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Finland Wants to Break the Cycle of Violence

Effective practices and breaking the cycle of violence will receive particular focus during the Finnish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2016. Gender discrimination in media and health and gender equality are two other principal themes, says Finland’s gender equality minister in an interview.

Foto: Sakari Piippo
 Juha Rehula. Foto: Sakari Piippo

The Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers rotates between the five Nordic countries on an annual basis. 2016 is Finland’s year, and the project ”Enough, now! Nordic models to end domestic and intimate partnership violence”´is part of its ambition to put an end to gender-related violence.
‘It’s important to work proactively against the violence and to offer the victims support and whatever help they need,’ says Juha Rehula, Finland’s Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services and in charge of the country’s gender equality policy.
‘We need to look for ways to encourage the perpetrators, whether they are men or women, to stop their destructive behaviour and therefore also the devastating cycle of violence.’
The project will culminate in a report describing, comparing and analysing the models in use across the Nordic region. A conference for knowledge sharing will be held in autumn 2016. Two other conferences on the theme of violence will also be held around the same time: one addressing human trafficking and one at which the work against genital mutilation of girls and women will be discussed.

Gender discrimination in the media

The Nordic gender equality cooperation has for some time emphasised the need to discuss the issue of gender equality in the public space. In 2016, the Finnish Presidency will explore the possibilities of legislating against sexist advertising as well as the current state of gender equality in television, radio and other conventional media.
‘One thing that can be observed is that sexualisation of the public space and gender-based hate speech are limiting the participation of women in particular. Thus, such tendencies must be clamped down on, and a gender equal and pluralistic media landscape must be actively encouraged,’ says Rehula.
The issues of hate speech and how to work against sexism will be raised for example in an expert panel arranged by the Nordic Council of Ministers at the meeting of the UN women’s commission in New York.
‘Both women and men have a right to use the public space and to be recognised and influence the society they live in. By looking at and comparing situations and good practices in the Nordic countries, we can stimulate the public discussion and develop better national and Nordic measures,’ says Rehula.

Health and gender equality

The connection between health and gender equality will also be addressed in several ways during Finland’s Presidency. The issue of health was discussed already in January at a conference titled How Are You Feeling, Nordic Region? held in Turku, Finland. The conference marked the beginning of a 3-year project led by the Finnish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs and aimed to support cooperation in relation to the Nordic welfare model.
‘Since gender equality is a central aspect of the Nordic welfare model, it seems both natural and necessary to integrate a gender equality perspective in the project,’ says Rehula. ‘Cooperation with other sectors is also very important in the field of gender equality policy. In this project, we’re joining forces with the social, employment, cultural and educational sectors. The bureaucratic red tape can be a headache, but the work is definitely very important and interesting.’
‘The gender equality ministers will also consider the inquiry report on men and gender equality they ordered this year, and we can start deciding on future cooperation on this theme,’ says Rehula.
How do you feel about the Nordic gender equality cooperation? Can it yield benefits that an individual Nordic country would not be able to achieve alone?
‘As the Nordic countries are very similar, it can be of great benefit to compare their different approaches and policy measures. Since none of them have achieved full gender equality, they all have something to learn. The Nordic countries also have a lot to offer in the European and international gender equality discussion. For example, the final report of the project ”Enough, now!” is published in English to make it accessible to people and organisations in other countries.’

Updated 18 April 2020