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Lesbian mums seek legal reforms

Women in same-sex relationships want the right to be recognised as the parent of their children without going through the adoption process—even if they are not the birth mother. Activists are hoping a citizens’ initiative will prompt parliament to make the change.

Elina Laavi (centre) ghad to adopt her daughter. In future lesbian mums may be able to claim maternity at the clinic before the birth. Image: Laura Savolainen / Yle

From January heterosexual, unmarried men will be able to claim paternity before their child is born, at the maternity clinic, rather than heading to the magistrate’s office after the birth as they do now.

Women in same-sex relationships, however, will still have to go through a cumbersome and bureaucratic adoption process in order to be recognised as their child’s mother. Now activists want to change that with a citizens’ initiative.

It’s based on a Justice Ministry draft law that wasn’t implemented by the last government and currently has 7,000 of the 50,000 signatures required to force consideration by parliament. To the families affected by the law, it’s extremely important.

Problematic situation

"It’s a problematic situation for the children, if the parents split up or if one of them dies before the adoption has been finalised," says Juha Jämsä of the Rainbow Families pressure group.

"The child can be left without the right to support, inheritance and above all the right to meet the other parent."

Last year some 140 female couples registered an adoption between the birth mother and her partner, and the number is on an upward curve.

Helsinki couple Elina Laavi and Elisa Jokelin started their family three years ago. As Elisa gave birth to both the family’s children, Elina had to claim motherhood after the fact through a so-called ’internal adoption’.

"After the birth we had to go to the social services office," explains Laavi. "They checked out my identity, and whether the birth mother really accepted the adoption. The current process feels quite like bullying."

Tricky in the provinces

"Luckily we were dealt with by one official who ensured things proceeded relatively quickly."

With both children, the adoption process took around two months. During that time Laavi had no legal relationship with her child, until the adoption was finally approved by the district court. This process is relatively smooth in Helsinki, according to Laavi.

"You hear some horrible stories from elsewhere in Finland," says Laavi. "Many couples have had problems with the authorities. They’ve come to inspect the home and things like that."

Other Nordic countries have already changed the law to recognise the children of female couples. If the citizens’ initiative is successful Finland will join that group, making it easier for non-traditional families to gain legal recognition.

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