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Citizens' initiative calling for rape law amendment handed to Finnish parliament

The initiative aims to define rape in terms of lack of consent - rather than the threat or occurrence of violence.

Greens MP Iiris Suomela (second from right), one of the main drivers of the Consent2018 citizens' initiative, handed the document to parliament's legislative director Tuula Kulovesi on Wednesday. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

The Consent2018 citizens' initiative, which aims to redefine rape in Finnish law based on a lack of consent rather than threats or violence, was handed over to parliament on Wednesday. The document received the required 50,000 signatures to be considered by lawmakers by December of last year, later garnering more than 7,000 additional signatures.

The document was handed over to parliament's legislative director Tuula Kulovesi by Greens MP Iiris Suomela, one of the main drivers of the initiative.

"We want to ensure that everyone's right to autonomy over their own bodies is fully protected by the [proposed] reforms. When we started the consent campaign, I would not have believed that the goals of the initiative would be in the government's programme one-and-a-half years later," Suomela said in a release.

Changes on the way

A Justice Ministry working group already announced in January that an amendment to rape laws was in the works. The group said it aimed to ensure that sex without consent would always be punishable under the law. At the time, the group was expected to hand over a legislative proposal on the matter once the new parliament was in place.

As the Consent2018 campaign team was collecting supporters, it said it wanted the law to reflect each individual's right to self determination.

More than two dozen organisations supported the campaign, including Amnesty International Finland, women's rights and child welfare groups, universities, student unions and others.