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Human rights in Finland

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Human rights in Finland refers to freedom of speech, religion, association and assembly as upheld in law and in practice.[1] Individuals are guaranteed basic rights under the constitution, by legislative acts, and in treaties relating to human rights ratified by the Finnish government. The constitution provides for an independent judiciary.[1]

Finland has been ranked above-average among the world's countries in democracy,[2] press freedom,[3] and human development.[4]

Amnesty International has expressed concerns regarding some issues in Finland, such as asylum-seekers facing detention in unsuitable facilities, allegations of permitting stopovers of CIA rendition flights, the imprisonment of objectors to military service, and societal discrimination against Romani people and members of other ethnic and linguistic minorities.[5][6]


Finland declared independence December 6, 1917. Previously, Finland was an autonomous part of Russia(1809–1917) and Sweden (1253–1808).

Justice system

Capital punishment

Independent Finland has never had the death penalty in its criminal law in peacetime. The last execution in peacetime was in 1825. The last wartime executions were carried out in 1944. Finland supported the international proposal to abolish the capital punishment throughout the world.[citation needed]

Search and seizure

Finnish police were criticised by the Parliamentary Deputy-Ombudsman for improper search and seizure procedures.[7] European Court of Human Rights has leveled similar criticism.[8] Unlike in many other countries, no search warrant issued by a court is needed to conduct search and seizure.[9]

Elections and civil contribution

Finland has had universal suffrage and eligibility since 1907. Thus, Finland was one of the first countries to fully adopt modern equality in elections for all adult citizens, regardless of social class or landownership, and both men and women were able to vote and stand for election. Electoral privileges given to the higher estates were abolished. Finnish citizens are able to vote in national and municipal elections, and European Union citizens in municipal elections. 3.6% of residents are foreign citizens.[10]

Two general referendums have taken place since the Finnish Declaration of Independence in 1917: Finnish prohibition referendum, 1931 and Finnish European Union membership referendum, 1994.

Citizens may ask the parliament to consider bills through citizens' initiatives. This legislation has been in place since 2012. The first citizens' initiative to gain enough signatures was the ban of fur farming. Some 70,000 citizens signed it within the required time period.[11] The second initiative, for equal marriage for all adults, gathered the minimum demand of 50,000 supporters within a couple of hours. The right to same-sex marriage initiative will proceed to Parliament in September 2013.[12]


Women's rights

Finland was the third country in the world, following New Zealand and Australia, where women could vote, and Finland was the first country in the world where women could both vote and run for parliamentary election., starting in 1907. The first female government minister was Miina Sillanpää, who served as the Second Minister for Social Affairs in 1926–27. President Tarja Halonen (in office 2000-2012) is the first female president in Finnish history.

The first women director of a post office was Charlotta Backman in Porvoo in 1878. Ms. Vera Hjält (1857–1947) started a factory for her patented carpenter bench in 1886. In 1903, she became the first woman in Finland to be made a trade inspector, solving work strikes and disputes, including discrimination of women at work. She was a Member of Parliament for ten years. Tekla Hultin (born 1864) was the first woman to receive a doctorate from the University of Helsinki (then Helsingin Keisarillinen Aleksanterin yliopisto), studied in Russia and France and was a Member of Parliament for 15 years. Tekla’s mother wanted to study also, but she was not able to do it before her father’s death based on resistance from her father. Thus, human rights are subject to not only in law but also the common attitudes in the societies. Finnish women had to apply for an exemption based on their sex for the state jobs until 1926. Complete equality did not take place until in 1975.[13]

Finnish women can inherit and own property. Aurora Karamzin (1808–1902) inherited from her ex-husband Russian Paul Demidov. After the death of her second husband, Andrei Karamzin, Aurora Karamzin took care of the large land and industry property by herself. At the time, serfdom still existed in Russia until 1861 and Finland had no independence from Russia before 1917, this Finnish woman Aurora Karamzin made social security work in Finland and Russia, including education, medical aid and founding the still existing Helsingin Diakonissalaitos in 1867.[13]

Women priests were inaugurated in Finland on 6 March 1988. The first woman bishop was elected in 2010.[14]

According to Amnesty International director Frank Johansson, the violence against women in Finland should be reduced. Every year 15–20 Finnish women die by violence at the hands of their husbands or ex-husbands. The problem should be recognized and the support services expanded.[15]

Gender equality at work

The UN Human Rights Committee has expressed concern about gender inequality in Finnish working life.[16]

Men receive 8% higher salaries than women for the same work in Finland in 2013. Employers provide more training for men, while women apply for training in greater numbers.[17]

Companies with more than 30 employees have to make a gender equality plan to ensure fair treatment of sexes at workplace. As stated in August 2013 many companies neglect to obey the Finnish law. Further the Finland's Ombudsman for Equality lacks personnel resources to enforce the law.[18]

Several studies have shown that women leaders have obtained better profit than men leaders in the business in Finland.

Children's rights

Finland protects the rights of children. Finland has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).[19] Working, begging or any misuse is not allowed.[20]

Research data about the number and backgrounds of teen prostitutes is completely non-existent in Finland. Buying or attempting to buy sex from a minor is a crime in Finland and legal responsibility for the deed always lies with the buyer.[21]

Indigenous rights

Finland has not signed the international Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples or Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (ILO-convention 169) by February 2013.[22] Norway and Denmark have ratified the ILO-convention 169, but Finland, Sweden, Russia, United Kingdom and United States have not as of March 2014.[23] President Sauli Niinistö does not support signing the treaty because, in his opinion, it is mainly intended to repair the damages caused by colonialism, rendering it irrelevant for Finland.[24] The government does not give land ownership rights on ethnic grounds to the Sami people; they have only the same rights as other Finnish citizens. A minority of the Sami people are employed in reindeer herding, where large land areas are necessary. Legally, reindeer herding areas are recognized, but much of it is either in government or private ownership. If this definition would be used as the ILO convention requires, Lapland and Finland north of Oulu, i.e., half of Finland, would be potentially contested. 5% of the population of Lapland is Sami.[24]


This has repeatedly been criticised, e.g. in October 2011. The United Nations human rights committee asked to cancel the aimed slaughter of reindeers in Nellime Ivalo in October 2011. Without this appeal it would have taken place in the first week of October. Finland has 6 months time to answer the UN. The reindeer owners and Forest Administration (Metsähallitus) have a long dispute in the area of the forests.[25]

Military service and civilian service

Finland has compulsory military service. Mandatory options of civilian or military service were of unequal duration: civilian service 13 months, or one month longer than the longest conscript service (conscript officers and Non-commissioned officers and certain specialists such as certain vehicle operators), 12 months, and 5 months longer than the average service in army, 8 months. Rebuttal of criticism of the length of civilian service often point out that whereas conscripts are often on duty around the clock (especially in the field), civilian servicemen often only work during office hours. However, an act enacted in 2008 changed civilian service to 12 months. Some 25% of conscripts serve 12 months, with the large majority serving 6 months.[26]

Arms trade to undemocratic countries

Finland granted arms export licenses to 25 countries in 2011 that are troublesome by the EU criteria.

€100 million weapon exports of Finnish manufacturer Patria to Saudi Arabia was the third largest weapons export deal of the 2000s. Saudi Arabia is an undemocratic country with no parliament and an autocratic government run by the Saudi royal family. Political parties and trade unions are banned. Freedom of assembly and freedom of association do not exist. Saudi Arabia sent troops against Bahraini pro-democracy demonstrations.The Ministry of Defence granted licenses to export sniper rifles and ammunition in October 2011 to Kazakhstan, where there is no press freedom and there are indications of human rights violations.[27]

Migrant workers in Finland

As of 2011, Finland had not signed the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.[19]

Police estimate the annual loss of taxes to the Finnish state by the misuse of migrant workers as 600–700 million euros. The misuse of migrant workers has been more and more frequently in the courts and news in past years. Several Estonian migrant workers have worked without written agreements, without social security and endured long days without a minimum wage, as required by law. According to Helsingin Sanomat, many Estonians are not paid at all.[28] In December 2011, a Chinese restaurant in Ideapark Lempäälä was judged to pay 298,000 € for migrant work losses in tax, wages and penalties.[29]

The Minister of Labour, Lauri Ihalainen, called for fair play in the labour market in January 2013. He drew attention to underpaid foreign workers and zero contracts of work that undermine employment security or other workers’ rights.[30]

Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant construction project

Several trade unions have negotiated for migrant workers in the Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant construction project.[31][32]

Polish migrant workers at Elektrobudowa had an unpaid wages and trade union membership dispute in November 2011. The trade unions took the case to court on behalf of union members. Thirty-two people were fired for joining the trade union "Sähköliitto". The Finnish trade union leaders were most concerned about the common labor rights and civil rights of all workers in Finland.[33]


Foreign Minister of Finland, Erkki Tuomioja, along with Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, demanded stricter observance of human rights in the EU in March 2013.[34]

According to Finnwatch in 2014, several Finnish companies have acted unethically abroad. Organization demand the respect of human rights of Finnish companies also abroad.[35]


The US human rights organisation Open Society Foundations published in January 2013 details of alleged secret CIA flights that operated via Finland, and ca 50 other countries. Amnesty has criticized Finland for the alleged flights.[36] Finnish government did not approve rendition flights. However, it cannot be guaranteed that flights did not take place without Finnish government approval.[37]

E.g. Swedish program “kalla fakta” reported in 2014 that Stora Enso use childwork in its activity in Pakistan. Company has been aware of it since 2012.[38]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Freedom in the World 2013: Finland". Freedom House. 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-30. 
  2. "Scores of the Democracy Ranking 2012". Global Democracy Ranking. 2012. Retrieved 2013-09-27. 
  3. "Freedom of the Press: Finland". Freedom House. 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-27. 
  4. "Statistics of the Human Development Report". United Nations Development Programme. 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-27. 
  5. "Annual Report 2013: Finland". Amnesty International. 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-27. 
  6. "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012: Finland". U.S. State of Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. 2012. Retrieved 2013-09-27. 
  11. Parliament mulls how to deal with citizens’ initiatives yle 13.3.2013
  12. Gay marriage initiative proceeds to Parliament with 162,000 backers Yle 19.9.2013
  13. 13.0 13.1 Kaari Utrio, Kalevan tyttäret Suomalaisen naisen tarina, Amanita 1987 Invalid language code.
  14. Finnish church marks 25 years of women priests yle 11.3.2013
  15. Espoon surmien ytimestä paljastuu naisiin kohdistuva väkivalta, HS 11.1.2010 C5, toiminnanjohtaja Frank Johansson Amnesty International Invalid language code.
  16. Finland lags behind in business world equality for women yle 14.8.2013
  17. Gender wage gap persists
  18. Equality of sexes poorly enforced at workplaces yle 15.8.2013
  19. 19.0 19.1 Amnesty International Annual Report 2011 page 372-273
  20. Helsinki ei hyväksy lasten kerjäämistä 5.4.2012
  21. Teen prostitution a silent problem in Finland Yle News 3.6.2013 15
  22. Finland last to sign indigenous rights treaty? yle8.2.2013
  23. [1]
  24. 24.0 24.1
  25. YK pyysi säästämään Nellimen porot HS 27.9.2011 A6
  27. Finland grants arms deals to human rights violators yle 20.3.2013
  28. Virolaisilta huijataan palkkoja Suomessa, Helsingin Sanomat 3.4.2012 A4
  29. HS 13.12.2011 A9
  30. Minister compares underpaying foreigners to slave trade yle 4.2.2013
  31. Ammattiliittojen työmaan saarto peruuntui viime hetkellä Kansan Uutiset 18.11.2011
  32. Puolalaisille hyvitys, Olkiluodon saarto peruuntui, Sovinnosta huolimatta kolmen miljoonan palkkakiista on vielä auki Kansan Uutiset 2.11.2012
  33. Sähköliitto: Olkiluodossa irtisanottu liittoon kuulumisen vuoksi Turun Sanomat 18.11.2011
  34. Finland pressing for more EU human rights powers yle
  35. Suomen otettava ryhtiliike yritysten ihmisoikeusvastuun varmistamisessa Finnwatch 28.01.2014
  36. Report details alleged CIA stopovers in Helsinki yle 6.2.2013
  38. Stora Enso kände till barnarbet Dagens Nyheter 2014-03-09 Invalid language code.

External links

U.S. State Department Annual Reports

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