Parliament has unanimously approved a proposal to ban child marriages in Finland, daily Turun Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) writes. Until now, 16-17-year-olds have had the right to apply at the justice ministry for a special permit to marry under the age of 18.
The justice ministry, which has received between 10 and 30 applications each year, said that a majority of the minors granted permission to marry have been 17-year-old girls. The most common reason given in the applications was religious beliefs. Some 16-year-olds have been given permits to marry due to pregnancy, TS said.
"In most cases, an underage girl applied to marry an older man, based on their religion or culture. I don't agree with this custom and therefore I proposed to ban it. We must protect children and we must show this in our policies," Minister of Justice Antti Häkkänen said in a statement.
Banning the special permits will also send a signal internationally that Finland does not approve of underage marriages.
"A marriage is a union of two adults who willingly agree on it. Children should remain children until they turn 18," he added, according to TS.
Practices that made child marriage possible have been given up in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, the paper said.
"It's an ongoing goal within international development to stop child marriages and it is also part of Finnish foreign policy. In many developing countries, child marriages are a huge problem and a risk to girls' health and educational opportunities," Häkkänen added.
Waning support for Centre Party
Support for the Centre Party among Finland's farmers has fallen dramatically, reports daily Maaseudun Tulevaisuus (siirryt toiseen palveluun). According to a poll by the paper, about 65 percent of farmers plan to vote for the traditionally agrarian party in the next election – a drop of 20 percentage points from 2015.
In contrast, popularity for the National Coalition Party and the Finns Party has risen to 11 and 13 percent, respectively.
The Centre Party MPs who are farmers themselves are unhappy about the results.
"This feels really bad as we have really tried to have an impact and defend the farming profession," said MP Anne Kalmari, chair of Parliament's Agriculture and Forestry Committee.
Fellow MP Eerikki Viljanen agrees.
"While we have managed to push through many issues to help profitability of farming, profits have not grown. Our emergency help packages to aid distressed farms have not been completely successful," he said.
Nevertheless, support for the Centre Party among farmers remains considerably higher than among the general population, where approximately 15 percent said they would vote for the party, based on a Helsingin Sanomat poll published on Thursday.
The poll organised by MT excludes the Åland Islands and Swedish-speaking farmers so it does not adequately measure the popularity of the Swedish People's Party, the paper noted.
Stray dog attack
In other news, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) reports that a five-year-old Finnish boy who was attacked by stray dogs on a beach in Thailand will have to spend several days in hospital.
A pack of dogs attacked the boy, who sustained serious injuries, in Ao Nang near Krabi on Wednesday. Based on reports by the Bangkok Post, the boy had been vaccinated against rabies and tetanus, but will be kept at the hospital for three days for outbreak of fever or other signs of infection, IS said.
Thailand's prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha visited the boy in the Krabi hospital on Thursday. The paper said a three-year-old Swedish boy was also attacked by dogs in the same place on Wednesday.
The governor of the area has given an order to remove two dozen dogs from Ao Nang and the neighbouring Nopparat Thara beach that have been left there by construction workers, the paper said.