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Finland's long-awaited trans law hits parliamentary stumbling block

The objections include Finns Party MPs saying they suspect men may use the law to self-declare a change of gender and thereby avoid military conscription.

File photo of demonstrators calling for changes to Finland's transgender legislation, 9 July 2022. Image: Sakari Piippo / Yle
Yle News

Long-awaited amendments to Finland's transgender legislation have run into difficulties during discussions by parliamentary committees.

According to Yle's sources, the opposition National Coalition Party (NCP) members of the Social Affairs and Health Committee have objected to some of the proposed changes, but Yle has been unable to confirm which parts of the bill the NCP has concerns about.

Committee chair Markus Lohi (Cen) said that the preparatory debate within the committee has only just begun and will continue on Thursday.

"The issue is still open," Lohi said. "I think we will be able to deal with the draft report next week, so that the report would be in plenary by late January or early February. So there is plenty of time."

In order for the bill to reach a plenary vote before this parliamentary term ends ahead of April's election, the committee reports would need to be filed by 20 February.

Chair of the NCP's parliamentary group, Kai Mykkänen, wrote on Twitter that the party's position on the trans law has not changed.

The government finalised its proposal to amend Finland's transgender legislation in September, and submitted the draft bill to Parliament.

Following discussions within parliamentary committees, a debate on the bill was scheduled, but this was subsequently suspended as the proposed changes have run into unexpected opposition from the NCP.

Governing coalition partner the Centre Party and the opposition Finns Party had already expressed objections to the proposed law change.

Two Finns Party members of the Legal Affairs Committee said they were concerned that men could use the law to self-declare a change of gender and thereby avoid military conscription. They added that men could also exploit the legislative change to gain access to women's changing rooms, for example in swimming pools.

The latter issue was raised in a dissenting opinion signed by Legal Affairs Committee chair Leena Meri (Finns) and committee member Sanna Antikainen (Finns).

The bill is expected to pass into law as four of the five government coalition parties — Prime Minister Sanna Marin's Social Democratic Party, the Greens, the Left Alliance and the Swedish People's Party — along with the opposition NCP support the changes.

The Centre Party will allow its MPs to vote as a "matter of conscience" — meaning each individual MP decides themselves how to vote — rather than along party lines.

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