Finland’s services for women victims of violence praised, but criminal offences review needed

Strasbourg 2/9/2019
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Finland’s services for women victims of violence praised, but criminal offences review needed

The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) welcomes Finland´s efforts to increase services to victims, including offering funding for more shelters, but points out in a report published today, that a review of the criminal offences is needed to adequately cover rape, sexual violence, stalking, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation and forced marriage. Finland should incorporate sanctions for all sexual acts without the consent of the victim, including where circumstances preclude valid consent.

Finland has adopted several measures to implement the Istanbul Convention, such as adopting the Action Plan for the Istanbul Convention (2018-2021), setting up a co-ordinating committee (NAPE) to ensure progress across the relevant line ministries, and funding the national helpline Nollalinja. Another positive development are amendments to the Act on State Compensation to Providers of Shelter Services. These amendments ensure increased funding for domestic violence shelters through compensation by the central government instead of the municipalities, which allows the admission of all women, regardless of nationality, residence or other status.

However, services and policies in Finland often operate on a gender-neutral approach and may not always do justice to the particular experiences of women as victims of domestic violence, who are more frequently and more severely impacted. For instance guaranteeing women’s right to being interviewed by same-sex police officers - as set out in Finnish law - would require a significant increase in the number of female police officers among the forces. In this context, GREVIO draws attention to the decrease, over the past years, in the number of police officers in Finland, which is currently at around 7 200 officers. This equals 137 police officers per 100 000 inhabitants and is by far the lowest per capita ratio of police officers in Europe.

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