecdotal.

1)  The Women’s Justice Center in Santa Rosa California writes that  at least 15,000 women are sex trafficed into Finland every year.

2) Amnesty International reports in  a study of rape in the Nordic countries this example of injustice:

In Nordic countries, for example, the use of violence or threats of violence determine the seriousness of rape rather than the violation of a woman’s sexual autonomy. The report Case Closed: Rape and Human Rights in the Nordic Countries, documents one case in Finland where a man forced a woman to have sexual intercourse in the disabled toilet of a car park by banging her head against the wall and twisting her arm behind her back. In the prosecutor’s opinion, this was not rape as the violence used was of slight degree. The man was convicted of coercion into sexual intercourse and sentenced to a conditional (suspended) seven-month prison term.

By comparison, refusal to undertake compulsory military service, including civilian service, in Finland is punishable with a prison sentence of at least six months.

In a 2005 survey published by Finland’s National Research Institute of Legal Policy, 43.5 percent of the women who responded (70%, a high number) said they had been a victim of sexual or physical violence from a man after having reached 15 years of age. Yet, two-thirds of the women said that they had not resorted to getting help from official sources of support.

Women apparently are becoming more apt to report the violence since an earlier survey according to the study, which is to Finland’s credit. However, if Amnesty International’s example is prevalent, it is understandable why women would not go to the authorities. Why bother?

A United Nations study on women in Europe claims that only 14 percent of rape cases result in a conviction. In addition, 19 percent of women believe it is sometimes justifiable for a man to beat his wife.  I do not know where Finland lies statistically on these issues, but if either scenario holds true in the country, it might explain why women do not report crimes so much here.

In my first tour in Finland (I am on my third now), I was coming home from work in the dark one night (not uncommon in the winter!). As I got off the bus to go to my flat, I passed some obviously drunken Finnish young men and a woman.

From across the street, I watched as one of the men either pushed or punched the woman and she slipped on the icy pavement next to a grocery store. I went home and called the police.

As countries go, Finland is one of the least violent in the world. But recalling this incident does give me pause, as does the anecdotal information I have collected along the way regarding some of the seedier aspects of family life here.

I do know if Finland does have a weakness, it is in its massive alcohol abuse. Even the most unobservant foreigner here is aware of it.

Leo Durocher, a famous baseball baseball manager in America, once said,”Statistics are for losers”. Sometimes I think these quality of life studies are, too.

Quality of life is in the eye of the beholder in my view. My personal experience in Finland has been quite positive overall.

I just wonder if someone with more credentials and inspiration than this guy will take it upon themselves to look at the justice issue for women here a little more closely. 



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