Thursday, August 16, 2012

Finland: Rape statistics used against foreigners

A documentary presented on Yle's A-studio program on 1 August 2012 used rape statistics in a way that could fan flames of xenophobia and incite hatred, discrimination and hate crimes against foreigners in Finland. Chapter 20, Section 1(1) of the Criminal Code of Finland (39/1889, amendments up to 940/2008 included) states that, "a person who forces another into sexual intercourse by the use or threat of violence shall be sentenced for rape to imprisonment for at least one year and at most six years." According to Section 1 (2), "... a person who, after rendering another unconscious or arousing in him or her a state of fear or another such state in which he or she is incapable of defending himself or herself, takes advantage of the incapacity and has sexual intercourse with him or her, shall be sentenced for rape." Attempted rape is punishable under Finnish law and the Criminal Code also makes provisions for aggravated rape, coercion into sexual intercourse, coercion into a sexual act, sexual abuse and other sex crimes.

The first part of A-studio's documentary that aired on Yle TV1 on 1 August at 9:05 PM focused on Italy's struggling economy and the second part highlighted rapes committed by foreigners in Finland. The presenter of the report on rapes, Tuomas Kerkkänen, highlighted rapes and sexual crimes committed by foreigners and used statistics to show that one quarter of rapes are committed by foreigners. According to the report, about 100 men were in prison in May because of morality crimes, rapes and sexual offences. 26% of those imprisoned for morality crimes were foreigners and 27% of rape suspects in 2011 were foreigners.

The report revealed that Oikeuspoliittinen Tutkimuslaitos (National Research Institute of Legal Policy) used names of convicted persons to established that 34% of people convicted of rape between 2006 and 2009 were foreigners. Such a method of obtaining statistics is deeply flawed. A research institute should know better. It is impossible to accurately establish who is and who is not a foreigner by simply looking at a list of names.There is a chance that some convicts counted as foreigners (based on their names) are probably not foreigners. There are Finns with so-called foreign names.

Tuomas Kerkkänen, reporting for Yle, blatantly omitted (intentionally or unintentionally) statistics showing how many Finns were convicted or accused of rape during the same period. This type of one-sided reporting is discriminatory and designed to support a claim that foreigners are a threat to the fabric of Finnish society - a view held by far-right and right-wing extremists in Finland. It is no coincidence that the documentary touched on the economy, foreigners (immigration) and crime.

Rape is a serious crime and ALL perpetrators - foreigners and nationals - should be condemned on equal terms. Irresponsible journalism is dangerous and one-sided reporting could go a long way to incite hatred, hate crimes and discrimination against immigrants - especially in a country where xenophobia is no secret.

If one quarter of rapes were committed by foreigners in 2011, it goes without saying that the majority of rapes - three quarter - during the same period were committed by Finns. Both sides of the story are worth telling.

A complaint - calling attention to the biased A-studio documentary - has been sent to the Council for Mass Media in Finland. It remains to be seen whether anything will be done to put an end to such potentially dangerous news reporting targeting minority groups.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

UK: Racist couple attack teenage daughter

Racism is a daily reality and its victims and perpetrators are uncountable. Everyday, human beings experience various forms of racial abuse of varied proportions. Racism shows its ugly face on the streets, in homes, workplaces, classrooms, offices and other public and private places. Surf the internet and you will find a variety of racist content and shocking stories of blatant racism. One of such stories is the disturbing tale of a couple identified as David Champion and Frances Champion - white parents jailed for attacking their teenage daughter for having a black boyfriend.

In Swansea, a coastal city in Wales, David Champion and his wife Frances Champion brutally attacked their 17-year-old daughter and racially abused her black boyfriend. The parents reportedly attacked their daughter for bringing "shame" on the family.

David Champion, 50, also verbally and physically assaulted his daughter's boyfriend. Frances Champion, 47, on her part reportedly used threatening, abusive and offensive language against her daughter's black boyfriend.

The racist parents confronted and abused their daughter's boyfriend in a restaurant in Swansea. They admitted the assault and a charge of racially aggravated assault.

Swansea Crown Court sentenced David Champion to 12 months in prison and slapped Frances Champion with nine months in prison.

The couple was jailed on 5 August 2012. [Source]

The racist attack perpetrated by David and Frances Champion could be aptly termed an "honour crime" - with a racist dimension.

"Honour crime" is defined as violence committed by those who aim to protect the reputation of their family or community. [Source] The crime committed by David and Frances Champion is in line with this definition. The "western" parents attacked their daughter for "bringing shame" on the family - a common argument used to justify violence, intimidation and killing of women and girls in some Asian and Middle Eastern families.

In Europe, the UK included, "honour"-related crimes are commonly linked to communities with immigrant and Muslim populations. David Champion and Frances Champion are not immigrants but the racist crime they committed was "honor"-related and must be equally condemned in the strongest terms. They stopped short of killing their daughter but their actions go to show that people from all backgrounds are capable of committing unspeakable crimes against family members accused of bringing "dishonor" upon the family. "Honour" crimes are not exclusive to a particular religion or culture.

The decision of Swansea Crown Court to imprison David and Frances Champion for their racist and "disgraceful" conduct should be welcomed. Racial abuse and crimes of "honor" are unacceptable. Perpetrators should bear the full weight of the law.

*Photo source: Washington Peace Centre.

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