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Trans hate material distributed into mailboxes (TAS 397/2023, issued on 7 September 2023)

An individual contacted the Ombudsman for Equality regarding trans hate material distributed into mailboxes. The material said that God created men and women – there are no other genders, and directed readers to a website containing "conversion therapy" material.

Conversion therapy is in itself discriminatory

"Conversion therapy" refers to various interventions seeking or alleging to seek to change an individual's sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender (Towards a more inclusive Finland for LGBTIQ people, Publications of the Ministry of Justice 2021:26, p. 108 (in Finnish).

In his report to the UN Human Rights Council (A/HRC/44/53), the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity appointed by the UN Human Rights Council has stated that conversion therapy is targeted at a specific group of people specifically based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, specifically to violate the personal integrity and right to self-determination of these people. Therefore, such practices are inherently discriminatory. In his report, the Expert calls for UN member states to ban conversion therapy and protect children and young people from such activities.

No specific legislation banning conversion therapy or regulating alternative medicine has been enacted in Finland. However, the Rikkomaton citizen's initiative aiming to ban conversion therapy collected the required number of signatures in June 2023 to be discussed in Parliament.

The Ombudsman for Equality finds that, in order to clarify the legal situation, a ban on conversion therapy should be enacted.

The Act on Equality between Women and Men prohibits discrimination based on gender identity

The Act on Equality between Women and Men (Equality Act, section 7) prohibits discrimination based on gender, gender identity and gender expression. Harassment based on gender also constitutes discrimination as referred to in the Equality Act.

Gender-based harassment means unwanted conduct that is not of a sexual nature but which is related to the gender identity or gender expression of a person, and by which the person’s psychological or physical integrity is intentionally or factually violated and an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive atmosphere is created. Such behaviour can manifest as derogatory speech about a different gender and other degrading of another gender.

The Ombudsman for Equality does not rule out an interpretation that these materials would meet the definition of gender-based harassment under the Equality Act, since people can feel that it creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive atmosphere. Several international human rights organisations have also explicitly found conversion therapy to be discriminatory.

The Criminal Code also includes provisions for intervening in hate speech. These include the provision on agitation against a population group, according to which it is punishable to make available to the public or otherwise disseminate among the public information, an opinion or another message where a certain group is threatened, defamed or insulted on a basis listed in the provision or on another comparable basis. Trans and intersex people can be considered to belong to the groups of people protected by this provision.