The Centre Party held its party conference in Lappeenranta Ice Arena on 11 June 2022. (Lauri Heino – Str / Lehtikuva)

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MEMBERS of the Centre Party are at odds over how visibly and vocally the party should participate and support Pride, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

Harriet Lonka, the district chief of the Centre in Helsinki, criticised the party for its silence on the rights of gender and sexual minorities in a guest contribution published in Suomenmaa, a Centre-affiliated newspaper published in Oulu, on 5 July.

“Who in the Centre’s leadership decided that the Centre should play dead for the duration of the Pride week?” she asked, pointing to the lack of communication and statements from the party about what is the world’s leading event celebrating the rights of gender and sexual minorities.

“When did the Centre become such an introverted, obstinate and extremely conservative party? Where did it leave education, humanity, and respect for constitutional law and human rights?”

Olivia Löytänen, a deputy chairperson of Centre Students Finland, described Pride as a “red rag” for some members of the party in a press release published before the week-long event. “[T]here is no understanding or willingness to understand how important the rights of gender and sexual minorities, as well as their development, are.”

Leaders of Centre Students Finland and Finnish Centre Youth said in the release they are disappointed with the parent party’s “antics to spread disinformation” on Pride.

An example of such disinformation is the justification of an initiative presented to the Oulu City Council by Pekka Aittakumpu (Centre), Marja-Leena Kemppainen (CD) and Jenna Simula (PS), according to Aleksi Sandroos, the chairperson of Finnish Centre Youth. The trio proposed that the city refrain from collaborating and supporting the event because it is necessary to “protect children from confusing content”.

The initiative also remarked that equality is being reduced to “advocacy for certain political ideology”.

The Oulu City Council rejected the proposal by a vote of two for and eight against.

Aittakumpu on Friday confirmed to Helsingin Sanomat that he believes the Centre should continue staying silent about Pride, describing the movement as a “mostly left-wing ideology that assigns value to people based on intersectional feminism and demands, for example, that gender re-assignment procedures be made possible for young people”.

“I think it’s odd that equality and non-discrimination are tied to one political movement that’s lobbying policy-makers on the trans law, for example,” he said.

The internal criticism drew on attention on social media during Helsinki Pride.

Jere Tapio, a deputy chairperson of Finnish Centre Youth, pleaded with Annika Saarikko, the chairperson of the Centre Party, by viewing that by staying silent the party is “coldly turning its back to a large group of people, including members of the Centre”.

Sandroos told Helsingin Sanomat that expressing support for the event on social media is the minimum requirement.

“The most important thing would be to have an internal discussion about how there are different kinds of people in the Centre and the world, and what kind of challenges they face,” he commented. “Being silent is, in my view, a way to concede to those who don’t want to fight for these things.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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