Finland under pressure to criminalise lack of consent in rape laws


Finland is facing calls from the Council of Europe to reform its rape laws to criminalise a lack of consent rather than just the use of violence. The human rights body said Finland’s legislation lagged behind international standards despite the country’s strong record in furthering gender equality.

The council’s group of experts on action against violence against women and domestic violence “strongly encouraged” swift action in its first report on the country. It said: “Rape continues to be categorised according to the degree of physical violence used or threatened by the perpetrator or a requirement to show that the victim was in a state of fear or helplessness and unable to defend herself or to formulate or express her will.

“The problem with this approach is that it does not fully capture the realities of women experiencing sexual violence and how they respond to threat (ie flight, fight, freeze, flop or befriend).” The council said that as a consequence, “not all forms of sexual violence are criminalised in Finland … Other consequences include the requirement of higher thresholds of evidentiary standards of physical resistance and a shifting of the focus on to the victim’s behaviour rather than the accused’s actions.”

In response to a series of high-profile cases where lax penalties imposed on offenders caused an outcry, the Finnish ministry of justice has recently established a working group to recommend on required reforms by the end of May 2020.(theguardian)…[+]