Discrimination and military service

The fact that military service is only imposed on men is often perceived as unequal. When the Act on Equality between Women and Men was passed, the Parliament wanted to exclude military service from the Act and to regulate military service in the Conscription Act. For this reason, the Equality Act states that enacting legal provisions on compulsory military service for men only is not deemed to constitute discrimination based on gender under the Equality Act.

However, this does not justify unequal treatment of men due to military service in other contexts. The Ombudsman for Equality has received enquiries from men who suspect that they have been discriminated against due to military service in contexts such as studies, working life and credit applications.

Provisions of the Equality Act

According to section 7 of the Equality Act, direct and indirect discrimination based on gender is prohibited. Discrimination based on gender refers to placing women or men in a less favourable position on the basis of gender. In turn, placing someone in a less favourable position means, for example, granting different benefits or rights, or having certain obligations, limitations or burdens clearly apply to only men or only women. According to section 9 (2) of the Equality Act, enacting legal provisions on compulsory military service for men only is not deemed to constitute discrimination based on gender under the Equality Act.

However the person concerned may not become disadvantaged in other contexts due to carrying out military service without an acceptable reason.

Section 127 of the Constitution of Finland contains provisions on the national defence obligation. The provisions state that every Finnish citizen is obligated to participate or assist in national defence, as provided by law. Under the Conscription Act (1438/2007), men are liable for military service in Finland, whereas the Act on Women's Voluntary Military Service (194/1995) provides for voluntary service for women. The legislator has considered the implementation of national defence in respect of women and men to be an acceptable reason permitted by the Constitution to deviate from the general principle of equality and has deliberately resolved the conflict between men's conscription and the principle of gender equality in accordance with section 9 of the Equality Act.