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Thursday's papers: Finns Party in sexist book storm, citizen's initiative on masks and STD spike

Dailies react to a "disturbing" book by a Finns Party think tank and a citizen's initiative calls for obligatory masks.

The Ministry of Justice approved a citizen’s initiative calling for an obligatory mask law on Wednesday. Image: Matias Väänänen / Yle
Yle News

Finns Party think tank Suomen Perusta pulled a two-day-old publication from circulation on Wednesday after it came under fire for what Minister of Science and Culture Hanna Kosonen described as "cruel and disturbing" views on women.

According to Helsingin Sanomat, (siirryt toiseen palveluun)the Finns Party distanced itself from author Jukka Hankamäki'swork Totuus kiihottaa (roughly The Truth Provokes in English) which described itself as "a philosophical study of the information and truth crisis of the left-wing populist mainstream media".

The work caused a huge stir when Kosonen announced on Twitter that the ministry is reviewing the publication and investigating whether it violates the terms on which state funding is granted.

The think tank responsible for the publication received a grant of 120,000 euros from the education ministry this year.

The 420-page book reviewed topics that divide conservatives and liberals such as women’s sexual independence, equality, the role of men in society and immigration. One chapter dwells in detail on the "tyranny of women" and the "socialisation of sexuality".

The author also declared that some Finnish women who have been rejected by Finnish men "wanted revenge on Finnish society by mating with a foreigner".

In her statement, Kosonen said the contents of the publication were "cruel and disturbing" and that it clearly does not meet the grant's eligibility criteria.

In a nuanced response, Prime Minister Sanna Marin took to Twitter to say that "racism, hatred and discrimination are not part of a civilized society".

Halla-aho: Party does not review think tank publications

Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho issued a statement in which he said the publication contained the author’s personal views and not the views of the think tank or the party and he denounced Kosonen’s criticism as an “exaggerated reaction to individual excesses in a single publication".

"The government's goal seems to be to weaken the opposition's financial position and assert its own dominance," Halla-aho wrote in an email to HS.

According to Halla-aho, the party does not check the publications of the think tank in advance nor does it participate in publishing decisions. He also stated that he had not read the book. The book was launched on Monday at an event at which Halla-aho was present.

Vice-chair of Suomen Perusta Matias Turkkila blamed himself for the "quality control error" and said he went through the "problematic points" of the book with the author in September 2019. He added that while think tank director Marko Hamilo read the book, members of the board had not.

Author Hankamäki told HS that he was shocked by the criticism of the book and insisted that the text in his work is "scientifically justified" and meets all academic criteria.

Citizen's initiative calling for mask law

Tired of conflicting messaging on mask usage from the government and health authorities in Finland, a grass roots group launched a citizen’s initiative last week calling for a law that makes the use of masks in public spaces obligatory.

According to tabloid Ilta-Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun), the Ministry of Justice approved the citizen’s initiative (siirryt toiseen palveluun)(in Finnish) on Wednesday. The initiative will proceed to parliament if it receives the necessary 50,000 supporters.

Marin’s government has so far not recommended the use of masks to combat the spread of coronavirus. Last month, a study commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health stated that widespread use of fabric masks have little or no effect on reducing the spread of upper respiratory infections.

The government’s science panel and a group of Finnish researchers have come to the opposite conclusions. Last week, the World Health Organisation released updated guidelines recommending mask use in public places.

The citizen’s initiative launched by the activist group Maskit Kaikille (roughly ‘Masks for All’ in English) asks MPs to immediately prepare a law on the obligation to use masks in public indoor spaces, public transport and also in the outdoors in areas known to have widespread transmission of Covid-19.

"The obligation to wear masks should be implemented immediately throughout the country and should remain in force indefinitely, or until there is no longer a risk of the corona epidemic spreading, or a workable drug or vaccine (has) been invented," the initiative declares.

Authors of the citizen’s initiative include Anna Korhonen and Linda Ahlblad from Helsinki and Mila Boström from Espoo. Juha-Matti Jussila and Eliisa Haavanlammi are also among the first signatories.

According to Boström, if passed by Parliament a mask law would help Finland prepare for a possible second wave of the coronavirus.

The citizens’ initiative includes both scientific and legal arguments, citing international instances of obligatory mask rules in countries like Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Greece and Spain, among others.

STDs rose to record level in 2019

More syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhoea infections were recorded in the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s infectious disease registry in 2019 than the year before, according to tabloid Iltalehti. (siirryt toiseen palveluun)

At 249 cases, the number of syphilis cases increased the most in relative terms, by 33 percent. The number falls short of the 2015 record. The number of chlamydia infections — one the most common sexually transmitted diseases — rose from fewer than 15,000 to 16,180. There were 605 cases of gonorrhoea, which is one more case than in 2017. The figures are based on THL’s updated data in June.

In 2019, the incidence of chlamydia and gonorrhoea was highest in Uusimaa and South Karelia had the highest number of syphilis cases.

The number of HIV infections has levelled off at around 150 in recent years. The highest reading is from 2006, when there were 191 infections.

According to experts, the increase in infections is explained in part by the fact that STD tests can be done remotely at home.

"I believe that web-based testing opportunities have increased testing activity," Eija Hiltunen-Back, a specialist in skin and STDS from the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District told Uutissuomalainen.

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