6th of November 2020 was a remarkable day in the Finnish democracy. On that Friday, the Parliament of Finland agreed on that female genital mutilation (FGM) should be more accurately criminalized in the Finnish legislation. The debate and voting were based on a citizens’ initiative with over 61 000 signatures demanding a separate piece of legislation that would clearly prohibit FGMs.
Despite that day being remarkable in defending the rights of children, girls and women, unfortunately that day was also remarkable in a very unwelcome and opposite manner. Because on that same day, the majority of the parliament did not agree on that we should also immediately start the process to prohibit circumcisions done for boys for non-medical reasons.
Every year several Finnish boys are stripped of their right to decide on their own body. On a global scale, we are talking about millions and millions of boys every year. For religious and cultural reasons, their parents decide to cut their infant´s foreskin, one of the most sensitive parts of a human body. It’s a decision that cannot be taken back, even if the victim of this cultural tradition wanted to when he reaches adulthood.
My goal is not to compare non-medical circumcisions and FGMs. We are well aware that usually FGMs have far more serious effects physically, mentally and to the status of women and girls around the world. But it is an undeniable fact that both are violations against children’s rights. It would therefore be obvious to set, without hesitation, laws prohibiting both brutal rituals. Unfortunately, these are not the circumstances we are living in today’s Finland.
Both FGM and non-medical circumcision done for boys are regarded as an abuse in the current Finnish legislation. Thus, only FGMs are to follow a punishment for the violator. The Supreme Court of Finland has stated that violating boys’ rights through an unnecessary circumcision can be left unpunished, if the reasons for circumcision are based on a religion or culture. To put it in other words, the Supreme Court has defined what are acceptable reasons to cause a permanent harm to a child.
An often-heard argument to defend the current legislation is that Finland would be the first country in the world to prohibit non-medical circumcisions, if such a piece of legislation was to be accepted. Similar bills in other Nordic countries have also faced this argument and have been buried after a vivid debate and fierce condemnations from religious groups.
After considering this argument, for me, it seems even brighter that we should act and renew our laws to defend both sexes regardless what religions they are representing. If we could set an example for the whole world, that we are ready to support the rights of children no matter how strong opposition we may face, we could defend our own citizens but also citizens of many other countries.
The Finnish people showed their strength by demanding the Parliament of Finland to act against FGMs. The MPs heard their voice but however revealed their own weakness by not standing for all children. Following that, thousands of Finnish people have started again to gather their strength by supporting a new citizens’ initiative demanding MPs to act against non-medical circumcisions. I sincerely hope that it will get the needed 50 000 signatures so me and my 199 colleagues will have another chance to show our strength.
31-year-old Sebastian Tynkkynen is amongst the youngest MPs’ in the Parliament of Finland. Tynkkynen originates from the city of Oulu in northern Finland and he is representing the Electoral District of Oulu at the Finnish parliament. He is continuing his studies to become a class teacher in the future and his main areas of interest are human rights, democracy support and education. Tynkkynen got recently chosen to chair the board of Demo Finland which is pioneering in supporting global democracy development in new and innovative ways. He is also the vice chair of the Finnish Group in Inter-Parliamentary Union.
This article was written for MP Talk, a regular column from the Helsinki Times in which Members of The Finnish Parliament contribute their thoughts and opinions. All opinions voiced are entirely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the Helsinki Times.
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