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Wednesday's papers: Gay marriage, candidate lists and parental leave reform

Wednesday's papers include a welter of stories about same-sex couples getting married, marking the first day gay marriage is legal in Finland. There's also a look at the finalised candidate lists for the upcoming local elections, and another look at parental leave.

Hääasuiset naiset pitävät toisiaan kädestä.
Image: AP GraphicsBank

Kuopio MP Markku Rossi will be among the first Finns to get married on Wednesday, when he heads to Kuopio registry office to convert his civil partnership with artist Matti Kaarlejärvi into a marriage. Ilta-Sanomat reports that the couple want to be trailblazers.

"As society has now finally made the decision, we want to be an example to others," said Kaarlejärvi.

The couple have been together for ten years, but only registered their civil partnership at the end of 2015 when an Yle commentator on the President's Independence Day reception mentioned their relationship--even though it wasn't at that time public knowledge. Rossi is a Centre Party MP from a provincial electoral district, and they only decided to come out publicly after the Independence Day slip.

Helsingin Sanomat, meanwhile, interviews Mexican Raul Medina and his partner Hannu Virtanen, who met a year ago on Instagram and now live together in Turku. They registered their partnership in December, and on Wednesday they'll tie the knot at a group wedding at a Helsinki theatre.

Medina's family, though, won't be there. He says they know he is gay and that he is in a relationship with Hannu, but that they don't talk about it. The couple want a priest to officiate at their wedding, even though there has been talk of punishment for rebel priests who bless same-sex unions.

"It doesn't irritate or annoy [us], and the marriage isn't worse or better because of what the church decides," said Hannu. "Instead of talking about punishing priests, they could instead focus on love and happiness. That's what the priests who marry gay people talk about."

Candidate lists finalised

Tuesday was the deadline to declare as a candidate for April's municipal elections, and IS and HS both run stories on the lists. HS looks at the politicians running in the capital city region, with some surprises.

Lapland veteran Paavo Väyrynen is now running in Helsinki in collaboration with the Christian Democrats after being denied the chance to join the Centre list in his home municipality of Keminmaa. 84-year-old auteur Jörn Donner stands as an independent on the Swedish People's Party's list, and when asked about his advanced years replied by citing Pope John XXII, who apparently said that some men turn to vinegar as they age, but the best only improve as they get older.

IS looks at the celebrities trying to make a political breakthrough, with former ski jumpers, musicians and television presenters all putting themselves forward for election. Perhaps the strangest example is the four actors who used to appear on the soap series Salatut Elämät who are running for the Green Party in different municipalities across the country.

HS takes a broader view in an accompanying article, analysing the total numbers of candidates. In Finland's electoral system it pays to have a large number of possibilities for voters to choose from, and with that in mind most parties will be disappointed that they have fewer candidates than in the last elections in 2012.

The only party to improve on their showing in 2012 is the Greens, who have more than 2,500 candidates compared to 2,300 last time out. Perhaps their biggest breakthrough came in the town of Nokia, where of the 254 candidates running for office, 71 are Greens.

Parental leave reform

Parental leave has been in the spotlight, with most political parties keen to reform it in one way or another. Kauppalehti has an editorial on Wednesday arguing that the reform is vital in improving employment levels and in striving towards gender equality.

The problem, according to KL, is that Home Care Allowance in Finland encourages parents--almost always mothers--to stay at home looking after children for years on end. Just 1-3 percent of men use their parental leave allowance (on top of the nine weeks of paid leave they get automatically), leaving women at home, looking after children, and out of the workforce for long stretches.

KL says this difference with other Nordic countries has clear negative effects. Employment rates for women aged between 25 and 39 are ten percentage points higher in Sweden than in Finland, for instance. That costs society in lower productivity and weakens women's position in the Finnish labour market, according to KL.

Resistance to cuts in Home Care Allowance comes mainly from the Centre and Finns parties, but KL says the Greens, the National Coalition, the Swedish People's Party and the blue collar trade union confederation SAK all support some kind of reform. On Tuesday the Confederation of Finnish Industries, EK, published its own plan.

If reform doesn't happen, argues KL, the government will find it difficult to meet its target of raising employment rates to 72 percent.

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