Statement by Pirkko Mattila, Minister of Social Affairs and Health of Finland, at the Commission on the Status of Women (61st session), 15 January 2017

Statement by Pirkko Mattila, Minister of Social Affairs and Health of Finland, at the Commission on the Status of Women (61st session), 15 January 2017

Madam/Mister Chairperson, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Finland aligns herself with the statement made by Malta on behalf of the European Union.

Gender equality is one of our core values in Finland. We were the first to grant full political rights to women. Because 2017 is Finland’s 100th anniversary, the government decided to establish the first international gender equality award as a means toward establishing a new voice and platform to advance gender equality around the world.

Today, I highlight three topics that are essential for the effective and full implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and for the 2030 Agenda. These topics are: violence against women, women´s economic empowerment and sexual and reproductive health and rights. All these are essential for the full realization of human rights of all women and girls, in all countries.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Violence against women is a serious human rights violation. It exists in all societies and in all social groups. It is unfortunately a problem we also face in Finland.

Violence against women, including domestic violence and sexual violence, needs to be condemned and fought back as such. It is of utmost importance that the states take the responsibility not only to punish the perpetrators, but also to prevent violence against women and to protect victims.

Finland ratified the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention in August 2015. This provides a broad framework for eliminating violence against women. Especially when it comes to services, we still have gaps that need to be filled. I am proud to say that we have been able to increase the number of shelters in Finland.

Violence against women may often take place in the private sphere, but it is not a private matter. Let’s not forget this. We must ensure that men and boys are on board in this endeavor. The president of Finland, His Excellency Mr. Sauli Niinistö, is personally engaged in this as a HeForShe Impact Champion.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our Nordic experiences show that investing in equality benefits both individuals and economy. This experience we share and promote in our work for women's economic empowerment in developing countries.

Our objective is and has always been to ensure that both men and women can combine family life with an active work life. This has resulted in an almost equal participation of men and women in the labor market. This development owes much to the promotion of gender equality through education, public services and social protection policies. For example affordable, good quality child care is vital for the parents of small children to re-enter working life.

To conclude Madam / Mister Chair,

The full realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights is of utmost importance in ensuring that women and girls have the same opportunities as men and boys. Having access to comprehensive sexuality education, the possibility to freely decide on the number and spacing of children and having access to health services ensures that everyone can complete education and gain a profession. This also unlocks potential for economic growth and is therefore instrumental for the eradication of poverty. Sexual and reproductive health and rights is an important national and international development priority for Finland. We are proud to be in the forefront here.

We also need to eliminate harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation in order to ensure that women and girls are able to enjoy human rights to the full.

I thank you.