Finns may seem shy or hard to approach, but the feeling in Helsinki is open-minded. A telltale sign is that many people belonging to minorities move to Helsinki from other cities for its free-spirited atmosphere.
The yearly human rights and cultural event Helsinki Pride has quickly grown to become one of the biggest summertime events in Helsinki. In 2017, some 35,000 took part in the Helsinki Pride march, in 2018 the number of participants was nearly 100,000. Helsinki-based companies have shown more and more support for the event.
In Finland, everyone has the right to marry regardless of their gender. In 2019, a total of 376 same-sex marriages were registered.
In the time before the marriage law was made equal, a citizen's initiative called Tahdon 2013 (I Do 2013) was kickstarted. The initiative demanded an equal opportunity for everyone to marry. Homosexual couples were already granted the option of registering a civil partnership in 2002, and fertility treatments for female couples have been allowed since 2006.
The target of 50,000 signatures to enable a parliamentary discussion on equal marriage was reached already on the first day of publishing the citizen's initiative. At the end of the day, there were more than 102,000 signatures. When the Parliament voted on the initiative, the Citizens' Square in Helsinki was filled with thousands of people advocating for equal marriage. The amendment to standing marriage laws meant that same-sex marriage became legal in Finland on 1 March 2017.
There are several associations actively advancing the position of sexual and gender minorities in Finland, such as the gender minority rights advocate association Trasek, the human rights association Seta – LGBTI Rights in Finland, and the child protection and family association Sateenkaariperheet – Rainbow Families Finland. Finland's former president Tarja Halonen was the first president in the world to act as the chairperson of an LGBTI association. She served as Seta's chair in the years 1980-1981.
Discrimination is not allowed in working life
The Finnish law states that all individuals must receive equal treatment. Employers need to actively promote equality and to improve working conditions so that no-one is discriminated against based on, for example age, religion, opinion, sexual orientation or gender. The Act on Equality was updated in 2015 to also forbid discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.
Finland does not allow paying unequal wages for the same job based on gender, or to lay off an employee due to pregnancy. A workplace with more than 30 regular employees must draw up an equality plan.
In cases where the law is not followed, the Ombudsman for Equality or the Nondiscrimination Ombudsman can offer help to resolve the situation.
Sexual orientation is not an obstacle to advancing in one's career. For example, many politicians who are members of sexual minorities have worked in the Parliament, such as the Minister of Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto, and Member of the European Parliament and former Member of the Finnish Parliament Silvia Modig.
Populism opposing minority rights is effectively countered in Finland because equality is one of the key principles of the welfare state. The aim of Finland's international human rights policy is the removal of discrimination and the increasing of openness.
Finland supports, among other things, the rights of sexual and gender minorities, people with disabilities, and indigenous people, along with the right to self-define one's gender and sexuality. The National Core Curriculum for Basic Education also emphasises gender-sensitive education.
The City of Helsinki follows these principles with a wish to advance intersectional equality that takes different factors into account that influence an individual's position in society, such as age, gender, sexuality, and background.
No spying on neighbours in Helsinki
Helsinki is an open-minded city where a person's relationship format or marital status has no meaning for others. Everyone has the right to lead a life that suits them. Just over a third of Helsinkians were either married or in a civil partnership at the end of 2019, thirteen percent had divorced and four percents were widowed. Nearly half of Helsinkians over 15 years were unmarried.
It is very common to divorce and find new love in Finland. Out of the marriages registered in 2019, 21 percent of women and 22 percent of men entered their second marriage. Filing for divorce does not require the consent of one's partner.
Helsinkians know that living a good life does not mean that one has to be in a relationship. Around one in four Helsinkians lived alone in 2019.
Minority art as a national treasure
Helsinki is known for artists who celebrate equality. One of them is the creator of the Moomins, Tove Jansson. The Moomin stories are based on equality, tolerance, freedom and courage.
Tove Jansson lived openly with her life partner, graphic artist Tuulikki Pietilä in the 1950s. The criminalisation of homosexual acts was removed from the Criminal Code in 1971. Pietilä was Jansson's inspiration for her Moomin stories.
Helsinki is also proud of Touko Laaksonen, known worldwide as Tom of Finland. Laaksonen created thousands of works over his four-decade career and achieved global popularity and inspired people all over the world and in different walks of life. Laaksonen made a significant number of his works at home in Helsinki's Ullanlinna district.
The spirit of these beloved artists lives on. Justice and equality are among the city's core values.