Setan ja Trasekin lausunto YK:n yleismaailmallisesta määräaikaistarkastelusta (UPR-prosessi)

FINLAND: The Human Rights status of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex People

Submission to the United nations Human Right Council for its Universal periodic Review of Finland (27th Session, 2017)

September 22, 2016

The submission is compiled by the following organisations:
Seta ry – LGBTI Rights in Finland
Pasilanraitio 5
00240 Helsinki


Telephone +358(0)503098108
Contact person: Secretary General Kerttu Tarjamo, email

Trasek ry
PL 202
00531 Helsinki
Contact person: Member of Board Tikli Oikainen, email

Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council for its 3rd Cycle Universal Periodic Review of Finland (27th Session 2017)

Introduction and general remarks

1. This report presents some of the challenges regarding LGBTI people’s human rights in Finland. The report focuses on the lack of comprehensive LGBTI policy, issues specific to trans and intersex people and family/parental issues, it will also touch upon hate crime.
2. This information is submitted by Seta and Trasek for the Universal Periodic Review in order to highlight human rights concerns affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Finland.
3. Definitions of the discrimination grounds: (i) ‘Sexual orientation’ refers to each person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different gender or the same gender or more than one gender; (ii) ‘gender identity’ refers to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means), (iii) ’gender expression’ refers to a person’s individual expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms. In relation to sexual orientation, abbreviation LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual) is used. In relation to both grounds the abbreviation LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) is used. ‘Rainbow families’ is used to indicate families where one or more members identify as LGBTI.
4. In the conclusions of the 2nd Cycle of UPR Finland approved recommendation (90.8) to increase its efforts in the field of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, inter alia by review of national legislation and administration with a view to eliminate discrimination against LGBTI people with regard to family and parental rights and the right to security and integrity of the person. Since then the legal situation has improved mainly through the reform of the non-discrimination and equality legislation. In the Non-discrimination Act protection from discrimination on ground of sexual orientation has been extended to all areas of life. In the Act on Equality gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics are explicitly mentioned as non-discrimination grounds. The non-discrimination and equality ombuds mandates cover explicitly sexual orientation (non-discrimination ombud), gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (equality ombud).The Finnish Parliament has passed legislation on same-sex marriage and same sex couples will be able to marry from 1.3.2017. However, issues such as legal gender recognition, physical integrity of intersex persons, family and parental rights, hate crime and violence against LGBTI people are largely unsolved and remain concerns.
Lack of comprehensive policy

5. There is a lack of comprehensive policy on LGBTI people’s human rights in Finland. Legislation and protection are improved sporadically and often through civil society pressure or initiative. In 2014 the Ministry of Justice published a report on fundamental and human rights of sexual and gender minorities in Finland. The report charts human rights challenges faced by LGBTI people and includes recommendations for action. Despite that the government’s human rights report from 2014 promotes a national strategy or action plan in its policy guidelines there has been no implementation.
6. Negative social attitudes towards LGBTI people and views of politicians and political parties are obstacles for LGBTI equality in Finland. Also authorities lack knowledge, skills and sometimes even willingness to promote human rights of LGBTI people and address discrimination. There is also a clear mistrust in the authorities as only about 7% of discrimination cases are reported forward.
7. There are still questions about the coordination and responsibility for LGBTI human rights issues within the Finnish government. In order to guarantee implementation of legislation and policies coordination and responsibilities must be clearly defined.
8. We recommend Finland:
– to draw up a comprehensive LGBTI strategy including goals, concrete actions and assigned responsibilities for the authorities and to allocate needed resources for the strategy’s implementation;
– to agree on the coordination of and responsibilities for LGBTI issues within the administration.

Issues specific to trans and gender non-confirming person

9. Trans and gender non-confirming people in Finland face difficulties in enjoying their universal human rights due to wide-spread transphobic attitudes, gender stereotypes and discriminatory legislation. According to a recent survey by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency, almost half of the Finnish trans people surveyed had been discriminated against in the 12 months prior to the survey. Trans youth are at a particular risk: a recent study on the well-being of young LGBTI people found that 80 per cent of the trans individuals that were interviewed for the study had faced harassment. Trans pupils were also more likely to experience violence than their cisgender peers and almost 70 per cent of the trans pupils who experienced violence perceived it as motivated by their gender identity or expression.
10. The current procedure to obtain legal gender recognition in Finland is humiliating and violates trans person’s right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; the right to the highest attainable standard of health; the right to privacy and the right to recognition as a person before the law. According to the Act on Legal Recognition of the Gender of Transsexuals (the Trans Act), in force since 2002, the gender registered in the Population Information System can be changed only if the applicant presents a medical statement certifying that s/he permanently feels to belong to the opposite gender, lives in that gender role, and has been sterilized or is for some other reason infertile. In order to obtain the medical statement trans people have to i) undergo a humiliating psychiatric monitoring process (and receive a psychiatric diagnosis) that is based on outdated gender stereotypes of “woman” and “man” against which the gender identity of the person in question is tested, and ii) undergo forced sterilization . The same transphobic attitude manifests itself also when trans people, who are just considering starting the gender reassignment process, have been denied the storage of sex cells and their use in possible future fertility treatments . As the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment has highlighted several times – forcing trans people to undergo unnecessary medical treatments and psychiatric evaluations is coercive, leads often to severe life-long mental and physical pain and can amount to torture and ill-treatment . Legal gender recognition is also not available to minors under any circumstances – this absolute denial is not consistent with existing international standards regarding the rights of children and does not allow for the best interest of the child to be taking into account . Furthermore, non-binary trans people, who do not identify with the labels of “male” or “female”, have no possibility to be recognized before the law, as the Finnish law doesn’t allow for registration without a gender marker nor provide a “blank” or “other” option. This is against the recommendation by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly and also reality, as according to an EU wide study 73 percent of trans people do not identify strictly within the gender binary .
11. As reported by the Finnish government, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health set up a working group to examine the needs to review the Trans Act. Against the recommendations of the working group the government decided to remove from the Trans Act only the requirement to single be single, that lead to state-forced divorces, and that became irrelevant after the Act on Marriage was amended to include same sex couples.
12. Even after legal gender recognition the privacy of trans people is still commonly violated. Trans people regularly face problems in acquiring certificates from schools or employers reflecting their new name/gender, after confirmation of the new gender marker .
13. The fact that trans identities are classified as mental disorders by the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare further hinders the access to non-stigmatizing health care for trans people. The National Institute for Health and Welfare recently amended the way ICD-10 is applied in Finland, but decided to keep the classification “transsexualism” under mental illnesses, contrary to the standpoint of World Professional Association for Transgender Health Care and several human rights bodies such as the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and Parliamentary Assembly
14. Trans people face many obstacles arising from lack of awareness and transphobic attitudes when trying to access both general and trans-related health care. According to a recent study by EU Fundamental Rights Agency for which also Finnish medical experts were interviewed, medical practitioners often view trans persons as mentally ill or violent, associate them with STDs or even refuse them care. One in five transgender persons report inappropriate curiosity by care providers or having their specific needs ignored when seeking general health care and as a reaction trans people often avoid health-care services as much as possible and thus suffer from a poor state of health .
15. Trans person’s access to hormone or surgical treatments is often complicated even after a diagnosis has been established according to the requirements of the current legislation in Finland. Furthermore there are regularly problems in compensation or reimbursement of the costs by the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, even though the European Court of Human Rights case law clearly requires states to cover medically necessary trans specific health care in their insurance plans.
16. Furthermore, trans and gender non-confirming youth face severe barriers in accessing psychological and social support as well as trans specific health care: they are often met with negative attitudes, disbelief and denied referral to proper professional guidance and treatment, even though the Trans Act and its complimentary degree in theory provide for the access to the multidisciplinary teams in charge of trans health care at the Helsinki and Tampere University hospitals . The World Professional Association for Transgender Health Care highlights the importance of not dismissing or expressing negative attitudes towards trans and non-confirming gender identities and recommends acknowledging the presenting concerns and offering a thorough assessment of the child’s or adolescent’s situation as best practices for interaction between the medical professionals and trans and gender non-confirming youth and their families. However, as these standards are not formalized in the Finnish medical system, the principle of the best of the interest of the child is ignored and trans and gender non-confirming youth’s right to the highest attainable standard of health is jeopardized.
17. According to the Names Act, Section 32 b on forenames, a woman’s name cannot be given to a boy and a man’s name cannot given to a girl. The gendered names unnecessarily harm those people’s daily life who are trans, intersex, non-binary, including intersex and trans children. Also, since the age limit for legal gender recognition is 18, changing the name before one is 18 is problematic and causes problems in the daily life. Also many wish to have a name that is not established as a women’s or a man’s name. The Names Act, which is now under reform should be revised so that forenames with no gender connotation should be allowed and also changing names according to one’s gender experience should be an easy procedure.
18. We recommend Finland to:
– Develop a legal gender recognition procedure that is quick, transparent and accessible and based on self-determination and make this procedure available for all people who seek to use them, irrespective of age, medical or financial status;
– Proceed swiftly to revise the Trans Act; abolish sterilisation and other compulsory medical treatment, as well as a mental health diagnosis, as a necessary legal requirement to recognise a person’s gender identity;
– Amend the Trans Act to ensure that minors can access legal gender recognitio on the basis of their best interests and according to their evolving capacities;
– Include a “blank” or “other” option in identity documents for those who seek it;
– Amend national classifications of diseases used at national level, making sure that transgender people, including children, are not labelled as mentally ill, while ensuring stigma-free, accessible access to necessary medical treatment;
– Ensure that trans specific health care, such as hormone treatment, surgery and psychological support, is accessible and reimbursed by public health insurance schemes;
– Ensure that trans and gender non-confirming youth have have access to non-biased psychological and social support by training all relevant professional groups (health care professionals, school teachers) and provide more support and resources, outside of health care settings, to trans youth and their parents. Ensure that trans youth have quick and transparent access to legal gender recognition based on self-determination.
– Amend the Names Act: forenames with no gender connotation should be allowed. Change of forenames should be an easy procedure to support one’s gender experience.

Issues specific to intersex people

19. Intersex individuals are persons who cannot easily be classified according to the strict medical norms of so-called male and female bodies with regard to their chromosomal, gonadal or anatomical sex. The latter becomes evident, for example, in secondary sex characteristics such as muscle mass, hair distribution and stature, or primary sex characteristics such as the inner and outer genitalia and/or the chromosomal and hormonal structure. Intersex is thus a collective term for many natural variations in sex characteristics – not a medical condition.
20. According to a new study (2016) by the Finnish National Advisory Board on Social Welfare and Health Care Ethics (ETENE), intersex children in Finland are routinely subjected to medical and surgical treatments, often while very young, in order to align their physical appearances with either of the binary sexes . These operations, performed on intersex babies and toddlers, which are rarely medically necessary frequently cause scarring, sterilization, loss of sexual sensation, pain, incontinence and depression . The operations on intersex children are performed without the person’s prior, free and fully informed consent and neither are parents of intersex children often well informed nor given adequate time or options necessary to provide fully informed consent. According to ETENE, the possibilities of health care units to offer psychological support or peer support are inadequate.
21. Out of the 5 existing University Hospitals, Oulu University is the only one that refuses to operate intersex children for purely cosmetic reasons, the assistant chief pediatric surgeon Mika Venhola being a vocal critic of the unnecessary and harmful surgeries .
22. Peer support available to intersex people has been very limited despite some support services of LGBTI and trans organisations . Recently (2015) founded internet community ( gathers intersex people together and the website, in addition to experiences of intersex people, provide information for parents and public authorities.
23. The National Advisory Board on Social Welfare and Health Care Ethics (ETENE) calls for respect to the child’s physical integrity and recommends that no measures modifying external sex characteristics are carried out before the child is old enough to decide for themselves. In addition ETENE recommends that parents should be given broad, non-biased and fact-based information about intersex issues, including the consequences of such treatments and that by modifying external sex characteristics it is not possible to influence the child’s later experience about their gender. Furthermore ETENE calls for health care professionals to be educated on the whole spectrum of gender/sex development issues in order to safeguard the rights of intersex children to a safe growth and development.
24. Despite the profound research and recommendations by ETENE, recommendation by the Finnish Federation of Midwives to stop unnecessary surgeries , as well as a recommendation by the Ombudsperson for Children that there is an acute need to review the “treatment practices” of intersex children , there is no commitment from the government to review the “treatment practices” and halt the unnecessary surgeries that intersex children are subjected to and gravely violate their right to physical integrity.
25. We recommend Finland to:
– immediately end medically unnecessary “normalising” treatment of intersex persons carried out for “social” or cosmetic purposes, including irreversible genital surgery and sterilisation, that are carried out without the free and fully informed consent of the person concerned. Provide access to possible sex assignment treatments to intersex people based on their self-determination and respect their right not to undergo any treatment,
– provide intersex persons and their families with non-biased information about intersex issues and make interdisciplinary counselling and support, including peer support, available for them.
– improve public awareness and professional training about gender diversity in general and intersex issues in particular in order to safeguard the rights of intersex children.

Hate crime and hate speech

26. Finnish authorities report hate crime regularly to the OSCE hate crime reporting. In 2014 the authorities reported 40 cases with a bias motivation against LGBTI people. Reported numbers do not seem to portray the reality. According to the EU LGBT Survey 31 % of the Finnish respondents to report experiencing violence or threat of violence within the past five years of participating in the survey. The number was even higher among gender minorities (40 %). Both numbers are higher that the EU average. Underreporting is considerable.
27. The Criminal Code incorporates bias against sexual orientation as a ground for increasing the punishment for common crimes. Also incitement of hatred, defamation or insulting sexual minorities is specifically criminalized. Gender identity is not explicitly mentioned as a bias ground even though the government bill which introduced the changes specifically mentions gender identity as a relevant ‘other ground’ for applying the provisions.
28. A recent report by the Ministry of Justice shows that LGBTI people are often targets of hate speech in Finland. Half of the LGBTI respondents participating in the research told that within the last five years they have been targets of abusive and degrading harassment.
29. We recommend Finland
– to ensure that the police, prosecutors, judges and lawyers have the necessary knowledge and skills to address hate crimes against LGBTI people by providing mandatory training and guidelines;
– to amend laws specific to hate crime and hate speech so that gender identity is explicitly included as a bias ground;
– to raise awareness about hate speech against LGBTI people and its harmful effects.

Family issues

30. Joint adoption will become possible for same-sex couples when marriage equality enters into force 1.3.2017. Second parent adoption has been possible for same-sex couples living in registered partnership since 2009. The process of second parent adoption is possible to secure only after the birth of a child which leaves the child without two parents from the start. This is especially problematic in situations where the parents may divorce before the child is born or when the parent giving birth dies or becomes incapable of caring for the child before the second parent adoption is concluded. Second parent adoption also leads to an unnecessary bureaucratic process in cases where there is no question about the actual parents. It would be in the best interest of the child to ensure that de facto parents are recognized from the beginning. Currently a popular initiative (motherhood law) is aiming to change the law so that at least in cases where a child is born to a family of two mothers with the help of donated gametes (unknown donor) both mothers can be recognized as legal parents already before the child is born. In these cases the children born to two mothers are in the exact same situation as children born to different gender parents with the help of donated gametes but unlike the child born into a different gender couple where both parents are recognized as legal parents from the beginning the child born to two mothers can secure a legal ties with both mothers only after a bureaucratic process.
31. Even if passed this initiative will not solve issues related to parental recognition in many situations relevant to same-sex parents or rainbow families. The laws concerning parenthood should be evaluated and revised so that they take fully into account the diversity of families and recognize de facto parents, including situations where the child has more than two parents.
32. Fertility treatments are mostly part of the public health care, but single mothers or female couples are often refused in a discriminatory manner. Thus they are obliged to seek help in private clinics, but unlike other persons using such services, they are often not refunded by Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland.The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has in 2015 emphasized that fertility treatments should be administered without any discrimination but discrimination still occurs.
33. Finnish law grants specific, partly salaried, parental leaves. This right, however, is not quite fulfilled for families of LGBTI people. Legal fathers living in a separate household from the legal mother are not entitled to full rights or compensations, although they may be very involved in the care of the children. Fathers and their spouses, who may be solely responsible for the care of children, should be granted similar rights as mothers. Same-sex spouses of biological mothers or fathers are only entitled to the so called paternity leave after second-parent adoption has been approved, which may take more than half a year since the birth of the child. In all other situations paternity leave is granted to any persons living together with the mother and child.
34. Childs right to maintain contact with his or her family through correspondence or visits is emphasized it the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In Finland, however, visits can be guaranteed by law only with legal parents. It would be in the best interest of the child, if the courts could grant rights to visits also with social parents who have been important care givers of the child even when legal parenthood is not recognized between the child and the caregiver.
35. We recommend Finland:
– to swiftly adopt motherhood legislation to ensure that children born to two mothers have the right to two legal parents in the same way as children born to different gender parents in the same situation without any discrimination based on the parents sexual orientation;
– to evaluate and revise legislation governing parental rights in order to ensure childrens rights to their parents without discrimination based on the parents sexual orientation or gender identity;
– to ensure that all persons seeking fertility treatments or in need of assisted reproductive technology are treated in equal manner and LGBTI persons are not arbitrarily discriminated;
– to amend laws regulating parental leaves and benefits so that all care givers are treated in an equal manner;
– to amend legislation concerning visitation rights so that they take into account a child’s relationship with relevant de facto caregivers.

Issues specific to LGBTI youth

36. According to research, school is not a secure environment for young LGBTI people. It is concerning that the majority of those who have reported bullying to teachers has found that nothing has happened or that they themselves have been blamed for the situation. An ever greater proportion of these young people reply that they have not reported the bullying because they have felt that it would not have led to any resolution, or that because of it they would have been forced to disclose their LGBTI identity. This is problematic especially if these young LGBTI people, who have been bullied due to their sexual expression or orientation, also keep their identity and bullying experiences secret at home. Homophobic name calling is not harmless, but maintains discriminatory attitudes at school and in activities.
37. All school teaching need to be examined from the viewpoint of diversity and equality. School premises must be made safer for young LGBTI people, for example, by reducing the rigid gender division of facilities. A positive development is that the Finnish Board of Education has included the provision of information on gender diversity in the basis of the curriculum for comprehensive education.
38. Furthermore there is a need for providing wider protection against discrimination. When young people experience discrimination, they often do not know where to seek help. The implementation of equality needs more effective tools and, above all, approachable people and organisations who can help victims of discrimination.
39. We recommend Finland to:
– provide teachers and other school staff further education regarding the tackling of homophobic and transphobic bullying and discriminatory practices. This should be included in the obligatory teacher training;
– ensure that young LGBTI people in schools and educational institutions receive necessary information, protection and support to enable them to live in accordance with their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression inter alia by raising awareness of LGBTI people in the school welfare services.
– provide guidelines or toolkits to schools and educational institutions on including concerns of LGBTI pupils and staff in non-discrimination and equality plans.


1 Seta LGBTI Rights in Finland is the national association of LGBTI NGO’s in Finland.
2 Trasek is a Finnish association for trangender and intersex rights.
3 Seksuaali- ja sukupuolivähemmistöön kuuluvien perus- ja ihmisoikeudet Suomessa. 2014.
4 Government of Finland Human Rights Report 2014.
5 European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights: Professionally speaking challenges to achieving equality for LGBT people (2016), available at
6 EU Fundamental Rights Agency LGBT Survey (May 2013), available at
7 K. Alanko, “How are young LGBTI people doing in Finland? Seta and the Finnish Youth Research 2013”, available at
8 Amnesty International (2014): The State Decides Who I Am – Lack of Legal Gender Recognition for transgender people in Europe. The report includes a study on the specific human rights situation of transgender persons in Finland. Available at:
9 Unofficial English translation of the Trans Act available at Further details on the requirements to access legal gender recognition are spelled out in the Decree 1053/2002of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on the organization of the examination and treatment aiming at the change of gender as well as on the medical statement for the confirmation of the gender of a transsexual. Unofficial English translation of the Decree available at
10 Amnesty International (2014): The State Decides Who I Am – Lack of Legal Gender Recognition for transgender people in Europe – see link above.
11 Information based on Trans Support Center & Trasek counseling services.
12 Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, A/HRC/31/57, available at https://documents-dds-
13 Amnesty International (2014): The State Decides Who I Am – Lack of Legal Gender Recognition for transgender people in Europe – see link above.
14 Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Resolution Discrimination against transgender people in Europe 2048(2015), available at
15 Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 2048(2015), Background report, Available at
16 Information based on Trans Support Center & Trasek counseling services.
17 World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), Standards of Care Version 7 (2012), available at:
18 Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Resolution Discrimination against transgender people in Europe 2048(2015), see link above, The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Issue Paper Human Rights and Gender Identity (2009), available at
19 European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights: Professionally speaking challenges to achieving equality for LGBT people (2016), available at
20 European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights: Professionally speaking challenges to achieving equality for LGBT people (2016), see link above.
21 European Court of Human Rights, case van Kuck v. Germany (Application no. 35668/97) and L. V Lithuania (Application no 27527/03).
22 Information based on Trans Support Center & Trasek counseling services.
23 World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), Standards of Care Version 7 (2012), available at:
24 The Finnish Names Act in English, Available at:
25 Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Issue Paper on Human Rights and Intersex people (2015). Available at ; FRA European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights: The Fundamental Rights Situation of Intersex People (2015), available at
26 Finnish National Advisory Board on Social Welfare and Health Care Ethics (2016): Report and a position paper on the treatment of intersex individuals (2016), Available in Finnish at:
27 Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Issue Paper on Human Rights and Intersex people (2015), see link above, FRA European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights: The Fundamental Rights Situation of Intersex People (2015), see link above.
28 Finnish National Advisory Board on Social Welfare and Health Care Ethics (2016): Report and a position paper on the treatment of intersex individuals (2016), see link above.
29 Council of Europe: Video interview with Mika Venhola and an intersex activist Kitty Anderson (2016):
30 Seta’s Trans Support Center and Trask provide support also to intersex children and adults as well as their parents.
31 More information available in Finnish at
32 Finnish Federation of Midwives (May 2016), Statement: Intersex children have the right to self-determination of their gender, available in Finnish at
33 Ombudsperson for Children (August 2016) Statement: The Rights of Intersex Children need to be strengthened, available in Finnish at
34 OSCE ODIHR Hate Crime Reporting
35 EU Fundamental Rights Agency LGBT Survey (May 2013), available at
36 ”Usein joutuu miettimään, miten pitäisi olla ja minne olla menemättä”. Selvitys vihapuheesta ja häirinnästä ja niiden vaikutuksista eri vähemmistöryhmiin. Oikeusministeriö 2016.
37 Hedelmöityshoidon perusteet koskevat yhdenvertaisesti kaikkia.
38 R. Taavetti, K. Alanko ja L. Heikkinen, Hyvinvoiva sateenkaarinuori-tutkimushanke. Tiivistelmä. Nuorisotutkimusverkosto.

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