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FINLAND 2021

Social security benefits were inadequate, with particular impact on those most at risk of discrimination. Sexual offences increased. Family reunification of refugees remained difficult. Legislation around gender recognition was found wanting.

Right to social security

Inadequate provision of social security benefits meant some people went without sufficient food, medicine or healthcare because of a lack of financial resources. The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated economic distress for those at risk and had a negative impact especially on the income of young women.

There were calls for the provision of social security to be raised to a level that ensures the realization of human rights and for human rights to be placed at the heart of proposed reforms, with a focus on the rights of people most at risk of facing discrimination, in particular women, Sámi people, LGBTI people, Roma people, and people with disabilities.1

Violence against women and girls

The number of sexual offences recorded by the police increased by more than 20%. New Sexual Assault Support Centres opened in Kokkola and Seinäjoki in June and in Vaasa in November.

The response to gender-based violence remained systematically under-resourced. In April, the government decided to prepare a new model for financing the work of NGOs.

In July, new legislation on health and social services came into force but did not include specific provisions on the prevention of violence against women.

A bill establishing the post of a Rapporteur on Violence against Women was adopted by the parliament in October.

LGBTI people’s rights

In April, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern that the amended gender recognition legislation would not apply to minors.

In June, the government appointed a working group to propose legislative changes to strengthen the realization of transgender and intersex people’s rights. In November, parliament began to consider an initiative to reform the law on gender recognition.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Family reunification remained difficult. In April, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended that Finland should remove obstacles to family reunification. In September, the Ministry of the Interior published draft legislation aimed at removing some of the obstacles.

In July, the European Court of Human Rights annulled its 2019 judgment that Finland had violated the European Convention on Human Rights when it returned an Iraqi asylum seeker without adequately assessing the risks.

In August, legal changes improving asylum seekers’ right to due process came into force. Concerns about the process remained, including limitations on lodging an appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court and on subsequent applications.

Conscientious objectors’ rights

In January, the Court of Appeal overturned the convictions of three conscientious objectors sentenced for the second time for refusing non-military service. In November, parliament adopted a legislative reform, meaning that those acquitted would no longer be required to serve. The length of the alternative to military service remained punitive and discriminatory.


  1. Finland: “I Live under Constant Duress and in a State of Emergency”: Inadequate Social Security in Finland (Index: EUR 20/4804/2021), 31 August