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Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Anti-Discrimination Legislation The Constitution of Finland

Article 6 of the Constitution states, that everyone is equal before the law. However, race and ethnic origin of a person are not directly mentioned as a prohibited ground for discrimination. “No one can, without valid reason, have a special status on the basis of sex, age, origin, language, religion, belief, opinion, health, disability or for some other reason that relates to his or her personality” – is stated in the basic law of the country.

Questions related to combating racism and anti-ethnic strife are described in sections 10-10a in Chapter 11 of the Penal Code of Finland, and section 13 of chapter 13 of the Penal Code is devoted to punishment for libel based on xenophobia. Section 24-25 of Chapter 19 of the Penal Code of Finland is devoted to the fight against crimes motivated by xenophobia. Section 10 of Chapter 22 is devoted to combating crimes on religious grounds.

Children who speak Sami as a first language and who live in regions populated by the Sami people have the right to education in their native language. General education and secondary vocational education can be provided in the Sami language, which is also offered as an elective course. Council located in Sami regions receive subsidies to support Sami languages, if there are at least three students (or two outside Sami regions). In 2014, Finland adopted a national programme for the revival of Sami language.

Article 11 of the Finnish Constitution states: “Everyone shall be guaranteed freedom of religion and conscience. Freedom of conscience and religion includes the right to manifest one's religion and to worship, the right to express a belief and the right to enter or not to enter a religious community. No one is required to participate in religious ceremonies against their will”.

Article 17 of the Basic Law distinguishes bilingualism in Finland (Finnish and Swedish are equal) and the right of such groups as the Sami and Roma to preserve and develop their language and their culture and Article 75 of the Constitution guarantees the autonomy of the Swedish-speaking Åland Islands. According to the law, a municipality is considered bilingual (Finnish-Swedish), if the Swedish-speaking share of the population is more than 8 percent. In the Finnish-speaking regions Swedish language is a compulsory school subject for everyone from 7th to 9th grade (for teenagers aged 13 to 16).

The main document of anti-discrimination legislation in Finland, the Equality Act, was adopted in 2004. According to Article 1 the aim of the Act is the promotion and preservation of equality and improvement protection against discrimination with the right to use law within the framework of discrimination. It covers the areas of employment, social and health services, military service.

Article 6 of the Act states: “No one shall be discriminated against on grounds of age, ethnic or national background, nationality, language, religion, opinion, health, disability, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics”.

Article 4 of the Equality Act says that “the government shall promote equality in all its activities, purposefully, with the use of administrative and operational practices to ensure the promotion of equality in planning and decision making.”

Section 11 of Chapter 11 of the Finnish Penal Code is also dedicated to the fight against discrimination. In this case, extra responsibility on managers, under whose watch facts of discrimination took place. The third section of Chapter 47 of the Finnish Penal Code covers anti-discrimination in the workplace.

In 2012, the development of a new version of the law on self-government of the Aland Islands was announced, granting the Swedish minority living there broad autonomy. On November 28, the Finnish parliament voted to legalise same-sex marriage with 105 MPs in favour against 92 opposed. Second vote on December 12 yielded the same result.

The Supreme Administrative Court of Finland in the spring of 2013 amended the current law on workers, in accordance with which a person cannot be deported if he did not agree to this himself and if his country of origin refuses to accept the deportee. People who find themselves in this situation are at first issued a temporary residence permit for one year and then it can be extended for another year. If after two years the deportation is not possible, then the person has received a permanent residence permit in Finland.

On September 13th the President of Finland approved an amendment to the law on foreign persons in accordance with EU legislations, speeding up the process of issuing a permanent residence permit and citizenship for refugees and those who are under the protection of the EU. A residence permit in Finland is not required for citizens of the Scandinavian countries, countries of the the EU, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

On November 28, the Finnish parliament voted to legalise same-sex marriage with 105 MPs in favour against 92 opposed. Second vote on December 12 yielded the same result.

In 2014, Finland adopted a new Non-Discrimination Act, which applies in the public sphere but does not apply in private, family or religious life (Chapter 1, Section 2). The law defines direct indirect discrimination as well as victimization. Under direct discrimination, the Law means treatment that is different from the treatment of other people for the worse because of personal characteristics. According to the Law, “discrimination is indirect if a seemingly neutral rule, criterion or practice puts a person at a disadvantage compared to others on the basis of personal characteristics, unless the rule, criterion or practice has a legitimate aim and the means to achieve the goal are appropriate.” and necessary".

Although this law does not mention specific categories of discrimination, nevertheless, it follows from the text that the Law on Non-Discrimination prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, origin, nationality, language, religion, beliefs, opinions, political activities, trade union activities, family relationship, health condition, disability, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics. The Non-Discrimination Act also contains provisions to promote non-discrimination.

The Gender Equality Act was amended in 2016 to promote gender equality, prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, and provide legal protection.

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