Statement by the Ombudsman for Equality on preparing the Government of Finland Human Rights Report (TAS 233/2020, issued on 26 June 2020)
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs requested a statement from the Ombudsman for Equality on issues to be taken into account in preparing the Government of Finland Human Rights Report. In addition, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs asked the Ombudsman to comment on the preliminary phenomena collected in the report and provide concrete development suggestions with justifications related to these phenomena.
A phenomenon-based approach was selected for the report being prepared, without a division between national, international and EU-level fundamental and human rights issues. The four groups of phenomena selected as the basis of the report were rules-based international cooperation and the development of the rule of law, human rights and sustainable development, digitalisation, information and human rights, as well as the promotion of non-discrimination and equality.
In the opinion of the Ombudsman for Equality, the phenomenon-based approach to the processing of human rights issues was sound. The Ombudsman for Equality also considered it positive that issues related to equality and non-discrimination had been separated into their own group.
The statement of the Ombudsman for Equality highlighted the themes that the Ombudsman thought should be discussed in the human rights report. These themes included
- equality issues in working life, such as discrimination based on pregnancy, birth and family leave, pay discrimination, gender pay gap as well as men rarely taking parental leave;
- rights of gender minorities related especially to the requirement on sterilisation or infertility of the current Trans Act (the Act on legal recognition of the gender of transsexuals), the connection between the legal and medical gender reassingment process as well as unnecessary genital surgery on intersex children;
- violence against women and the implementation of the Istanbul Convention;
- hate crimes related to gender, gender identity and gender expression;
- availability of low-threshold legal protection measures on the national level; as well as
- the risks related to the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence in connection with gender-based discrimination.
The Ombudsman for Equality also proposed several development measures that should be included in the human rights report. Among other things, the Ombudsman for Equality proposed that
- the employment security of those working in fixed-term employment relationships should be strengthened in the context of pregnancy and family leave;
- it should be ensured that the share of family leave reserved for fathers would be increased in connection with the family leave reform;
- the right to receive information on the wages of private sector employees in case of suspected discrimination should be extended to also apply to the information on the pay of a so-called reference person or persons;
- the legislation development needs related to the protection of hired labour against discrimination should be investigated;
- the changes to the Act on legal recognition of the gender of transsexuals recorded in the Government Programme should be implemented as soon as possible;
- the unnecessary genital surgeries of intersex children should be stopped;
- the implementation of the Istanbul Convention should be promoted by means such as safeguarding resources for services for victims of violence against women and victims of intimate partner violence, developing and maintaining the competence of police officers and prosecutors on the subject, as well as assessing the need for criminal and procedural law reforms;
- sufficient resources should be ensured for the national authorities controlling legality, including the Ombudsman for Equality;
- hate crimes related to gender, gender identity and gender expression should be recognised on the legislative level, such as by adding gender as a motive of an offence as an aggravated factor in sentencing in the Criminal Code, and it should be investigated whether gender, gender identity and gender expression should be included in the statutory definition of ethnic agitation.
The Ombudsman for Equality also assessed in the statement how the coronavirus pandemic affected the realisation of basic and human rights. In the statement, the Ombudsman for Equality highlighted the impact of the coronavirus crisis especially on the income of women and their position in the labour market, as well as the suspicion that the crisis has increased intimate partner and domestic violence.