Everybody has the right to be themselves
Helsinki Pride Week started yesterday. PAM member Iida-Maria Tapio, 27, spreads the message of non-discrimination. She wants to see equality in working life for all. Here she picks out four key elements that she would like to focus on during Pride Week.
The right to be yourself. Equality and non-discrimination have always been important values for me. Every person should be able to be themselves, and shouldn’t be discriminated against based on, for example, their sexual orientation, origin or nationality. Because I am a member of the LGBTI community, I consider Pride Week to be an important event and opportunity to influence the debate on equality. Even though I personally haven’t come across prejudices at the workplace or in PAM’s youth committee, which I am on, this is unfortunately an issue for many other people. This is why we need to talk about it.
Prejudices. In public discussions, you often hear offensive and degrading comments about members of sexual minorities. What is normal for others is portrayed as a very negative thing. There is a fear of being different, because it isn’t understood. If I think about my own childhood, there was hardly any discussion, let alone TV shows, about gay or bisexual people. This is why it can be a really difficult subject for older generations to deal with. But things change. There are a lot of leading members of sexual or gender minorities in the cultural and film industry, but we need more rank-and-file campaigners to join the debate in society.
Equality before the law. Workplaces are diversifying, which is welcome. In many small localities or in smaller companies people still don’t necessarily think that all employees are protected by equal treatment legislation that guarantees everyone a working environment free of discrimination. If employees experience harassment, cases of discrimination need to be acted on. Period. Bullying another person, name-calling or, in the worst case, violence do not belong in the workplace. Employers must comply with the Non-discrimination Act and observe zero tolerance of discrimination. An equality programme, open discussion or training organised by Seta are good ways to promote equality at the workplace. Everybody needs to realise that nobody can be discriminated against for personal reasons, for example their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Transgender law. Transgender people experience more violence and discrimination in society than other sexual minorities. These experiences lead to a continual sense of fear and make some transgender people hide or cover up their true gender identity, which restricts their rights still further.
The Non-discrimination Act, which came into force in the early 2000s, was a first step towards a more equal society. It is not sufficient, and much still remains to be done in Finland to promote a transgender law. The Act on legal recognition of the gender of transsexuals is outdated and revision of the law should take account of the right of transgender people to self-determination. And Finland is the only Nordic country to require sterilisation of persons who correct their gender, which is a flagrant violation of human rights.