WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE CONSIDERS FINLAND’S REPORTS; EXPERTS PRAISE COUNTRY’S ROLE IN PROMOTION OF GENDER EQUALITY

22 January 2001
WOM/1252

WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE CONSIDERS FINLAND’S REPORTS; EXPERTS PRAISE COUNTRY’S ROLE IN PROMOTION OF GENDER EQUALITY

22/01/2001
Press ReleaseWOM/1252

Committee on the Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

494th Meeting (AM) & 495th Meeting (PM)

WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE CONSIDERS FINLAND’S REPORTS;

EXPERTS PRAISE COUNTRY’S ROLE IN PROMOTION OF GENDER EQUALITY

The women’s anti-discrimination Convention had significantly affected national legislation and measures to promote the status of women in Finland, the Convention’s monitoring body was told today, during two meetings devoted to Finland’s third and fourth periodic reports on implementation of the Convention.

Finland ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1986.  It signed the new Optional Protocol to the Convention, which allows individuals to submit petitions to the Convention’s monitoring body -– the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women -- on the day it opened for signature on 10 December 1999 and ratified it a year later.

Introducing her country’s reports before the Committee and addressing questions posed by the Committee’s pre-session working group, the Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations, Marjatta Rasi, emphasized women’s full and equal participation in her country’s political life, their economic independence and the high level of social services, which had provided a valuable safety net during a recent economic recession.

Ms. Rasi said that women were represented at all levels of political life in Finland, and for the first time in history the country had a woman President.  Thanks to the quota provision in the legislation, women’s participation had dramatically increased in appointed bodies.

She added that the Government was pursuing a zero-tolerance policy towards violence against women.  The importance of the problem was indicated in several important studies conducted in the country.  The shocking findings showed that 22 per cent of women living in permanent relationships experienced violence or the threat of violence by their male partners, and 40 per cent of the general women’s population had experienced physical or sexual violence or the threat thereof.

Also participating in the discussion today were:  Finland’s Ombudsman for Equality, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Pirkko Makinen; Secretary on Legislation of the Ministry of Justice, Mari Aalto; Deputy Director of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Paivi Romanov; and Senior Officer of the same Ministry, Jaakko Ellisaari.

Responding to questions, the representatives of the Finnish delegation also addressed Finland’s efforts to overcome inequality in the labour market, which included a gender wage gap.  The newest project to that end included a

study to investigate the current situation in the country.  A more gender-sensitive wage system was being implemented.  The Government was also trying to overcome traditional stereotypes in education and employment, as well as encourage men to take advantage of their right to a parental leave.

Among other issues raised by the Committee's 23 experts, who serve in their personal capacity, were the mandatory military service in the country, prostitution and trafficking in women, various aspects of the country’s legislation for equality, education and efforts to increase gender sensitivity.   Many experts agreed that Finland played a leading role in promoting gender equality and that its example should be emulated by other countries.

The Convention stipulates that a State party should submit its initial report on the implementation of the Convention within one year after its entry into force, and subsequent reports -- at least every four years thereafter.  Finland’s initial and second reports were considered by the Committee at its eighth and fourteenth sessions, respectively.

When the Committee resumes its work at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 23 January, replies to the experts’ questions will be presented by the delegation of Burundi, which presented its report to the Committee on 17 January.

Committee Work Programme

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this morning to begin its consideration of the third and fourth reports of Finland, submitted in compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.

According to the third periodic report (document CEDAW/C/FIN/3), the principle of equality of women and men, determined by the Convention, has been included in the Finnish Constitution Act, which was revised in its entirety in 1995.  The reform modernized Finland's system of fundamental rights, which now apply not only to Finnish citizens, but to all persons within the jurisdiction of Finland. 

On 1 March 1995, an amendment to the Act on Equality between Women and Men -- the Equality Act -- entered into force, under which the obligation of the authorities and the employers to promote equality between the sexes has been specified in more detail.  In particular, the Act laid down an obligation of the employer to facilitate the reconciliation of working and family life, and to ensure that the employee is not subjected to sexual harassment or molestation.

The report goes on to describe recent efforts to advance the women's cause, including those to inform and educate the public about human rights.  It also elaborates on the preparation of a national programme for equality and the proposal for a national action programme for 1997 to 2001, which aims at preventing violence against women and providing care for the victims. 

Also according to the report, women in Finland still have less influence than men in decision-making.  They hold approximately one third of the parliamentary seats, and their share in municipal councils has been slightly smaller.  In 1995, 67 women were elected to Parliament, which was 10 members less than in 1991.  The reasons for this setback have not been analysed. 

In Finland, the women's level of education is higher than men's in all areas, except research.  Gender differences are nonetheless evident in the studies chosen by women and men.  The concern of the Council for Equality is that while girls are better than boys in all subjects except math and physics, they have lower self-esteem and are less satisfied with themselves than boys.

Although women compose nearly half of the work force, the gender division in labour has become more marked in the 1990s, the report states.  Statistics also show that in recent years women's unemployment has grown faster than men's.  Despite the fact that one of the key objectives of the Council for Equality is the promotion of equal pay, the ministries rarely come up with concrete proposals for reducing the pay differentials between the genders.  The Government can affect wage policy only indirectly, and part of the responsibility for achieving equal pay must also be borne by other social partners.

The fourth periodic report (document CEDAW/C/FIN/4) continues an article-by-article consideration of Finland's compliance with the Convention, stating that following the overall reform of the country's legislation, the new Constitution was to enter into force on 1 March 2000.  The reform does not entail amendments to the provisions concerning equality.

According to the report, the 1997 National Plan of Action for the promotion of gender equality follows the principles of the Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995).  Out of the Plan's 96 projects, 23 have already been completed.  A major achievement is a five-year cross-sectoral project for the prevention of violence against women, which pursues the aim of making violence against women visible, reducing its occurrence and increasing the efficiency of services for victims.

Also in conjunction with the Plan, support for women entrepreneurs has expanded considerably in the form of loans and training.  Special efforts are being made to support self-employment among women in rural areas.  Regulations concerning maternity, parental and child-care leaves became more flexible in 1998.  The Employment Contracts Act provides for the employer's duty to pay wages during such leaves and for the employee's right to return to work.  Both fathers and mothers are entitled to parental leaves.

Regarding the project for the prevention of prostitution, the report states that new guidelines for the police were issued in 1999 for combating trafficking in women, prostitution and related crime.  Under the new Aliens Act, an alien may be refused entry into the country if there is a reasonable suspicion that he or she would earn income by dishonest means or by selling sexual services.  Prostitution was prohibited in public places in Helsinki, and offering money in return for sexual services from a person under the age of

18 was made a punishable offence.

Efforts are also being made to prevent the use of the Internet for trafficking in human beings and crimes against children.  According to the new provisions on sexual offences, rape can be committed against both sexes and both women and men can be found guilty of this offence.  Relevant provisions can also be applied to rape within marriage, and sexual intercourse between an adult and a person under 16 years of age is prohibited in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships.  

On the subject of health, the report says that in recent years health care authorities have intensified their contribution to the treatment of drug abusers.  A new treatment for heroin addicts was introduced in 1997, and the national drug supervision centre operates as a nation-wide provider of information on drugs.  Maternity welfare clinics work in cooperation with prenatal clinics of the maternity hospitals.  Ninety-nine per cent of all births take place in hospitals. 

The number of abortions is still low in Finland, but the decline in their number stopped in 1995.  In 1996, the number of abortions was to 10,437, an increase of 550 from the previous year.  The preliminary figure for

1998 (10,600) is higher than it was in the five preceding years.  The promotion of sexual health and welfare emphasizes sexual education for the young; development of family planning services; and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

Introduction of Reports

MARJATTAQ RASI (Finland) said that the Convention had had a significant impact on the development of national legislation and measures to promote the status of women in Finland.  The Convention had become a model for the Equality Act, which applied to all sectors of society.  The Government welcomed the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to that instrument, which provided for individual communications and inquiries.  Finland signed the Protocol when it opened for signature on 10 December 1999, and ratified it in December 2000.

The rights of women, children and minorities were a priority in the Finnish human rights policy, she continued.  Women’s full and equal participation in political life should be emphasized, as well as the economic independence of both men and women and the importance of Government actions in combating violence against women.  Almost 100 years ago, Finland had been the first country in the world to give women full political rights, including the right to vote and stand for elections.  At present, women, were represented at all levels of political life, and for the first time in Finnish history the country also had a woman President. 

At the recent municipal elections, she said, the number of seats held by women in municipal councils had increased from 31 to 34 per cent.  Thanks to the quota provision in the legislation, women’s participation had dramatically increased in appointed bodies, especially at the local level, where the number of women had almost doubled since 1995.  Finnish women were highly educated and mostly employed.  However, gender still clearly had an impact in education and working life, for the problem of gender segregation persisted in many areas. 

The Finnish labour market was still divided into women’s and men’s jobs, she continued.  There was also a “vertical” aspect of segregation -- there were few women in the highest positions in the public sector.  As the Government saw occupational segregation as an equality issue, it included in its employment policy a wide-scale project on an equal labour market for 2000 to 2003.  Within the framework of that four-year project, a cooperation programme would be launched with schools and companies, seeking to break stereotypical norms. 

Another challenge facing the Government was the removal of inequality prevailing in the remuneration of workers, she continued.  The main reasons for the wage gap included gender-based job segregation and the greater amount of paid overtime work carried out by men.  The statistics pointed to a narrowing in the gender wage differentials in the course of the 1990s, which occurred partly as a result of a deep economic recession early in the decade.  To promote the principle of equal pay, the Equality Ombudsman had launched a research project to examine the changes in, and reasons for, the gap.

The recession had proven the vital importance of the Nordic welfare system, which had provided a safety net for the citizens during the difficult employment situation, she said.  The poverty of men and women was manifested in different ways in Finland, with men mostly suffering from social exclusion and women becoming extremely dependent on social benefits and services.

Regarding violence against women, she said that the Government was taking many steps to combat that phenomenon, including a cross-governmental project for the prevention of violence against women.  It also implemented a zero tolerance campaign, which included television spots and posters on battered women.  Legal measures against violence had also been taken by the Government.  There was an open phone line for perpetrators and victims. 

Several important studies had been conducted on the victims of violence and the costs of that crime, she added.  The shocking findings showed that

22 per cent of women living in permanent relationships experienced violence or the threat of violence by their male partners, and 40 per cent of women had experienced physical or sexual violence or threat of violence by men.

Turning to the trafficking in women and prostitution, she said that the Government had taken special measures to address those phenomena, including a project for the prevention of prostitution and the criminalization of buying sexual services from persons under 18 years of age.  A new provision was inserted in the Penal Code, under which sexual offences related to child abuse could be prosecuted in Finland, even when the crimes were committed by Finnish citizens abroad.

In conclusion, she highlighted the mainstreaming of gender perspectives in all policies, which was vital for gender equality.  It was important to take advantage of the existing tools to measure equality, including comparatives statistics, indicators and benchmarking.  In the future, Finland planned to renew the 13-year old Act on Equality in order to remove the deficiencies and to better meet the present-day challenges.

Comments by Experts

The Chairperson, CHARLOTTE ABAKA of Ghana, said that Finland had done a lot to achieve gender equality within its society.  Many women in developing countries viewed the Nordic countries as a model and, therefore, whatever happened in those countries was important.  She thanked the Government of Finland for being among the first to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol.  She hoped that it would put into place laws and programmes that would allow the Optional Protocol to add qualitative value to the Convention.

Ms. ABAKA noted with appreciation the involvement of non-governmental organizations in the drafting of the report before the Committee.  She was also pleased that the delegation was planning a press conference to disseminate the outcome of the Committee’s debate on the report.  That was an important initiative in raising awareness.

Many experts thanked the Finnish delegation for the extensive information included in the report.  One expert was concerned with the equality plan that was referred to in the report, and asked for more information on its implementation.  She had the impression that special temporary measures had so far not been mandated in those equality plans.  Was there an effort to amend that? she asked.  Perhaps stronger monitoring mechanisms were necessary.

One expert wondered about the decentralization of social services in Finland.  Had there been an impact on working mothers as a result? Decentralization did not free the Government from the responsibility of seeking equality at all levels of society.

On education, one expert asked about the gender distribution of teachers. According to the statistics, the percentage of female teachers decreased at the professorial level.  How did the system work? he asked.  Were professors appointed?  Also, he wanted to know more about the differentiation of pay between male and female professors, or male and female ambassadors.

One of the main sources of concern was the wage difference between men and women, another expert added.  Sixty-five per cent of the people that did part-time work were women, and women represented most of the population that shared jobs with others.  That meant women were not allowed to develop in the professional arena and their salaries were kept low.  According to one survey, one of every two women felt that they had been sexually harassed in the workplace.  Those problems required attention by the Government. 

An expert asked for the status of gender mainstreaming.  How was that being done and what was the structure for how it was carried out? she asked.  Was a gender perspective applied to all policies and programmes?

Relating to the lower participation of women in high public offices, an expert said that the numbers were very low for a country like Finland.  The report states that, in order to remedy the situation, more women needed to apply to higher level jobs.  She asked for clarification on the reasoning.  Also, what about implementing quotas, as Finland had been successful with that in the past. She commended Finland on the progress it had made in teaching women’s studies, but hoped that the subject could be integrated into other disciplines, as well.

Another expert wanted to know more about the situation of minorities within Finnish society.  According to the report, there was an Advisory Board set up to monitor minority affairs.  She asked for more information on the studies that the Board had conducted.  There seemed to be no separate data base for the participation of minority women in society.  How did the criminal code punish acts of racism or xenophobia? she asked.  Another expert asked why military service was mandatory for men only.

Country Response

Responding to questions, PIRKKO MAKINEN, Ombudsperson for Equality at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health of Finland, said that affirmative action was very important for the advancement of women.  For example, following several cases of litigation, the Supreme Court of the country had decided that the principle of gender equality should be applied in ecclesiastical matters in the country.  The employer’s obligation of preparing equality plans should be strengthened, and stronger mechanisms were needed to monitor the plans.  An amendment concerning the European Union’s equal opportunity directive could help improve the national legislation in that respect.

New efforts were needed to eliminate wage discrimination, she continued, and the newest project to investigate that phenomenon would help achieve that goal.  The Government’s programme also contained a system where men could use their rights to parental leave more often.  A new, more gender-sensitive, system was being implemented to establish wage levels, based on job evaluation and the involvement of employers.  It would also be introduced in the State sector, and the statistics on that matter would be provided in the next report. 

The universities could invite well-known experts to take professorial positions, and that violated the right of women to apply, she said.  Under the law, it was the university, and not the Government, who decided whom to hire.   The statistics were rather sad in that respect.  There were nine women’s studies professors at the Finnish universities.  One of them had been initially funded by the Ministry of Education, but now the university in question was financing that position on its own.

Concerning women’s representation in political parties, she said that the attitudes of particular parties differed.  Some of them were male-dominated, while others pursued the principle of equality.  As for women’s low participation in high posts, the “glass ceiling” was a problem in Finland.  The Government had elaborated special indicators to overcome the problem and was working on measures to increase the number of women in decision-making positions. 

Regarding discrimination in the job market, she said that the Finnish national action plan on employment contained concrete steps, under which cross-vocational training in typical female- and male-dominated branches was encouraged.  The process was very slow, for it involved traditional attitudes instilled by the family in early childhood.  A minimal wage system and legislation on working hours were in place, however, and a study was underway to find out how the attitudes had changed in recent years. 

A special project had been launched by the national broadcasting company to increase gender sensitivity, she said.  In general, an unprecedented number of gender-equality measures were being implemented by the Government.  Six Ministries were incorporating gender mainstreaming in their work.  The number of women in executive councils had reached almost 50 per cent, and the system of quotas played a significant role in that respect.  It was also very important to include women in decision-making at the State level.  As for the military service, the Equality Act stated clearly that mandatory service for men did not represent discrimination.  At present, there was little discussion of the problem in the country.

MARI AALTO, Secretary in Legislation, Ministry of Justice, said that she would answer the question concerning double criminality.  She noted that question 27 had been unanswered in the report.  The requirement of double criminality was abolished when the victim was a child.  However, it was difficult to find such circumstances in Finland.  She thought that there had been only two cases.  As for the question on the punishment for racism, the penal code of Finland called for the punishment of ethnic agitation. Discrimination was also criminalized.

JAAKKO ELLISAARI, Senior Officer, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, would addressing the question of asylum seekers, said he regretted that he was unable, at this time, to provide a wide view of the situation in Finland, due to a lack of expertise on the subject.  There were approximately 18,000 asylum seekers in the country at the moment.  He did not recall any situation where there was a possibility of separating families.

Regarding the question on Finland’s social security system, he said that the security of basic livelihood was guaranteed by law.  Everyone was secured adequate social and health services.  It was also the task of public authorities to promote the right of everyone to a dwelling.  The municipalities maintained the responsibility for organizing social welfare.  Legislation did not provide the organizing mode of that function, so the municipalities could provide social services as they saw fit . They also had the main responsibility for financing social welfare services, which was done largely through taxation and government grants.

Sex tourism, he said, was a multidimensional issue that called for the analysis of other areas, such as child prostitution.  It was also linked with the sale and trafficking of women and children.  Unfortunately, sex tourism did exist in Finland.  As mentioned in the report, a project had been initiated that involved coordinating with other States in the region in order to combat the problem. 

Afternoon Discussion

An expert said that, according to the report, there was still stagnation in the civil service, the wage gap persisted and violence against women continued to get worse.  She felt that the question was not one of political will, but effective implementation of the current progressive policies.  The wage gap was attributed to gender segregation of the labour market, but she wondered why non-governmental organizations couldn’t take that issue to court to ensure equal pay.

On violence against women, the expert said that she was surprised that the issue was being addressed so openly in Finland, often on television.  Regarding sexual harassment, she was unsure whether there was a specific law to prevent sexual harassment.  If not, was it being considered?  It was important to empower individuals and non-governmental organizations to take action in that regard.

Finland was a good example for developing countries, another expert said, and the progress achieved so far regarding the advancement of women was impressive.  The question of the education of women and the high rates achieved by women in that area were very important.  One concern was with employment and the lack of women in professorial positions.

There was an increasing rate of drug and tobacco use among younger girls, an expert noted.  She hoped that there would be more concentration on that prospective health problem.  She also wondered why Finland had not joined the United Nations Convention on immigrant workers and their families.

Another expert acknowledged the efforts by the Finnish Government.  Finland looked like “dreamland” and it would be nice to see that in other countries.  She was concerned about the gender barometers mentioned in the report, and wondered whether their findings had been used as a basis for new policies.  She also wondered about the participation of women in public life, which was quite high in the area of diplomacy, but low in other areas.  She wasn’t sure why that discrepancy existed and asked for clarification.

The rapid growth in the number of men taking paternity leave was commendable, one expert said.  What changes had taken place that allowed for such a sea change? she asked.  That information could be used to help other countries move in the same direction.

On violence against women, an expert praised all the initiatives that had been made by the Government to raise the consciousness of the public.  All of the projects were very impressive.  She wanted to know more about the content of the treatment programmes for violent men.

Regarding sexual harassment, an expert said that she was disturbed that there were no provisions against sexual harassment in the workplace, even though the statistics indicated that it took place.  Could a provision be put in place? she asked.  She was also concerned with the telephone sex lines, and did not understand why those sex lines were advertised on television.  That ran counter to the efforts being made to portray women positively in the media.  Portraying women as sex objects did not help.

      Country Response

Ms. MAKINEN said that, as a whole, part-time jobs were not that common. They made up only 12 per cent of the work force, but it was true that the majority of those people were women.  Fixed-term employment was also a problem, because there were no rules as to how many times the contracts could be renewed. That was something that needed to be changed.

Concerning the family leave system, Finland had built on the Norwegian model, she said.  More than 60 per cent of men used their right to paternity leave, and the average time taken was three weeks.  If the father did not want to take family leave, then the family lost it.  It did not transfer to the mother.  The Government was very proud of that record, but wished that men would take longer leave, as it was allowed under the current legislation.

She said that women were better educated than men in Finland, but they continued to work in typically female careers.  As for the gender barometers, they had had an effect on pubic debate.  The Government was working on the data and interview questions for the next time that they conducted the barometer. There would be new questions concerning family leave and how people felt about having a female president.

She said that quotas were implemented and enforced only in public bodies, not private businesses.  There were initiatives to change that, but in general companies felt that there should be freedom for entrepreneurship.  That meant that it was hard for the Government to tell businesses how to improve in that area.  It was true that there was a contradiction in the percentage of women in diplomacy, as compared to private businesses.  She said that the number of women was increasing in both sectors, and women were getting promoted gradually.

Sexual harassment at the work place was prohibited in the Equality Act, she said.  The Act concerning sexual harassment did not cover harassment in schools or universities, only employment issues.  The Ombudsman had the responsibility to prove that sexual harassment had taken place and then the case could be taken to court.

PAIVI ROMANOV, Deputy Director, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, said that the equal pay principle was a legally binding principle.  Very often it was up to an individual to make a claim against an employer, but it was also possible for groups to present statistical proof that there was discrimination. It was not easy to go against the employer in those circumstances.  A person could claim compensation from the employer on the basis of age discrimination and that claim must be presented to a court of law.  The court then made the decision.

Ms. AALTO said that the buying of sex service from people under 18 was a crime.  There was also a prohibition of prostitution in pubic places.  A working group had recently published a proposal that said the buying of sexual services should be prohibited only if it was disturbing the public.  Prostitution in the streets was considered a public disturbance.

She said that the advertising of sex telephone lines had been discussed in Finland, but it was a very complex issue.  Criminalizing it would be a very extreme measure.  At present, it could only be criminal if was unlawfully marketing obscene material.  It would be in contradiction to the freedom of expression clause in the Finnish Constitution to prohibit the advertising of the phone lines altogether.

Mr. ELLISAARI said that increased smoking and drug use by youth was extremely harmful.  The figures for smoking in Finland were lower than those in Europe, but young people did start earlier in Finland.  Smoking among girls had increased in the last five years and one in five young people smoked on daily basis.  Twenty-two per cent of young men and women smoked daily.  That was worrying, as legislation prohibited smoking advertising, and it was illegal to sell tobacco to people under 18 years of age.  Efforts were also being made to combat the use and supply of drugs.

An expert then said that Finland had always been a “CEDAW-friendly” country.  It was a model among the European countries.  She was somewhat worried about the erosion of progress in that country, however, in view of the recession and globalization.  She hoped that discrimination in the workplace would be adequately addressed. 

In Finland, almost 50 per cent of young women with university degrees were working under fixed-term contracts, she continued, while only 23 per cent of young men were in the same situation.  That demonstrated feminization of such type of employment, and she wondered about the long-term consequences of such a situation. 

Finland had achieved the lowest number of abortions among young women, due to sexual education, she said.  Now that all the responsibility for family planning and sexual education had been given to the municipal authorities, many family planning clinics had been closed and reproductive education was no longer mandatory in many schools.  She wanted to know what was being done to address that situation.  Another question concerned programmes for older women, in view of the growing senior population.

Concerning zero-tolerance towards violence against women, another expert asked what was being done to turn the campaign into a legally binding State policy.  In view of the high cost of violence, the studies of that phenomenon were of the utmost importance.  How was Finland going to use the results of those studies? 

Turning to the issue of discrimination against pregnant women, she said that unless people understood the real meaning of motherhood for the future of the country, they would consider programmes directed at pregnant women as temporary privileges.  Was there any effort to raise public awareness in that respect? she asked.  Also, was education on human rights instruments provided in the country?

The pre-session working group had requested general information on the measures against exploitation of women and prostitution, an expert said.  However, the country’s reply seemed to address only women who were aliens.  In general, the Finnish programme on that issue seemed very interesting, and she hoped that the demand for prostitution would be eliminated in the future.  Efforts to prevent the use of the Internet to promote child pornography and prostitution were also praiseworthy. 

Finland’s efforts were worthy of emulation, particularly by the developed countries, an expert pointed out.  Significant resources had been spent by the country to combat violence against women, which, nevertheless, seemed to be on the increase.  It seemed that the Government was paying more attention to correction, than to prevention.  She wanted to know what was being done to address the root causes of the problem.  Was it due to the lack of respect for marriage, or the deterioration of family values? she asked. 

Another expert noted that discrimination against minority Roma women seemed to be continuing.  Could it be that the Government was condoning such a situation by paying little attention to the problem?

Responding to questions, Ms. MAKINEN agreed that the statistics on the fixed-term employment, indeed, showed differences between the treatment of women and men.  The number of newborn babies had dropped dramatically, and that could be due, in part, to the fact that many employers preferred hiring women on fixed-term contracts, since then a woman would not be reinstated in her job after pregnancy.

Regarding elderly women, she said that Finland had launched a project to sensitize employers to the need of keeping elderly people in the job market.  Employers did not seem eager to offer them new chances, however.  As for the question on the human rights instruments, students were interested in studying that subject.  Several training courses had been organized for judicial employees, and the Convention was included in that training. 

Concerning Finland’s statistics on prostitution and non-citizens, she said that the standard of living was much higher in Finland than in its neighbouring countries.  Thus, although prostitution existed among Finnish women, it was greater among aliens. 

The Committee’s CHAIRPERSON thanked the delegation for their extensive responses to the numerous questions.  Finland’s achievements were very important to the rest of the world.  However -- particularly as Finland was such a “model State” -- there were some areas of concern, including segregation in the labour market.  There were also examples of biased perceptions, among which were stereotypes on the traditional areas of employment and education for women.  With the country’s commitment to improving the status of women, she hoped that most of those issues would have been addressed by the time Finland presented its next report.

Ms. RASI thanked the members of the Committee for their contribution to the discussion.  The delegation had much food for thought upon its return to the country.  She thanked the experts for their compliments and added that her country was not ideal, but it was making efforts to improve the situation.  In the near future, for example, many more women would hold important positions at the Foreign Ministry.   

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For information media. Not an official record.