According to the Justice Ministry’s newly-published report, the most common forms of discriminatory abuse experienced by minority groups in Finland are verbal insults, name-calling and humiliation. The findings are based on open-ended interviews of 1,475 respondents from minority groups, as well as experts. Some 59 percent of the respondents were women.
The results show that 61 percent of the respondents said that hate speech and harassment had eroded their general sense of security during the preceding 12 months. Roughly half said that their experiences had affected them psychologically. One third said their faith in officials had been tested.
Face-to-face - or on Facebook
The report suggests that these verbal attacks most often took place on the streets, in parking lots and other public places. Victims were also likely to experience abuse online in public discussion forums and especially on Facebook. The third most common arenas for such outbursts were found to be cafés, restaurants and bars, as well as public transportation.
Many immigrants cited instances in which they were insulted or verbally abused in public because of their foreign language or appearance.
Sexual and gender minorities also faced verbal abuse at the hands of strangers. Roma were subjected to hate speech or harassment in service situations in particular. For their part, disabled respondents also said they experienced discrimination from service personnel.
Majority of abusers from mainstream population
For Finland’s indigenous Sámi minority, hate speech was partly linked to politics and Sámi rights or their self-determination in the Sámi community. Sámi respondents also said that their attackers were more often from the same group than was the case with other demographics.
Disabled and religious minorities most often faced abuse from other minority groups. However all of the respondents who were victims of hate speech said the majority of abusers were from the mainstream population.
More than half of minority group members who responded to the poll said that they avoided certain locations because they feared being targeted by verbal abuse or harassment.
Only a small proportion of the respondents who said they had been victims of harassment or hate speech had reported the incidents. Generally people reported their experiences informally and to officials who happened to be on the scene at the time, such as restaurant staff or moderators of online discussion forums.
The survey was conducted on behalf of the Justice Ministry last autumn by the research firm Owal Group, as part of a discrimination monitoring programme. The ministry said that it intends to conduct further surveys at four-year intervals.