Leena Meri (PS), the chairperson of the Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee, was photographed at a press conference at the Finns Party’s office in Helsinki on 10 October 2022. Meri on Friday told Helsingin Sanomat that the committee selected the experts to hear in regards to a bill that would update transgender laws unanimously, without a vote. (Emmi Korhonen – Lehtikuva)

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THE PARLIAMENT’S Legal Affairs Committee has requested feedback on a bill for updating transgender laws from organisations that, according to proponents of the bill, are openly against transgender people, writes Helsingin Sanomat.

The bill was forwarded to parliamentary committees for discussion last week after it was discussed in the Finnish Parliament.

The central amendment in the bill is that people would be able to change their gender designation in the population register without a medical examination or transgender diagnosis. The bill would also do away with the requirement that people seeking a gender re-assignment surgery undergo sterilisation.

Finland is the only Nordic country with such a requirement.

Parliamentary committees are able to invite experts, officials and organisations to give an oral or written statement as they prepare their own report or memorandum a matter at hand. The Legal Affairs Committee has decided to request a written statement on the bill from, for example, the Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC) Finland, which describes itself as an umbrella organisation for individuals and associations providing pastoral care and Christian counselling.

Helsingin Sanomat on Friday asked Leena Meri (PS), the chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee, how the association can contribute to the discussion.

“The committee has decided to hear them. I don’t think it’s anything out of the ordinary that there are different perspectives and different concerns that the committee hears. I don’t see anything unusual about that,” she replied to the daily newspaper.

Also other selections by the committee have raised eyebrows.

Among the experts it is set to hear tomorrow are two from LGB Union, an organisation that describes itself as a defender of gay, lesbian and bisexual rights but opposes some elements of the bill. LGB Union views that “sexual orientation is firmly based on biological sex” and that sexual orientation is not a “mutable ‘preference’”.

The other experts addressing the committee tomorrow are from Seta, Trasek and Finland for All Families.

The Legal Affairs Committee has also decided to request a written statement from Tapio Puolimatka, a professor of educational theory from the University of Jyväskylä. Puolimatka is well known for his anti-gay writings.

Meri stressed to Helsingin Sanomat that the committee decided on the hearing and statement requests unanimously, without a vote.

“I can’t comment on the committee’s discussions in more detail,” she said, reiterating that it is good to hear views from different perspectives. “No one is proposing that someone be heard just for the heck of it, but because they may have some questions that bother them about the issue.”

The Social Affairs and Health Committee is tasked with drafting the report on the bill, in part based on statements presented by the Legal Affairs Committee and Constitutional Law Committee.

CORRECTION: This article has been amended to clarify the views of LGB Union. In an e-mail to Helsinki Times on 27 October, the organisation stated that it supports some elements of the bill, including abolishing the requirement to prove sterility, but opposes others.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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