FINLAND: Child Rights References in the Universal Periodic Review

Summary: A compilation of extracts featuring child-rights issues from the reports submitted to the first Universal Periodic Review. There are extracts from the 'National Report', the 'Compilation of UN Information' and the 'Summary of Stakeholder's Information'. Also included is the 'Final Report' and 'Conclusions and Recommendations' from the Review.

Finland – 1st Session – 2008
Wednesday 9 April 2008 - 2.30 p.m. - 5.30 p.m.

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National Report
Compilation of UN information
Summary of Stakeholder information
Final Report
Accepted and rejected recommendations

National Report

10. Supervision of legality is additionally carried out by four other ombudsmen, with different emphasis on legality: the Ombudsman for Equality, the Data Protection Ombudsman, the Ombudsman for Minorities and the Ombudsman for Children. The ombudsmen may issue statements on defects that they have noticed and take initiatives if they deem it necessary.

11. Finland has long traditions of cooperation between the state administration and civil society. A good example of this cooperation is the large number of advisory boards, including the Advisory Board on Human Rights, the Advisory Board on Romani Affairs, the Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations, the Advisory Board for the Ombudsman for Children, the Advisory Board for Minority Issues, the Council for Gender Equality and the Advisory Board for Sámi Affairs, where representatives of civil society contribute to the development of human rights. Among other things, the advisory boards issue statements and make proposals for the development of legislation and other measures.

15. In its pledges and commitments in April 2006 Finland pledged to ratify the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Person, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime. The Protocol took effect in respect of Finland on 7 October 2006 (Treaty Series 70–71/2006). Finland has started to prepare the ratification of all other Conventions and Protocols listed in the pledges and commitments.

16. Finland pledged to ratify the 2000 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. Finland signed the Protocol on 7 September 2007. The obligations laid down in the Protocol are mainly already contained in other international instruments binding on Finland, and thus most amendments of legislation required by them have been made. Finland aims at acceding to the Protocol during 2008. The national enforcement thereof is also one of the measures scheduled in the Government's Development Programme for Child and Youth Policy 2007–2011.

25. One of the reservations made by Finland concerns Article 10(2)(b) and Article 10(3) of the Covenant. Article 10 contains two segregation obligations. According to Article 10(2)(b) accused juvenile persons shall be separated from adults, and according to Article 10(3) juvenile offenders shall be segregated from adults. Finland, like the other Nordic countries, has made a reservation concerning both provisions. Finland states in its reservation that although young prisoners in Finland are regularly separated from adult prisoners, it is not appropriate to adopt an absolute prohibition to permit more flexible procedures.

26. The new Prison Act (767/2005) and the new Detention Act (768/2005), as well as the related acts, took effect on 1 October 2006. Both Acts contain a provision on the separation of prisoners under 18 years of age. Exceptions to the separation obligation are possible if the best interests of a child so requires. The total reform of the prison legislation changed the placement of prisoners so that each prisoner's placement in and within a prison is based on an individual plan prepared for his/her term of imprisonment. The individual plan is intended for arranging the term of imprisonment more systematically and making it more predictable, improving the individual treatment of prisoners and increasing the effectiveness of prison activities. Thus, a system based on the placement of all prisoners under age 21 by age group would conflict with the objectives of the reform. Further, separating all young prisoners strictly from adult prisoners cannot be considered to serve the interests of young prisoners in all situations.

27. The Human Rights Committee has considered that the content of the concept of 'juvenile' is to be determined by each State Party in the light of relevant social, cultural and other conditions (General Comment 21 of the Human Rights Committee, 10 April 1992). If the concept were interpreted so that it contains only prisoners under age 18 and remand prisoners, the interpretation would better enable Finland to consider withdrawing its reservations concerning Article 10(2)(b) and Article 10(3) of the Covenant, on the basis of these interpretations, after the aforementioned Acts have entered into force. However, the problem would remain that the segregation and separation obligations laid down in Article 10(2)(a) and Article 10(3) of the Covenant are considerably more absolute than the separation obligation in Article 37(c) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which may be derogated from if it is considered to serve the child's best interests. An absolute separation obligation cannot be considered to serve the child's best interests in all cases, for instance if it would in practice prevent the placement of prisoners under age 18 in open prisons. Since there are very few minor remand prisoners in Finland, a strict separation obligation in their treatment might in practice lead to nearly total isolation. Therefore the Government continues to consider that the reservations cannot be withdrawn.

32. The programme of Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen's second Cabinet is based on the promotion of human rights, democracy, the rule of law and sustainable development in all parts of the world. Citizens must be guaranteed the right to have a say, participate and be involved in decision-making. The three policy programmes adopted by the Government and the intersectoral policy themes under special monitoring contain definitions of policies that are essential from the human rights point of view. The programmes deal with (1) employment, entrepreneurship and work life, (2) health promotion, and (3) the well-being of children, youth and families.

35. The Government's Development Programme for Child and Youth Policy 2007–2011 lays the foundation for the Policy Programme for the Well-being of Children, Youth and Families, which follows up and supports the Development Programme during the Government's term of office. In order to ensure an equitable position for persons with disabilities the Government is preparing an action programme on disability policy. When preparing the disability policy programme the Government takes account of the objectives to be set in different sectors of administration on the basis of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

39. When seeking membership in the Human Rights Council in spring 2006 Finland pledged to take measures to prevent violence against women and trafficking in human beings. It also pledged to intensify its action against racism, xenophobia and discrimination. New, innovative means will be sought for the provision of information on the rights of the child. Further, Finland committed to further strengthen the rights of indigenous peoples, especially the linguistic and cultural rights of the only indigenous people in Finland, the Sámi. The measures to fulfil these pledges and commitments are described below.

44. Finnish criminal legislation is characterised by the practice of formulating the penal provisions in a general manner, so that for instance the gender of the victim has no significance to the question whether the act is criminalised or not. Chapter 21 of the Penal Code criminalises offences against life and health. It contains penal provisions concerning such offences as assault (section 5) and aggravated assault (section 6). Chapter 6 of the Penal Code on sentencing provides that the normal punishment may be increased for instance if the assaulted person is in a weaker position than the perpetrator or cannot otherwise defend himself/herself efficiently, and/or if the assault is repeated. Women and children are typically such victims of assault. The Act on the Restraining Order (898/1998) was amended as of the beginning of 2005 by supplementing it with provisions on a restraining order inside a family. The Ministry of Justice is examining the possibility of revising the right to institute criminal proceedings for petty assault so that petty assault in a close relationship would always be an offence subject to public prosecution and not a complainant offence as it is currently.

48. Finnish criminal legislation has been amended to comply with the international obligations. An act that took effect on 1 August 2004 supplemented the Penal Code with penal provisions on trafficking in human beings and aggravated trafficking in human beings (Chapter 25, sections 3 and 3 a). These provisions comply with the criminalisation obligations laid down in the 2002 framework decision of the Council of the European Union and the Protocol on Trafficking in Person to the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime. The offences in question are deemed very serious, and this is reflected in the maximum punishments provided for them: six and ten years of imprisonment. Trafficking in human beings has connections with trade in sexual services and pandering, because it often aims at sexual abuse of the victims. Pandering and aggravated pandering are punishable by virtue of Chapter 20, sections 9 and 9 a of the Penal Code. Since the beginning of October 2006 the Penal Code (Chapter 20, section 8) criminalises the abuse of a person subject to sex trade, which involves buying sexual services from a victim of human trafficking or pandering. Chapter 20, section 8 a of the Penal Code criminalises the buying of sexual services from a young person, i.e. a person younger than 18 years of age.

53. Despite progress, there are still certain problems of racism and intolerance. Although public awareness of cultural diversity is increasing and the Government has worked persistently to integrate immigrants into Finnish society, racist, discriminatory and xenophobic attitudes continue to be part of everyday life in Finland. There are negative attitudes and direct and/or indirect discrimination towards both the traditional Finnish minorities, especially the Roma, and the new immigrant minorities. The Government is concerned about multiple discrimination. Immigrant and minority women living in Finland – Roma women in particular – face discrimination based on both their gender and their ethnic background. Minority and immigrant children, too, experience discrimination and for instance xenophobic and insulting name-calling at school.

57. The year 2007 was the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All. During that year Finland focused on improving the visibility of discrimination issues and minorities, promoting equality and diversity in arts, culture and sports, addressing discrimination and diversity issues at work and implementing the rights of different groups. As part of the theme year Finland studied different organisations' views on problems connected with the realisation of equality and on means to eliminate them7. The study was intended to inspire public discussion about how to encourage groups experiencing discrimination to participate more in societal activity. This project was also a test intended to support interaction between citizens and public administration. An inventory of unrealised rights was made by hearing organisations at ten meetings. The main problems with equality recognised at these meetings concerned the position of children and aged people, immigrants and the Sámi and Roma minorities. Gender and sexual minorities, too, often face discrimination or experience that they are invisible in society. Although the non-discrimination legislation has taken great steps forward in the last few years, organisations report defects in the activities of non-discrimination institutions. Compliance with non-discrimination legislation is supervised by a number of ombudsmen and boards, but organisations consider that the activities should be further supplemented.

59. Despite the existing legal and institutional systems for preventing discrimination, Roma people face de facto discrimination e.g. in education, housing, employment, working life and access to public places, such as restaurants and bars. Roma women who wear traditional Roma costumes are particularly vulnerable to such discrimination. Roma children are continuously treated unequally compared to children of the majority population, especially in education. The school dropout rate of Roma pupils is still high, and there are not enough Roma teachers and pre-school material published in Romani. The Roma are underrepresented as beneficiaries of measures to promote employment.

60. A survey made by the National Board of Education8 showed that the dropout rate of Roma pupils in basic education is high compared to the majority population, and that they seldom continue their studies in secondary education. Changing school is frequent among Roma pupils, and their participation in special needs education is multiple compared to other pupils. Cooperation between home and school is insufficient, and teachers do not know Roma culture sufficiently. Choosing teaching at home instead of school is many times more frequent among Roma pupils than among other pupils in basic education. There is, however, no comprehensive information about the outcome of these choices. Many factors influence the decisions, but presumably discrimination is one of them. The recruitment of Roma support persons and school assistants to support families, children and teachers e.g. in Helsinki has produced good results.

64. The Government's first Development Programme for Child and Youth Policy contains its objectives, priorities and practical measures for improving the well-being of children and young persons during the Government's term of office. The programme is divided into three sections intended for supporting and promoting the well-being of the target groups. One section aims at supporting and developing societal structures so that they will better take into account children's point of view. Among other things, the provision of information on the rights of the child will be increased under this section in order to raise awareness of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child among children, parents and those working with children. The Development Programme will produce a national information strategy on children's rights in cooperation with different ministries and organisations and the Ombudsman for Children. For the future, the programme will define different ministries' responsibilities for the provision of child rights information, determine the financing of this information and ensure that the basic and further education of personnel working with children includes instruction in children's rights. As a separate measure, an information campaign on the Convention on the Rights of the Child will be carried out in connection with its 20th anniversary in 2009, jointly with the Ombudsman for Children and non-governmental organisations. New material has been published on the Convention e.g. for pupils in lower grades of basic education. Such material exists in Romani for Roma children and will soon be published also in North Sámi for Sámi children.

70. Family violence against children and sexual abuse of children and young persons seriously violate children's rights. The purpose of the Child Welfare Act that took effect at the beginning of 2008 is to ensure that the child's rights and interests are taken into account in child welfare measures, and to guarantee the child and his/her parents the supportive measures and services that they need. The purpose is also to promote child-specific and family-specific child welfare measures. Health care centres and hospital districts are obliged to provide expert assistance in child- and family-specific measures, and if necessary, to arrange examinations of the child as well as treatment and therapy services for him/her. Municipalities are obliged to arrange urgent services for children if sexual abuse or assault is suspected. As from the beginning of 2009, the costs for the aforementioned services will be borne by the State, and this will probably increase the supply of such services. The fact that cases of family violence against children are pending in courts reflects a change in the atmosphere in Finnish society. The Ministry of Justice will probably, in the near future, set up a working group to consider the question of linking an obligatory medical treatment of sexual offenders with the sanctions system.

80. The Finnish school system guarantees all children and young people equal opportunities for basic education irrespective of social status, gender and ethnic background. Cost-free education and social benefits for students facilitate good results in Finland. The responsibility for arranging basic education lies with the municipalities, in other words close to children, young people and their homes. One of the priorities of the Government programme is to enhance the quality of basic education in 2007–2011. This priority includes developing the teaching of pupils who need intensified and specific support, improving guidance counselling, making further training for teaching staff statutory, reducing the size of teaching groups in basic education, developing club activities in schools and promoting cooperation between parents and schools. Finland has allocated resources in order to guarantee high-quality teaching especially through teacher education. In Finland the educational level and the qualification requirements of teachers are high. A programme launched by the Ministry of Education to develop teacher education pays attention to teacher's needs for both vocational basic education and further education.

81. PISA (Programme for International Students Assessment) is a joint survey programme of the OECD member countries. Finnish pupils under age 15 were top performers in the surveys of 2007, 2004 and 2001. The PISA surveys show that the Finnish educational system is rather equitable: in Finland the socio-economic background or the language of a pupil's home has significantly less influence than in the other OECD countries.

87. Implementation is monitored by seminars, as well. Monitoring the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has been a pilot project. Annual seminars have been found useful and interactive discussion fora, which contribute to implementing the concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and monitoring this implementation at national level at all stages of the reporting cycle. In addition, these seminars contribute to the preparation of the Government's periodic report and raise awareness of the Convention and the related monitoring and implementation process, which proceeds as a spiral continuum.

94. Exclusion is a problem among children, young people and families. Despite economic growth, there is an increasing number of children and their families living in poverty. Such factors as parent's abuse of alcohol and other intoxicants have made child welfare work increasingly challenging. Public authorities face many challenges when endeavouring to support families and others responsible for children in ensuring children's well-being and individual growth. The Government has committed to reduce ill-being among children, young people and families and their exclusion.

97. The Government will strengthen the basic security of citizens and their everyday security, increase the effectiveness and diversity of services and increase human well-being. For the prevention of exclusion the Government will enhance measures to improve employment, subsistence and the quality and effectiveness of services. To prevent exclusion the Government aims to alleviate poverty among families with children, provide more preventive health care services for children and young people, increase services related to intoxicant abuse, mental health and child welfare, reduce the long-term need for income support, cut down long-term unemployment and the number of homeless persons, and strengthen preventive work for the elderly. The prevention of exclusion is one objective in all three intersectoral policy programmes of the Government.

102. Finnish citizens are well aware of their basic rights and liberties. It is important to begin human rights education at school age in order to foster thinking that emphasises these rights. In Finland, the values underpinning basic education12 include human rights, equality, democracy, natural diversity and viability of the environment, and the acceptance of cultural diversity. Basic education fosters the idea of community, responsibility and respect for individuals' rights and freedoms. All teaching must take account of national and local characteristics and the increasing diversity of Finnish culture, also increased by immigrants from different cultures. All teaching must foster tolerance and intercultural understanding. Local curricula for basic education must define the values of education in more detail. They must be reflected in the objectives and contents of teaching and everyday activities.

104. Finland supports human rights research, particularly regarding issues prioritised in Finnish human rights policy. Non-governmental organisations play an important role in the promotion of human rights. The Government supports their publications and projects to raise awareness of human rights. The Ministry of Education, among others, regularly supports antiracist work, especially the work of non-governmental organisations. State subsidies have been granted to youth and early youth organisations for combating ethnic intolerance and xenophobia, both in their regular work and in separate projects.

Compilation of UN information

1. CAT positively noted that measures are being taken by Finland for the future ratification of the OP-CAT.23 CRC welcomed the assurances given about the forthcoming ratification of the CRC-OP-SC by Finland.24

2. Both CRC and CESCR encouraged Finland to consider ratifying the ICRMW25 and CESCR26 also encouraged the State to ratify the CPD and its Optional Protocol. CERD
recommended that Finland adhere to ILO Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries.27 Finland’s intention was to submit a bill to Parliament in 2006 proposing the amendments needed for the ratification of this Convention but this was prevented by, inter alia, the approaching parliamentary election in March 2007.28

5. Human rights are monitored by a number of institutions, including the Ombudsmen system in Finland, such as the Parliamentary Ombudsman. 36 The establishment of the new Office of Minority Ombudsman, with wider powers to act for asylum-seekers and deportees, was welcomed by CERD, CAT and CESCR.37 CRC also welcomed the establishment of the Ombudsman for Children and recommended, inter alia, that its mandate be expanded and that it be provided with sufficient resources to effectively monitor the implementation of the CRC.38 CESCR requested information on whether such ombudsman institutions have been established in accordance with the Paris Principles. 39 Finland pledged not only to assess the adequacy of its institutional framework but also to consider the establishment of a new national human rights institution to complement existing mechanisms, if there were gaps in the current protection system.40

6. Policy measures welcomed by treaty bodies include the adoption, in 2001, of a Plan of Action to combat ethnic discrimination and racism41; the completion of the Plan of Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in 200542; and the adoption of the National Plan of Action “A Finland Fit for Children”. CRC was concerned that the plans for children are not well coordinated and recommended that Finland, inter alia, place all other plans and programmes under the coordination of the National Plan of Action and give the Ombudsman for Children a mandate to monitor the Plan and progress made.43

10. Five treaty bodies expressed concern about discrimination and racism, while noting the measures taken by the State to address these issues. The HR Committee expressed its concern that negative attitudes and de facto discrimination against immigrants are still to be found in certain strata of the Finnish population.58 CRC expressed concern at the continuing discrimination against immigrants and minority groups, particularly Roma59 ; CEDAW about Roma and Sami women60 ; and CERD and CRC61 about discriminatory and xenophobic attitudes notably among young people. Recommendations addressed to Finland include: stepping up efforts to promote tolerance and combat prejudice, particularly through public awareness campaigns 62; paying special attention to the education of young people with respect to discriminatory attitudes63; undertaking studies on the participation of minority women in society64; eliminating discrimination against minority women65 ; continuing to strengthen mechanisms aimed at combating discrimination66; increasing awareness of the remedies available against racism and discrimination67; continuing to monitor all tendencies which may give rise to racist and xenophobic behaviour; putting into practice effective measures to facilitate the integration of minority groups in Finnish society68; and ensuring follow-up to Durban69.

11. CERD, the HR Committee, CESCR and CEDAW expressed concern about the situation of Roma in Finland. Particular attention was drawn to the discrimination Roma faced in the fields of housing, education, employment and access to public places. CESCR also noted that Roma women wearing traditional costumes are particularly vulnerable to such forms of discrimination.70 Additionally, CRC and CESCR raised concerns about the situation of Roma children particularly in relation to the right to education. 71 Further measures to combat social exclusion and discrimination against the Roma in Finland were recommended, with CERD drawing attention to its general recommendation XXVII for addressing discrimination against the Roma and CESCR to intensified efforts required to improve access to inclusive education for Roma children, inter alia, by facilitating the recruitment of Roma teachers, by increasing the availability of schoolbooks in the Romani language, and by organizing special training for teachers to increase their knowledge about the culture and traditions of Roma and to raise their sensitivity to the needs of Roma children.72

14. While acknowledging action taken to prevent violence against children, CRC expressed the concern that violence against children and sexual abuse within families is one of the most serious obstacles to the full implementation of child rights in Finland and recommended the strengthening of measures to prevent, combat and report on child abuse and protect every child from violence.77

17. Trafficking of women and exploitation of prostitution of women is a concern that was raised by CEDAW, which urged Finland, inter alia, to intensify its efforts to increase cooperation between national and international authorities, particularly from the Russian Federation and Baltic States.83 The CRC in 2005 also expressed concern at information that persons, including children, continue to be trafficked to and through the country and recommended that Finland further strengthen its efforts to identify, prevent and combat trafficking in children for sexual and other exploitative purposes.84

19. The HR Committee recommended in 2004 that Finland take action at the highest level to uphold the independence of the judiciary and maintain trust in the independence of the courts.86 CRC recommended that the principle of the best interests of the child is understood, appropriately integrated and implemented, including in all legal provisions as well as in judicial and administrative decisions; and that legislative and other measures are taken to ensure that article 12 of the CRC is fully implemented, in particular that the child has the right to express his or her views directly to the judge when decisions in judicial and/or administrative proceedings affecting the child have to be taken.87

20. CAT and CRC welcomed Finland’s ratification of the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court.88 Finland expressed strong support for ICC’s work and its role in eliminating impunity for gross human rights violations and also stated that, for Finland’s own past and its violent civil war in 1918, the right to the truth is still an issue.89

22. As regards issues of access to appropriate information, CRC expressed concern about the exposure of children to violence, racism and pornography, especially through the Internet, and recommended the strengthening of measures for the protection of children from information and material injurious to their well-being.91 Similar concerns, with respect to racist, discriminatory and xenophobic material on the Internet, were expressed by CERD.92

23. With reference to the increasing or high number of children placed in alternative care, Finland was requested by CRC to address the root causes of the removal of children from their families, including through adequate support to parents.93

25. CESCR noted the absence of disaggregated data on the extent of poverty, particularly among refugees and the immigrant population, and that the State had yet to adopt an official poverty line, which would enable it to define the incidence and depth of poverty and monitor and evaluate progress in alleviating poverty. The Committee called upon Finland to strengthen its efforts to combat poverty and social exclusion and to develop a mechanism for measuring the poverty level and monitoring it closely.97 Similar concerns were also raised by CRC, which stated that changes are needed to ensure the equality of resources for children and the availability of services through the country. CRC requested Finland to continue the collection of data on the most vulnerable groups of children to allow a detailed analysis of their living conditions. It further recommended that the State undertake a study to assess and analyse resources provided for children and continue to take, where necessary, effective measures to ensure equal access to and availability of services for all children, irrespective of the municipality, in which they live.98 CEDAW also expressed concern that the policy of decentralization may have a more negative impact on women than men and recommended that Finland, inter alia, introduce a gender impact analysis in its decentralization efforts.99

26. Concern about the health of young people, particularly girls was expressed by CEDAW. 100 CRC and CESCR also expressed concerns about the increase in alcohol and drug abuse, as well as about the high incidence of mental health disorders, especially among young persons. They recommended that Finland intensify its efforts for preventing alcohol and drug abuse, including through the promotion of a healthy lifestyle among adolescents; and at addressing the root causes of mental health disorders.101

29. Regarding bullying and violence in school, CRC recommended in 2005 that Finland continue taking appropriate measures to combat this phenomenon, including by carrying out periodic surveys among students, staff and parents about the quality of peer relations being fostered by the school; and that it put a special focus on children with disabilities and children with disabled parents. 104

30. CRC also made recommendations concerning the availability and quality of human rights education in schools in Finland as well as encouraging the dissemination of information about the Convention, including through the school curricula, and in languages used by minorities and immigrants.105 Additionally, in 2001 CEDAW urged Finland to increase its efforts to eliminate stereotypes in women’s education and to mainstream gender studies in all areas of education.106

36. CRC noted that Finland, as highlighted also by UNHCR,121 is a country of destination of asylum seeking and migrant children coming from war-torn countries who may have been victims of traumatic experiences.122 CRC invited the State, inter alia, to provide information on the assistance given to these children for their recovery and reintegration and on the technical and financial assistance projects aimed at preventing the involvement of children in armed conflicts as well as assisting their recovery.123

42. Finland is committed, inter alia, to promoting children’s rights and to strengthening the Ombudsman for Children’s Office.136 Finland also committed itself, inter alia, to further strengthening the rights of indigenous peoples, including through monitoring the effectiveness of the Sami language law, strengthening education in the Sami language and preserving the Sami culture and participating in the expert group preparing a draft Nordic Sami Convention137.

Summary of stakeholders' information

1. Regarding the ratification of universal instruments, Amnesty International (AI)
recommended that Finland should ratify the OP-CAT, the CRC-OP-SC, CED and ICRMW.2 The Center for Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities (VIKE) is of the view that it is urgent that the Government of Finland ratify the CPD and submitted a paper to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (dated 25 September 2007) describing shortcomings in the domestic legislation of Finland relating to CPD. 3

14. The CoE Committee of Ministers expressed concern about problems faced by Roma pupils, such as the limited scope of Roma language education and their disproportionate presence in special education. Equally, it commented upon persisting incidents of discrimination of Roma and persons belonging to other minorities in various spheres, including in the provision of services.24 Similar concerns about the Roma were highlighted by ECRI and the CoE Commissioner for Human Rights, with ECRI recommending that the Finnish authorities adopt a comprehensive strategy to improve the situation of the Roma communities25 and the Commissioner recommending, as essential, the wide dissemination of objective information about Roma culture and traditions as well as the diversity of Roma identities.26

23. Violence against children is one of the most serious obstacles to the full implementation of the rights of the child, stated ELCF. ELCF reported that although information on violence against children is gathered from various sources, there is no reliable and comprehensive monitoring system for violence against children. The research unit of the Police College of Finland and the Criminological Unit of the National Research Institute of Legal Policy is planning a special child victim study and it is hoped that this study will provide a framework for a permanent monitoring system of violence against children in Finland. ELCF also referred to the results of the inquiry collected by the Ministry of Justice in 2007, according to which various measures have been taken and projects have been carried out both by the state and NGOs to combat violence against children and youth, but the actions have not been coordinated and information about them is not easily available. It was also noted that: the general principle of the best interests of the child is often not taken into account; knowledge about the CRC is not yet sufficient in Finland; and there are also gaps in the services provided for the victims of violence, especially in rural areas. 40

27. The authorities’ efforts to support minority language print media, including in the Sami languages, have limited scope and do not sufficiently meet the needs expressed, reported the CoE Committee of Ministers. Additionally, there remained a need to develop further the minority language public service broadcasting in order to accommodate the existing demand, inter alia, for children’s programmes in the Sami languages. The Committee recommended that Finland encourage the further development of minority language media and review the current subsidy system with a view to ensuring that it takes into account the specific situation of minority language print media. 49

28. A migrant worker’s minor children who have settled on Finnish territory as a result of family reunion may be expelled when the migrant worker is expelled, reported the European Committee on Social Rights. 50

29. In 2006 a new law on assisted insemination was passed in the Parliament, noted Seta ry, which, allows on the one hand, treatments of single women and lesbian couples, and on the other hand makes surrogacy illegal. Seta ry commented on the legal framework regulating adoption, noting that the social parent of a child cannot become a legal parent through adoption if s/he is of the same sex as her/his partner, (see, Act on Registered Partnerships, Section 9). In the view of Seta ry, children in these types of families are discriminated against on the basis of their parents’ sexual orientation or gender identity, as these children are not entitled to the law binding parental protection such as welfare, support and heritage from both of their parents, unlike the children of different sex parents. Moreover, these families are not entitled to same public services and benefits as their family is not recognized in the law. 51 According to Seta ry, the current government has announced plans to make so called internal adoption available in registered partnership. This legislative move would enable the registered partner to adopt her/his partner’s child and would solve some of the most acute problems but there is no guarantee though that the government’s plan will become a law. 52

32. Relative poverty has risen since the mid-1990s in Finland and become more severe, reported ELCF. Unemployed households are the most vulnerable group and families with small children are another vulnerable group. There appeared to be polarization in the financial situation of families with children. While the income development of families with two parents and one or two children has been relatively positive, the situation of single parent families, families with more than three children and families with children under age three has deteriorated. 55

33. The CoE Commissioner for Human Rights urged the authorities to persist in their efforts to improve mental health care for children and to monitor that the service guarantees are fully met in this field.56

34. The fundamental rights situation of a child born with “unclear” sex is problematic in
Finland, noted Seta ry. A common medical practice is to commit surgeries and other treatments in order to reconstruct the children’s sex as female or male. Seta ry suggested that not all treatments are necessarily based on medical reasons and that Finland should take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure that no child’s body is irreversibly altered by medical procedures in an attempt to impose a gender identity without the full, free and informed consent of the child in accordance with the age and maturity of the child and guided by the principle that in all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. Additionally, it reported that considerable local variation is found in the level and quality of treatment and support for transgender and intersex people, especially gender variant children and transgender teenagers. They are often treated by professionals who have insufficient knowledge on gender variance and no state authority has currently taken adequate responsibility for ensuring that the services should be equally efficient and of high quality throughout the country. 57

36. The CoE Committee of Ministers noted the disconcerting reports about manifestations of intolerance in Finnish schools as well as on Internet and recommended reinforced action against incidents of discrimination and manifestations of intolerance, including in schools.60

42. Taking into account the significant number of Russian-speaking people living in Finland, the CoE Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Finnish authorities to thoroughly consider the recommendations of the ad hoc working group assigned by the Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations. The Commissioner stated that he was not persuaded that the special needs of the Russian-speaking population could be catered for in an efficient manner solely by general policy initiatives regarding or consultative bodies representing minorities and immigrants in general. He also reported that further measures are required to address the problems encountered by Russian-speaking school pupils and called for improved awareness of media professionals of any prejudice on reporting about the Russian-speaking population. 70 Similar concerns were echoed by the CoE Committee of Ministers and ECRI.71

Final Report

- Family violence against children and sexual abuse of children and young persons seriously violate child rights. The purpose of the Child Welfare Act that took effect at the beginning of 2008 is to ensure that the rights and interests of the child are taken into account in child welfare measures, and to guarantee the child and his/her parents the supportive measures and services they need. The purpose is also to promote child-specific and family-specific child welfare measures. The fact that cases of family violence against children are pending in courts reflects a change in the atmosphere in Finnish society.

(ii) Interactive dialogue and responses by the State under Review

- The Russian Federation expressed concern at the considerable amount of information on violence against children, including sexual violence within the family. It was recommended that the compilation of information should continue with regard to violence against children within the family in order to come up with appropriate methods to counter this phenomenon.

- Following the dialogue, the representative of Finland indicated that with respect to the problem of violence against children and women, Finland stated that it is an urgent concern and that it has tried to be really self-critical and use holistic approaches to address this issue, including through action programmes.

- The Head of Delegation agreed about the importance of raising people’s awareness of their human rights and that more efforts are required to better incorporate human rights in children’s education in Finland and enhance the general awareness of groups in society, women and children, of their own rights.

- Pakistan was also encouraged by the honest acknowledgement of problems faced such as discrimination against vulnerable groups including children. While acknowledging the transparent and democratic approach of Finland in dealing with these issues, it requested information on how Finland intends to deal with these issues in a comprehensive manner in accordance with existing human rights standards.

- China wished to know if as Finland is intensifying its human rights education and makes it reach larger parts of the population, would Finland consider integrating issues such as the resolution of the existing human rights problems, like racism and intolerance, into Finnish human rights education programmes.

- Japan commended the efforts of the Government of Finland in the field of human rights, through developing and implementing various Government programmes and policies, especially in the areas such as human trafficking, protection of children and youth, assistance to disabled persons, issues of migration, etc. Japan also paid respect to the high quality of basic education in Finland which enjoys international reputation. Japan also indicated that it believed that in order to enhance the quality of education, one of the keys was to guarantee high-quality teaching. It asked Finland what the major policy pillars of the Government were in this regard, especially in recruiting and training high-quality teachers for basic education.

- Following the dialogue, the representative of Finland, in her responses, explained that its education of teachers is one of the key reasons behind the good Finnish performance and wished to stress the human rights dimension of the Finnish education system.

Accepted and Rejected Recommendations

The following recommendations were accepted:

50 - 3. To continue to take effective measures to prevent violence against women (Mexico, Russian Federation) and to compile information on the violence against children within the family (Russian Federation).

No recommendations were rejected






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