Human rights in Finland are freedom of speech, religion, association, and assembly as upheld in law and in practice.[1] Individuals are guaranteed basic rights under the constitution, by legislative acts, and in treaties relating to human rights ratified by the Finnish government. The constitution provides for an independent judiciary.[1]

Finland has been ranked far above average among the world's countries in democracy,[2] press freedom,[3] and human development.[4]

Amnesty International has expressed concern regarding some issues in Finland, such as alleged permitting of stopovers of CIA rendition flights, the imprisonment of objectors to military service, and societal discrimination against Romani people and members of other ethnic and linguistic minorities.[5][6]


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (November 2017)

On 6 December 1917, Finland declared independence. Previously, Finland had been a part of Sweden (1253–1808) and then an autonomous part of Russia (1809–1917).

Justice system

Capital punishment

In peacetime, as an independent state, Finland's criminal justice system has never invoked the death penalty. In 1825, when Finland was an autonomous state under Russia, Tahvo Putkonen was executed. This was the last peacetime execution. In 1944, during World War II, the last wartime executions were carried out.

Search and seizure

Under Finnish law, no Court ordered search warrant is required in order for police to conduct a search and seizure procedure.[7] The European Court of Human Rights and the Finnish Parliamentary Deputy Ombudsman have been critical of improper search and seizure procedures used by the Finnish police.[8][9]

Freedom of speech

Advocated by early liberal thinker and member of parliament of Finnish origin Anders Chydenius, Sweden adopted one of the first freedom of the press acts in 1766. The act abolished the previously mandatory pre-press censorship of printed works, although blasphemy and outright criticism of the monarch remained forbidden. However, the act was rolled back and reintroduced multiple times.[10] During the period of Russian sovereignty censorship was practiced by the Imperial Russian government. The 1905 unrest in Russia led to the November Manifesto by the Czar, reintroducing freedom of the speech and press. With independence, freedom of speech and press was reaffirmed in the new constitution and generally respected. The major exception was wartime censorship during World War II. Some leftist works were banned in the 1930s whereas during the era of Finlandization, major news outlets practiced self-censorship in order to not antagonize the Soviet Union.[11]

Blasphemy remains illegal, as does incitement to ethnic hatred.

In April 2016 Finland's national broadcaster Yle became under pressure from the Finance Minister Alexander Stubb and tax authorities to hand over information related to the extensive Panama Papers data leak. This may jeopardise freedom of speech in Finland and the media access in any news related to corruption in Finland. Alexander Stubb has repeatedly expressed his willingness to forgive all financial crimes related to tax havens (last time in his statements during the Government hearing in the Parliament in connection to Panama papers).[12] Finland's tax authorities have threatened to secure search warrants to raid Yle's premises and journalists’ homes in pursuit of the so-called Panama Papers.[13] About a dozen Finnish lawyers or Finnish business persons have worked with Mossack Fonseca to build tax companies from 1990 to year 2015.[14]

Elections and civil contribution

In 1907, Finland adopted universal suffrage, making the nation one of the first to allow all adult citizens, regardless of wealth or gender, to vote and stand for election. Within the population, 3.6% are foreign residents.[15] Since 1917, two general referendums have been held. The first was the 1931 Finnish prohibition referendum and the second, the 1994 Finnish European Union membership referendum.

Since 2012, citizens' initiatives have allowed citizens to request that the parliament consider proposed legislation. A minimum of 50,000 supporters must sign a petition to allow the initiative to proceed. The first successful citizens' initiative was the banning of fur farming. Signatures supporting the initiative were received from 70,000 citizens in the designated time period.[16] The second citizen's initiative was for equal marriage rights in 2013.[17]


Women's rights

See also: Women's suffrage in Finland

After New Zealand and Australia, Finland was the third nation to allow women to vote. In 1907, Finland was the first nation to allow women to vote and to also compete in a parliamentary election. The first female minister elected to the Parliament of Finland was Miina Sillanpää. She served as the Second Minister for Social Affairs in the 1926 to 1927 parliamentary term. Tarja Halonen, who served from 2000 to 2012, was the first female President of Finland.

In 1878, in Porvoo, Charlotta Backman became the first female director of a post office.

In 1886, Vera Hjält (born 1857 - died 1947) opened a factory to manufacture her patented carpenters' bench. In 1903, she became the first woman in Finland to be made a trade inspector. She was required to end disputes and strikes. She worked to end discrimination against women in the work place. Hjalt was a Member of Parliament for ten years.

Tekla Hultin (born 1864) was the first woman to receive a doctorate from the University of Helsinki (then the Helsingin Keisarillinen Aleksanterin yliopisto.) She went on to study in Russia and France and was a Member of Parliament for 15 years. (Hultin's mother also wanted to study but her father prevented her from doing so.)

Until 1926, Finnish women applying for public office had to apply for an exemption based on gender. In this respect, equality was not achieved until 1975.[18]

Finnish women may inherit and own property. Aurora Karamzin (1808 - 1902) inherited her ex-husband, a Russian, Paul Demidov's estate. After the death of her second husband, Andrei Karamzin, Karamzin managed her property and industrial assets. She participated in social security work in Finland and in Russia and worked in education and health care. In 1867, she founded the Helsingin Diakonissalaitos.[18]

On 6 March 1988, the first women to become priests were ordained in Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. The first woman to become a bishop was elected in 2010.[19]

Still today, Finland struggles with a chronic human rights violence against women. Each year, in Finland, up to twenty women are killed by their husbands or ex-husbands.[20] Human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, have criticised the lack of action to fulfill the needed services for the victims of gendered violence, listed in the resolution of the Istanbul Convention.[21] Access to these services is both limited an unequal based on one's place of residence.[22]

Gender equality at work

The UN Human Rights Committee has expressed concern about gender inequality in Finnish working life.[23] In 2013, the difference between salary received by men and that received by women, for the same work, was 8 percent. Employers provided more training for men, while women applied for training in greater numbers than men.[24]

Finnish law calls upon companies with more than thirty employees to have a gender equality plan. In August 2013, many companies neglected to obey this law. However, the law was poorly enforced.[25]

Law in 1945 legislated women salary to be 80% of men in equal jobs in Finland. In 2018 a Finnish man earned in ten years over €70,000 more compared to a Finnish woman.<[26]

Children's rights

Finland has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).[27] Having children work or beg is forbidden as is any misuse of children.[28] Furthermore, it is illegal to hit a child under unreasonable conditions.

The number and backgrounds of teen prostitutes in Finland is not recorded. Buying or attempting to buy sex from a minor is a crime in Finland. Legal responsibility for the deed always lies with the buyer.[29]

Indigenous rights

This section's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (March 2013)

In February 2013, Finland had not signed the international Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples nor the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (ILO-convention 169).[30] In March 2014, Finland had not ratified the ILO-convention 169.[31] Sauli Niinistö, the President of Finland, called the treaty irrelevant. However, the Sami people of Finland's north and Lapland have had no special rights, for example, in land rights for reindeer herding.[32] In October 2011, the UN Human Rights Committee called for the cessation of the killing of reindeer in Nellim, Inari. Reindeer owners and the Metsähallitus (Department of Forestry) were in dispute over this matter.[33] In 2019, the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations, found Finland to have violated Sámi political rights, as the Supreme Court of Finland had from 2011 and onwards, began using non-objective criteria when determining allowance of membership in the electoral rolls to the Sámi parliament.[34]

LGBT rights

Main article: LGBT rights in Finland

On 1 February 2023 the Parliament of Finland passed a law which removed the requirement of sterilization and a psychiatric diagnosis for transgender people who wished to legally change their gender.[35] On March 3, 2023, president Sauli Niinistö ratified the new legislation and it went into effect on April 3 the same year. [36]

Freedom of religion

Freedom of religion is secured by the constitution, yet for example the membership of a religious community of children under the age of 18 is still designated by their parents,[37] thus, according to some organizations, restricting freedom of religion of children.[38] Children cannot choose whether they study their religion or ethics (elämänkatsomustieto), rather it is determined either by whether the child belongs to a religious community or not or, in some cases, by their parents. Those who don't belong to a religious community can choose to study religion voluntarily, whereas those who belong to one can't choose between the two options (nor leave the religious community without parents' permission) and are forced to study religion. Even though the teaching of religion in schools is de jure non-confessional, the Freedom of Thought report states that it "is substantively biased or borderline confessional".[39] The church and the state aren't fully separated, and according to Humanists International and the Freethinkers' Association, it creates problems with the neutrality of the state regarding religions.[39][40]

In 2020, the head of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland was investigated by the Prosecutor General of Finland and summoned to testify by the Helsinki Police Department[41] for being “suspected of being guilty of incitement to hatred against a group" for placing a small booklet[42] on a website and distributing it through the church. The booklet summarized traditionalist doctrine on sexual matters.[43]

Military and civilian service

Finnish male citizens undergo compulsory military service. Civilian service was 13 months in duration whereas conscripts, such as conscript officers [fi], non-commissioned officers and certain specialists such as certain vehicle operators served only 12 months. The average duration of service in the army is eight months. The inequity was justified[by whom?] by the hours of work performed by each group. In 2008, the duration of civilian service was changed to 12 months.[44] Because it remains longer than the minimum time spent in military service, Amnesty International views it as a punitive measure. In addition, those conscientious objectors that refuse civilian service [fi] are sent to prison. According to Amnesty, they are prisoners of conscience.[22]

Arms trade to undemocratic countries

In 2011, the government of Finland granted arms export licenses to twenty-five countries in contravention of European Union guidelines. In October 2011, the Finnish Ministry of Defence granted export licenses for the transport of sniper rifles and ammunition to Kazakhstan.[45]

Migrant workers

By 2011, Finland had not signed the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.[27] Estonian workers, for example, may not have been paid for their work.[46] Again as an example, in December 2011, a Chinese restaurant in Ideapark Lempäälä was ordered to pay €298,000 for migrant workers' losses in tax, wages and penalties.[47] In 2013, Lauri Ihalainen, the Minister for Labour, called for equality in the labour market.[48]

Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant construction project

During the Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant construction project, trade unions demanded equality in conditions for foreign workers.[49][50] In November 2011, Polish migrant workers at Elektrobudowa disputed unpaid wages and trade union membership. The trade unions took their case to court. Thirty-two people were fired for joining the trade union Sähköliitto.[51]

Human right violations in Thailand

British migrant rights expert Andy Hall (activist) who worked for the Finnish NGO Finnwatch in Thailand was handed a four-year suspended prison sentence by the Thai courts for his report on human rights abuses in the country's fruit-processing industry which products were exported in Finland.[52] The charges related to publication of a report Cheap Has a High Price in 2013 by Finnwatch, a Finnish civil society organisation. The report outlined allegations of serious human rights violations, as use of child labour, at Natural Fruit Company's pineapple processing plant in Prachuap Khiri Khan province in Thailand. The products were imported in Finland by several trade companies (Kesko, Siwa and S Group).[53]

According to the Finnwatch report in 2015 Tokmanni had also failed to adequately assess its suppliers and in exercising human rights due diligence in its own imports supply chains. According to the report at Great Oriental, migrant workers had no visas or work permits and were paid illegally low wages.[54]


In March 2013, Erkki Tuomioja, the Finnish Foreign minister joined other nations in calling for stricter observance of human rights in the European Union.[55] In 2014, Finnwatch alleged several Finnish companies abroad had acted unethically.[56]

In January 2013, Open Society Foundations, a US human rights organisation, alleged that CIA flights had operated through via Finland in secret. The Amnesty organisation supported the allegations.[57][58]

In 2014, Kalla fakta, a Swedish television program, reported that Stora Enso used child work in its Pakistan activities and that the company was aware of this from 2012.[59]

European Court of Human Rights

Parts of this article (those related to the 2019 ECHR decision being overturned as of 7/13/2021) need to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (July 2021)

According to European Court of Human Rights in 2019 Finland violated human rights in 2017 when it denied asylum to an Iraqi man who was deported to Iraq and killed a few weeks later.[60]

On July 9, 2020, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) declared an Afghan applicant’s request inadmissible, in which he accused Finland for not giving him asylum and a residence permit to stay in the country.[61]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Finland: Freedom in the World 2022". Freedom House. 2022. Retrieved August 5, 2022.
  2. ^ "Scores of the Democracy Ranking 2012". Global Democracy Ranking. 2012. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
  3. ^ "Freedom of the Press: Finland". Freedom House. 2013. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
  4. ^ "Statistics of the Human Development Report". United Nations Development Programme. 2013. Archived from the original on November 28, 2013. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
  5. ^ "Annual Report 2013: Finland". Amnesty International. 2013. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
  6. ^ "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012: Finland". U.S. State of Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. 2012. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
  7. ^ Oy, Edita Publishing. "FINLEX ® - Ajantasainen lainsäädäntö: Kumottu säädös Pakkokeinolaki (kumottu) 450/1987". Retrieved December 24, 2017.
  8. ^ "EDUSKUNNAN OIKEUSASIAMIES | Julkaisutyökalu". Archived from the original on December 2, 2011. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  9. ^ "Aamulehti". Archived from the original on September 30, 2012. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  10. ^ "Painovapaus 250 vuotta - Maailman ensimmäinen julkisuuslaki". Archived from the original on January 30, 2019. Retrieved December 24, 2017.
  11. ^ "Sananvapauden ja painovapauden historia". February 3, 2006. Retrieved December 24, 2017.
  12. ^ "Opinion: Panama Papers should not jeopardise freedom of speech | Yle Uutiset |". Archived from the original on April 30, 2016. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  13. ^ "Taxman threatens to search Yle premises in pursuit of Panama Papers | Yle Uutiset |". Archived from the original on May 1, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  14. ^ "MOT: Historian suurin tietovuoto – osa 2 - 11.4.2016 - MOT -". Retrieved December 24, 2017.
  15. ^ "Maahanmuuttajien määrä - Väestöliitto". Archived from the original on October 23, 2013. Retrieved March 29, 2014.
  16. ^ "Parliament mulls how to deal with citizens’ initiatives" 13 March 2013.
  17. ^ "Gay marriage initiative proceeds to Parliament with 162,000 backers." 19 September 2013.
  18. ^ a b Kaari Utrio, Kalevan tyttäret Suomalaisen naisen tarina, Amanita 1987 (in Finnish)
  19. ^ "Finnish church marks 25 years of women priests." 11 March 2013.
  20. ^ Espoon surmien ytimestä paljastuu naisiin kohdistuva väkivalta, HS 11.1.2010 C5, toiminnanjohtaja Frank Johansson Amnesty International (in Finnish)
  21. ^ Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Refworld - Amnesty International Report 2015/16 - Finland". Retrieved December 24, 2017.
  22. ^ a b "Finland 2016/2017". Amnesty International. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  23. ^ "Finland lags behind in business world equality for women." 14 August 2013.
  24. ^ "Gender wage gap persists."
  25. ^ Equality of sexes poorly enforced at workplaces 15 August 2013.
  26. ^ Tarjolla naistyövoimaa 16% alennuksella! Miksi mies tienaa yhä omakotitalon verran enemmän kuin nainen? Me Naiset 1.11.2018
  27. ^ a b "Amnesty International Annual Report 2011." Archived June 2, 2011, at the Wayback Machine 2011 p372-373.
  28. ^ "Helsinki ei hyväksy lasten kerjäämistä." 5 April 2012.
  29. ^ "Teen prostitution a silent problem in Finland." Yle News 3 June 2013.
  30. ^ "Finland last to sign indigenous rights treaty?" 8 February 2013.
  31. ^ "Countries that have not ratified this Convention". Retrieved December 24, 2017.
  32. ^ "Presidentiltä outo linjaus ILO-sopimukseen". Retrieved December 24, 2017.
  33. ^ "YK pyysi säästämään Nellimen porot" HS 27 September 2011. A6.
  34. ^ "UN human rights experts find Finland violated Sámi political rights to Sámi Parliament representation", OHCHR News, February 4, 2019. Retrieved 2021-03-16.
  35. ^ "Finland ends infertility requirement for transgender people". AP News. February 1, 2023. Retrieved November 6, 2023.
  36. ^ "Finland to allow gender reassignment without sterilisation". Reuters. March 3, 2023. Retrieved November 6, 2023.
  37. ^ "6.6.2003/453 Uskonnonvapauslaki". Retrieved November 15, 2019. Lapsen uskonnollisesta asemasta päättävät hänen huoltajansa yhdessä.
  38. ^ "Lasten uskonnollisesta asemasta lausuma". Vapaa-ajattelijain liitto. Retrieved November 15, 2019.
  39. ^ a b "Finland - Freedom of Thought Report". Humanists International. Retrieved November 15, 2019. .
  40. ^ Esa Ylikoski (October 29, 2017). "Kirkon julkisoikeudellinen asema – valtiokirkko – kirkkovaltio". Retrieved November 15, 2019.
  41. ^ Leader of evangelical Lutheran churches investigated for distribution of booklet on homosexuality, Evangelical Focus, February 12, 2020
  42. ^ Male and Female He Created Them by Päivi Räsänen, Lutheran Heritage Foundation, Macomb, Michigan
  43. ^ Dean of Diocese to Preliminary Investigation by Police
  44. ^ "Front page - The Finnish Defence Forces". Retrieved December 24, 2017.
  45. ^ "Finland grants arms deals to human rights violators." 20 March 2013.
  46. ^ Sanomat H. "Virolaisilta huijataan palkkoja Suomessa." 3 April 2012. A4
  47. ^ Sanomat H. 13 December 2011. A9
  48. ^ "Minister compares underpaying foreigners to slave trade." 4 February 2013.
  49. ^ "Ammattiliittojen työmaan saarto peruuntui viime hetkellä." Kansan Uutiset 18 November 2011.
  50. ^ "Puolalaisille hyvitys, Olkiluodon saarto peruuntui, Sovinnosta huolimatta kolmen miljoonan palkkakiista on vielä auki." Kansan Uutiset 2 November 2012.
  51. ^ "Sähköliitto: Olkiluodossa irtisanottu liittoon kuulumisen vuoksi." Turun Sanomat 18 November 2011.
  52. ^ Finnwatch rights investigator sentenced in Thailand yle 20.9.2016
  53. ^ Oikeutta ananastehtaan varjossa yle 10.7.2016
  54. ^ On the borderline of responsibility. Case studies on the production of Tokmanni’s own imports products in Thailand Finnwatch 10/2015
  55. ^ "Finland pressing for more European Union rights powers."
  56. ^ "Suomen otettava ryhtiliike yritysten ihmisoikeusvastuun varmistamisessa." 28 January 2014.
  57. ^ "Report details alleged CIA stopovers in Helsinki". February 6, 2013. Retrieved December 24, 2017.
  58. ^ "The Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland | Publisher". Archived from the original on April 3, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  59. ^ "Stora Enso kände till barnarbete - DN.SE". Dagens Nyheter. March 9, 2014. Retrieved December 24, 2017.
  60. ^ Court rules Finland violated human rights of murdered asylum seeker YLE 14.11.2019
  61. ^ "EU Court of Human Rights Rules Asylum Seeker's Case Against Return to Afghanistan Inadmissible". schengenvisainfo. Retrieved July 9, 2020.

U.S. State Department Annual Reports