I congratulate you, Madam Chairman, for your having been
chosen as the Chairman of this conference. I thank the government
of Italy for providing a setting for our conference and I
recognize the efforts of the Council of Europe, which by arranging
this conference has shown that it regards violence against women
as a difficult social problem, the treatment of which requires joint
In my opinion, the work and discussion which in the past few
years have been carried on in some individual countries and at
the international level to combat violence against women and to
help the victims of violence has already given some results, i.e.
we have achieved intermediate goals of which I mention the most
- At present violence against women is already regarded as a
human rights issue, which means that it is considered a violation
of the human rights of women and an obstacle to the
implementation of equality between the sexes. This aspect is important occasion where women's human rights were dealt with was the UN human rights conference in Vienna last June.
- Violence against women is no more considered a private affair of which the victim is ashamed and about which she feels guilty, but a matter that concerns the whole society and in which we all must intervene. The UN General Assembly, which is at present holding a session, is dealing with a declaration according to which the member states should, among other things, reserve appropriations in their budgets for combatting violence. This is an important step forward, too.
- Although it is difficult to define violence, we have also made progress in this respect. Although we still do not have comprehensive definitions, even a list of examples is very important when we try to recognize the problem.
- During this whole process, violence as a phenomenon has become visible. At the same time it is losing its "concealed" nature; it has become a "normal" problem to which people can seek help and to which also solutions can be found.
- Gradually it has also become clear to everyboay that violence against women is a complex, difficult problem and that we have to work on a wide front to combat it. Beside helping the victims of violence, we have to emphasize more than before the prevention of violence, i.e. dealing with the reasons of violence and removing them from society.
The targets set and accepted within international organisations like UN, the Council of Europe and EC are parallel and plenty of them and measures considered necessary have been presented, so there is hardly need to take this kind of steps in the future. Instead, in future we should consider how the jointly accepted targets will be implemented efficiently in the member countries, how international organs like the Council of Europe can motivate their members for these activities and how the follow-up and evaluation will be arranged. It is important to develop an appropriate instrument for this work. It is probably also necessary to coordinate the international organisations' work against violence.
We Finns have had only positive experiences from international cooperation in violence issues. We have noticed that an international framework and international instruments create pressures for change and quicken national development in matters where we are behind other countries. International conferences, seminars,
contacts and research offer useful information and ideas for national discussion.
Although our first shelters have been in use for 14 years, helping women and children who have fallen victims of violence has until the past few years been the responsibility of a small group of professional helpers. Only when discussion on violence against women increased at the international level, we started to study the situation in our country more thoroughly.
We were surprised to see that this problem was common in Finland, too, although women in our country on an average are well-educated, have full-time jobs and an individual social security.
We had imagined that this economic and social independence would have protected our women from violence and made it possible for them to detach themselves from a violent relationship. Now we are forced to believe that violence against women is a difficult and complex problem, which is also connected with the structural and cultural factors in society.
After having "awakened" we have extended our activities in this
field. The parliamentary Council for Equality has a sub-committee
concerned with violence against women. It has coordinated the
work in combatting and preventing violence at the national level.
Representatives of the authorities, organisations and institutions
in the field have participated in the work of this sub-committee,
and they have all been motivated.
Important targets for this year and next year are as follows:
- Amendment of legislation on violence as part of a total reform of
the Penal Code. Part of the law proposals have already been
given to Parliament, for example making rape in marriage a
criminal offence. Part of the proposals are at present being refined in the Ministry of Justice.
-The training of policemen has been reformed. Reforms will
probably be made in criminal procedure, too.
-The central professional groups facing violence (policemen,
physicians, social workers, psychologists, welfare officers etc.) will
be given training in facing violence and managing violent situations.
- Experiments concerning improved cooperation between the
authorities, organisations and institutions in the field are continued.
- Also the supply of the services will be made more varied. Appropriate
services will be created for victims of violence in general
and especially for victims of rape and incest. Also the other side
of the problem, changing the behaviour of the perpetrator, will be
- Research on violence, especially women's studies, will be
activated, and also the provision of training material will be increased.
-The media is a factor the possibilities of which we have not yet
been considering very much. We expect to get new information
about this matter in this conference. We have noticed that it is
easy to violate women's rights and human dignity especially
during the economic depression and unemployment, but there
seems to be few means to remedy this unsatisfactory situation.