Sexual harassment continues to be a major problem in society, contravening every individual’s right to privacy and safety. Farsighted efforts are needed to eliminate this problem, says Thomas Blomqvist, Minister for Nordic Cooperation and Equality. Today (8 February), minister Blomqvist took part in a round table discussion on preventing harassment and increasing equal treatment in the emergency services sector.
“The round tables we have arranged so far have recommended diverse actions for improving the situation in various sectors. For change to happen, we need clear guidelines and operating models, among other things, and every individual must be aware of the rules that apply,” Blomqvist says.
“There should be clear processes for reporting incidents and the threshold for reporting must be low. Victims of harassment should not need to worry about potential risks to their career. Reporting harassment takes courage and it is important to assist and support victims,” Blomqvist says.
New sexual offence legislation came into effect in Finland at the beginning of the year. It means that actions that do not involve physical contact can also be deemed criminal, and that the definition of sexual assault is based on a lack of consent.
“This new legislation sends an important signal on the fact that we will not accept any forms of harassment, and this is why it plays an important role in preventing sexual harassment,” Blomqvist says.
“In recent years it has become clear how extensive a phenomenon sexual harassment unfortunately is, and what a persistent problem it is in our society. It is important to continue discussing these issues in order to lower the threshold for reporting sexual harassment. Sexual harassment and violence must not be accepted under any circumstances, and in our society we must assume a zero tolerance approach towards them,” Blomqvist says.
Eighteen months ago, minister Blomqvist convoked the first round table on sexual harassment with labour market representatives. Since then, similar discussions have been held with the emergency services, sports and cultural sectors. The second part of the emergency services round table was held on 8 February to follow up on actions taken to prevent sexual harassment.