Finland's new Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, Annika Saarikko, says that the government should consider legislation specifically forbidding female genital mutilation (FGM), in line with other Nordic countries.
Saarikko made the comment late Monday on Yle current affairs TV programme A-studio, which was focusing on violence against women.
"I think we should consider whether female genital mutilation should be criminalised in Finland as it in the other Nordic countries. I think that would be good," Saarikko said. At present the practice is prosecuted under Finnish law as a form of assault.
Strict bans in Scandinavia
In 1982, neighbouring Sweden became the first western country to specifically outlaw FGM in the country, later extending the ban to cover procedures performed on Swedish citizens abroad. Norway, Denmark and Iceland also have strict laws.
According to the World Health Organisation, FGM remains a tradition among people from 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. It notes that the practice, typically performed on girls under age 16, can cause severe health problems or even death, and is a human rights violation.
Last autumn the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Foreign Ministry co-hosted a Nordic conference in Helsinki focusing on FGM from the standpoint of human rights and gender equality.
Saarikko, a second-term MP and former Centre Party vice-chair from Turku, took office on 10 July, her 34th birthday. She has previously held various lay positions within the Lutheran Church.
The Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services is a second minister at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.