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#Respect campaign launches, claiming sexual harassment in Finland is nothing new

A celebrity-fronted campaign calling on people to fight back against sexual harassment is seeking to spread the message that the problem is not just perpetrated by asylum seekers. Meanwhile new figures show a spike in reports to police of sexual harassment compared to last year, which one officer puts down to a growing public sense that inappropriate sexual behaviour is not to be tolerated.

#Respect-kampanja taistelee seksuaalista häirintää vastaan.
#Respect-kampanja taistelee seksuaalista häirintää vastaan. Image: #respect

A new celebrity-fronted campaign calling for an end to sexual harassment in Finland is seeking to spread the message that the problem is not just perpetrated by asylum seekers.

The #Respect campaign, backed by Helsinki authorities and police as well as TV personalities and politicians, launched this week with the publication of an open letter which claims that, although sexual harassment has been a much-talked about issue in the last few months in Finland, it has always been a part of everyday life here. “Sexual harassment goes on in the workplace, in restaurants, with hobbies, in the streets and parks, online, on public transport – pretty much everywhere,” the statement says.

The MPs Jani Toivola and Nasima Razmyar have put their names to the campaign, as well as the actor Petteri Summanen, the singer Krista Siegfrieds, and the presenters of Yle’s popular Puoli Seitsemän magazine show, Susanna Laine and Mikko Kekäläinen.

”Sexual harassment is a serious issue. Nobody should have to accept being groped, or being the subject of insinuating or invasive personal comments,” said Helsinki police inspector Johanna Guessous. “Only a fraction of sexual harassment is reported to police, and although not every incident constitutes a crime, inappropriate sexual behaviour should never be tolerated.”

Reported incidents increased

New figures show that numbers of reports of sexual harassment were markedly higher at the start of this year compared to 12 months previously. Between January and March police this year received 132 reports, compared to 44 in the same period in 2015. A law change meant that police only began recording sexual harassment reports under their own category in September 2014.

”Police have been pushing the message that it’s important to report sexual harassment as quickly as possible,” said Detective Chief Inspector Jonna Turunen. “Now we are seeing significantly more crime reports and people understand that sexual harassment is a crime.”

Meanwhile 247 reports of rape were made to police in the first three months of the year, which was the same as 12 months previously although almost 30 reports more than the corresponding period in 2014.

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