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Discrimination and equality in Finland

© - lznogood
© - lznogood
Equality is a fundamental right. In a just society, everyone has equal opportunities in relation to access to education, employment and different services.



Equality means that all people are equal no matter of their gender, age, ethnic or national origin, citizenship, language, religion or conviction, opinion, disability, health, sexual orientation or any other personal trait. In a just society, everyone has equal opportunities in relation to access to education, employment and different services.


How is discrimination defined in Finnish legislation?


According to Finnish Equality Act 6§ discrimination takes place when:


1) a person is treated less favourably than someone else is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation (direct discrimination);

- An example of direct discrimination is if a member of a restaurant staff refuses to serve a person because of his or her ethnic origin


2) a person is put at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons on the basis of a provision, criterion or practice that seems neutral unless the practice can be objectively

justified by a legitimate aim (indirect discrimination);

- An example of indirect discrimination is if an employer demands that a prospective employee has a perfect command of Finnish even though this is not necessary for the job


3) the dignity of a person or a group of persons is violated (in purpose or effect) on grounds of prohibited discrimination by creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and offensive environment (harassment);

- An example of harassment is if a person tells racist jokes with intention to offend or calls a colleague names because of his or her sexual orientation.


4) some one is giving an instruction or order to discriminate. This is also prohibited in the Act. No one is allowed to instruct someone to discriminate.

- An example of the order to discriminate is a situation where a restaurant owner orders his or her employees not to serve a certain ethnic group. The mere instruction is classified as discrimination even if no one would have obeyed it yet.


Does discrimination exist in Finland?


In a survey carried out in 2012 69% of Finns felt that discrimination based on ethnic background is rather common in Finland.  In the same survey Finns said that discrimination is also rather common based on sexual orientation (50%), disability (42%), age above 55 years (42%), religion or conviction (29%), gender (29%) or age under 30 years (15%).


In 2010 there were 860 reported offences for suspected hate crimes in Finland. Majority of these offences (86%) were crimes of racist nature. Hate crimes are crimes that are directed towards an individual, group, property, institution or their representative and are motivated by prejudices or hostility towards victim’s ethnic or national background, religion or conviction, sexual orientation, sexual identity or disability.


Report discrimination


If you experience or witness discrimination, it is vital that you inform the authorities about it and seek guidance and support. Discrimination is a crime. You can report an offence for discrimination at the local police station. Preliminary assessment on whether an individual act was a crime is done by the police and prosecutor.  Main rule is that only discrimination that is related to business activities or public services can be considered to be a crime. Bad behaviour or negative attitude of an individual person for example towards immigrants or elderly people is not a crime. Actions that are felt to be discriminative or racist in their nature are not always crimes.  If discrimination is related to employment, it should be reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Authority. You can also report an offence at the local police station. If you experience discrimination based on ethnic background outside employment, you can report it to the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman.