Finland’s government has presented a new anti-racism policy — detailing measures to promote equality and fight discrimination in various aspects of Finnish life — after a series of racism scandals rocked the administration in recent months.
The statement, presented to the public Thursday, includes a series of measures for the government to strengthen the legal and institutional framework for combating discrimination; improving education on human rights, equality and gender sensitivity; combating hate speech; promoting equality at work; and protecting women from violence in certain patriarchal cultures. It also criminalizes Holocaust denial.
“The Government is committed to promoting equality on a broad front throughout the parliamentary term,” Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said in a press release. “There is no room for racism in Finland. Political decision-makers must set an example in building a safe and equal society, and we need all of society to take part.”
The statement was drawn up by a working group of state and permanent secretaries, in consultation with about 100 representatives of civil society organizations, researchers and other parties, which was tasked with drafting the document back in July. The group found that “there are still discriminatory attitudes and structures in Finnish society — for example, on the labour market and in education — that must be changed,” as they wrote in the statement.
The statement describes several actions the government is planning to take, including leading an annual round-table discussion on promoting equality and non-discrimination, launching a national anti-racism campaign, and launching a program to promote equality across the entire Finnish education system.
In addition to criminalizing denial of the Holocaust, the government will investigate the “possibility of criminalising the use of at least Nazi and communist symbols to promote ideology.”
The government has submitted the statement to the parliament, which is set to discuss it next week. If approved, the measures will be implemented through a separate action plan.
Despite being in office for little over two months, Finland’s government has already faced three major racism scandals involving Orpo’s junior coalition partner, the right-wing Finns Party. After 10 days in office the economy minister, Vilhelm Junnila, had to resign after making jokes about Nazism and attending a far-right event with links to neo-Nazis in 2019.
Deputy Prime Minister Riikka Purra later came under fire for making racist comments in online blog posts published in 2008, but she did not resign. And Junnila’s replacement, Wille Rydman, was revealed to have used racial slurs in private messages with his then-girlfriend.