Monday, June 17, 2013

Finland should do more to end cycle of violence against women

The killing of a woman on the street in Helsinki in broad daylight is a gruesome reminder that violence against women is a major problem in Finland and the authorities ought do more to protect women from what seems to be a large number of abusive men in the country.

On 15.6.2013, a Finnish man shot and killed his Estonian partner in broad daylight in a parking lot at Helsinki's west harbour. The man reportedly shot the woman in the chest before turning the gun on himself after police ordered him to drop his weapon.

An eye-witness told Ilta Sanomat that the Finnish-Estonian couple had an argument before the man pulled his .22 calibre pistol. Helsingin Sanomat reports that according to police information, the man had previously threatened the woman before she was shot in the presence of her adult son.

In my view, the murder underscores a serious problem faced by many women in Finland and the need for concerted effort to protect victims of violence against women and those threatened with violence.

A staggering 43.5% of Finnish women have been subjected to physical or sexual violence at least once after the age of fifteen. [SourceA European Union survey revealed that violence towards women is slightly higher in Finland than elsewhere in the EU. [Source]

According to Amnesty International - Finnish Section, violence against women is a broad human rights problem in Finland and society does not condemn or prevent it as strongly as other forms of violence.

This, in my assessment, is an embarrassing record for a developed and supposedly civilized nation.

Finland has made noticeable progress in advancing women's rights. In fact, the country has seen three majority female government cabinets. The government as of the time of this writing is running on woman power.

Despite positive strides, many women are abused in private relationships.

In my opinion, the energy wasted by a growing number of anti-immigration activists and some Finns Party MPs bashing immigrants, refugees and other minorities in Finland should be focused on solving real societal problems like violence against women.

Women on their part should report all illegal threats and abuse. The woman killed at the port had been previously threatened by her Finnish husband, but she [reportedly] did not inform the police of threats. A police report could change dynamics of a case. Women who face violence or threat of violence in Finland could also use a toll-free helpline known as Naisten Linja (Women's Line). The phone number is 0800 02400. The service is available from Monday-Friday from 16:00-20:00.

Finland should do more to end recurring family violence and violence against women. Law enforcement and helplines are great but more initiatives and services are needed, including educative and rehabilitative services for young men who experience violence at home.

*Image: Ilta Sanomat

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