UPR of Finland: Women still face violence and discrimination
Friday, 25 May 2012 16:18


On 23 May 2012, Finland was reviewed under the UPR. Whereas in many other reviews speaking time had to be reduced and equally shared between those registered on the speakers’ list, only 43 States indicated their desire to take the floor during Finland’s review. Thus, Human Rights Council member States were given three minutes and observer States two minutes. Many of the States did not use all of their allocated time.


The delegation of Finland was headed by Ms Heidi Hautala, Minister for International Development. She was accompanied by representatives of several other Ministries such as the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Employment and Economy and the Defence Ministry. In her opening statement she reaffirmed Finland’s commitment to the UPR process, considering that it allows for the reinforcement of other human rights mechanisms. She indicated that human rights ‘have strong standing in Finnish society’. She underlined the importance of the universality of the UPR, stating that this must be defended. She added that with the UPR ‘we can all learn from each other’.


Ms Hautala then proceeded to provide some answers to States that had communicated questions prior to the interactive dialogue. The issues raised were mainly about the newly created national human rights institution, domestic violence, discrimination, racism and hate speech, ratification of ILO Convention 169 concerning indigenous and tribal peoples and the concrete plan on how to reach the Millennium Development Goal of committing 0.7 % of its GNP to Overseas Development Assistance (ODA).  Namibia asked whether Finland could take more account of the traditional values of States receiving ODA from Finland. Finland replied that traditional values are taken in account but that Finland ‘promotes a universal approach to human rights’. Most of these topics were also touched upon during the interactive dialogue that followed.


 The main recommendations resulting from the interactive dialogue were the following:

  • To ratify ILO Convention 169, the  Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (CMW), the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,  and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
  • To take additional measures to combat domestic violence against women including the allocation of additional funds to ensure the effective implementation of the National Action Plan to prevent violence against women
  • To ensure that women victims of trafficking are recognised as such and provided with protection and assistance; to conduct necessary training for law enforcement officials to properly identify and protect victims of trafficking
  • To ensure that rape is categorised as a sexual violation; to train educators and health workers to identify signs of sexual abuse in children
  • To provide a framework to prohibit the use of child labour by Finnish companies engaged with businesses abroad and multinational companies headquartered in Finland
  • Take further measures to address the gender pay gap and equality between both sexes
  • To continue efforts in addressing violence against women and children
  • To establish broad public outreach programmes to discourage discrimination against ethnic minority residents in Finland
  • To take practical measures to prevent and combat racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic propaganda and hate speech in the media and on the Internet


Finland was congratulated for its dedication to human rights, the steps taken to implement the recommendations from the first cycle, and for the setting up of the national human rights institution (NHRI), the Human Rights Centre. Nevertheless, some questions were raised pertaining to the NHRI’s action plan, its compliance with the Paris Principles on the status of NHRIs, and its funding. Finland reassured the UPR working group that the Human Rights Centre will comply with the Paris Principles, and that its action plan and budget will be reviewed to ensure the proper functioning of the institution. Regarding violence against women and children, 14 States expressed their concerns. In particular, Norway declared that approximately 40% of Finnish women are or have been subjected to domestic violence. Finland is aware of the situation and had recently signed the Council of Europe Convention on domestic violence.


Finland indicated that the ratification of most of the conventions cited is in process and should be achieved by the end of 2013. The Convention on Migrant Workers is an exception. Indeed, Finland considers the convention as ‘not expedient’ because of the non-differentiation of migrant workers from other immigrants in Finnish legislation. ‘They enjoy the protection of the same constitutional rights and the same ratified international human rights instruments as other immigrants’. Furthermore, protection is also ensured through Finland’s existing obligations under European Union law. However, the treatment reserved to migrant workers, foreigners, and asylum seekers remains problematic in the opinion of Uruguay, Ecuador, Guatemala, Iraq, Indonesia, Namibia, Morocco, and Sweden. In that regard demands were made that more attention be devoted to the process for assessing the deportation of asylum seekers.


Many States raised the fact that despite governmental measures taken to fight discrimination and to foster tolerance and integration Finland has, in the past few years, been confronted with a worrisome rise in the number of hate speech, racist, and xenophobic crimes.  In particular, Egypt, Iran, and Morocco mentioned the use of media and the Internet to broadcast hate speech. In response, Finland displayed its commitment to the fight against all discrimination and intolerance by referring to the implementation and introduction of national programmes, which are elaborated on in the national report.


At the adoption of the report by the UPR Working Group, Finland accepted 51 recommendations, and left 26 pending for consideration until the 21st session of the Human Rights Council in September 2012. 

Last Updated on Monday, 04 June 2012 14:08
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