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Tampere-area city council dismisses motion to adopt two-gender policy in schools

Seven councillors had previously called on the city to teach children that "girls are girls and boys, boys".

vessan merkki jossa mies ja nainen
Image: AOP

The city council in Orivesi, near Tampere, ruled to dismiss a motion tabled by seven councillors to teach traditional gender roles in schools. The council determined that it would not take the motion forward as it does not comply with equality and gender equality legislation.

Orivesi education director Mia Mattila said during a council session on Tuesday that the individuals who had signed a petition supporting the motion did not appear to be too familiar with current gender-equality laws.

"In school, no one would reject anyone, but gender-sensitive education means that educational professionals are aware of different identities and every child receives support for the person they are," Mattila tweeted from the municipality's official Twitter account.

"Girls are girls and boys, boys"

Seven municipal councillors had previously called on the city, which has a population of just over 9,000, to teach children that "girls are girls and boys, boys". The proposal bore the title, "A motion to support healthy gender roles in Orivesi city operations". It called on local officials to adopt a policy position that there are two genders.

"Girls are girls and boys, boys. This fundamental truth is being forgotten in the turmoil of modern society," the motion declared.

The authors of the motion also urged Orivesi officials to request reports from schools and daycares about learning materials that involve gender issues.

The city's youth council opposed the proposal, commenting that young people should be allowed to be who they are.

Discomfort over elimination of boys' and girls' prizes

Social Democratic Party councillor Eliisa Suhonen took to Twitter to wonder how much work the motion caused and what would happen to the municipality's image. She added that she'd received numerous phone calls about the motion for three weeks after it became public.

Meanwhile Finns Party councillor Sami Kymäläinen, who endorsed the motion, said that too much had been read into the proposal. He said that it aimed to promote regular education policies, not to classify anything as right or wrong.

"Supporting children doesn't mean affirming their experiences, but accepting them [children]. [Teaching] personnel do not make diagnoses," education director Mattila said during the council meeting.

However the seven councillors behind the motion were uncomfortable with developments such as the elimination of separate prizes for boys and girls in the town.

"Based on residents' feedback, there is reason to suspect that in schools, children and teens have been told about gender neutrality and claims that support [the concept of] experience-based gender, at least occasionally" the motion declared.

LGBT non-profit: Denial of gender diversity harmful

Seta, Finland's main LGBT rights NGO, said that denial of gender diversity could be especially harmful to children and young adults. Seta's Pirkanmaa chapter chair, Minna Minkkinen, noted that more than five percent of respondents in a schools' health survey claimed that their gender was different from the one assigned at birth.

"Rainbow youth, in other words, young people who belong to sexual and gender minorities, face a heightened suicide risk. It is the responsibility of adults and local decision-makers in particular to ensure that children and teens have an environment in which they can safely be who they are. The kind of transphobic opposition to gender diversity in the motion does not belong there," Minkkinen added.

On its website, Finland's National Agency for Education lays out the principles of gender-sensitive education.

"Of course gender equality also includes gender diversity, in other words, it embraces the idea that there are more than two genders. Recognising the plurality of sexual orientations and identities is part of gender-aware teaching and guidance," agency primary and early years education unit head Ulla Laine told Yle previously.

She added that this is how educators uphold gender equality laws as well as early years and primary education regulations and comply with the fundamentals of the primary education curriculum.

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