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Statement of the Ombudsman for Equality for the Employment and Equality Committee on the Government Proposal to the Parliament on amending the Act on the Ombudsman for Equality (HE 123/2021 vp) (TAS 481/2021, issued on 6 October 2021)

The Ombudsman for Equality considers the establishment of the position of rapporteur on violence against women to be of crucial importance. Gender sensitivity and female specificity are necessary in the monitoring of violence and assessment of measures against violence. Recognising the gender-based nature of violence is crucial, since it will enhance efforts to prevent violence and protect victims.

The Ombudsman for Equality considers it important that the rapporteur on violence against women is a separate and independent authority.

Basing actions on knowledge is a fundamental aspect of the duties of a rapporteur. In the opinion of the Ombudsman for Equality, evaluating victim support, access to services and the realisation of the perpetrators’ criminal liability generally requires evaluating the actions of the authorities. Many official documents of the health care and social services, police, prosecution and courts related to domestic and sexual violence contain confidential information. In the Ombudsman for Equality’s opinion, the rapporteur will not be able to fulfil their duties as intended if the rapporteur does not have access to such confidential documents. The Ombudsman for Equality considers it necessary for the rapporteur to have the right to receive information notwithstanding secrecy provisions. 

The Ombudsman for Equality emphasises the importance of the rapporteur’s duties being based on human rights. Finland is required to take measures to eliminate violence against women by the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Convention) and the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention), among other things. Finland has repeatedly received complaints about the lack of measures on violence against women from international human rights bodies.

The Ombudsman for Equality wishes to note that the human rights conventions concerning violence against women include different kinds of obligations, and their scopes of application and monitoring mechanisms differ from each other. For example, the Istanbul Convention does not enable individual complaints, unlike the CEDAW Convention or the European Convention on Human Rights, for instance. 

The Ombudsman for Equality considers the Istanbul Convention specifically mentioned in the proposed provision to be a significant human rights convention that imposes obligations on Finland. However, it is important to take Finland’s human rights obligations concerning violence against women as a whole into account in the duties of the rapporteur.

In addition to the Istanbul Convention, a natural part of the rapporteur’s duties would include monitoring the human rights complaints on the topic and assessing what measures Finland has taken due to the potential human rights violations discovered.