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Thursday's papers: Councillor objects to world-record skinny dip, overworked nurses protest, and violence against women

Today's papers in Finland discuss a politician taking offense at naked swimmers in eastern Joensuu, nurses in central Kuopio refusing to work any more overtime, and a Turku professor taking a stand on weak national laws to protect women from violence.

Naku-uinnin maailmanennätys
Close to 800 swimmers tried to break the Guinness World Record for naked swimming on July 16. Image: Nelli Kallinen / Yle

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat revisits last weekend's world-record-winning skinny dip in Joensuu, with new footage from Harri Mäenpää of 789 naked swimmers piling into the water, splashing and singing.

It seems a certain city councillor in the eastern border city, Marjatta Räty, was put out by the nature of the event. The paper reports that she felt that swimming naked had nothing to do with a music festival and must have been against the law in some way.

Ilosaari Rock's Petri Varis, one of the organisers, disagreed. "I can say without reservation that there was nothing illegal about it. We made arrangements with all manner of authorities throughout the weekend, and not one of them had anything to say." He told the paper that the game rules were worked out with officials as soon as the idea to try and break the record was born. "Among other things, we made sure there were enough security staff and lifeguards on hand for things to go smoothly."

Threat to cut funding

Council member Räty said she was particularly worried about the combination of alcohol and swimming, and the effect on children who may have been present. Varis says staff checked every swimmer who volunteered to take part, to make sure they were in good enough shape. The swim was arranged early enough in the day, at 2 pm, so no one was actually turned away because they were inebriated. "We also saw to it that no underage people took part, but none actually tried to," he told IS.

Räty threatened to cut off the city's contribution to the festival. Varis replied that the city's share - 17,000 euros - is less than a percentage of the music festival's total budget, so they could do without it, but it is nevertheless important as a symbolic gesture of support that he would rather not lose. Back in 2013, the organisers of the festival estimated that it brought over 10 million euros to the city, an amount that has probably grown considerably in the meantime.

Varis says that from his point of view, the event went off without a hitch. "Marjatta Räty is the only one who has said anything negative. We've received endless amounts of positive feedback. Joensuu residents are really proud of their achievement."

"For me, the biggest problem was that my nose almost got burned, because I forgot to put on sunscreen," he said

Nurses: No more overtime

This Thursday Finland's second major tabloid, Iltalehti, features a story on overworked nurses dealing with seemingly unending lines of patients at the Kuopio University Hospital (KYS) in central Finland. The nurses have risen up in rebellion, as they say the hospital administration refuses to acknowledge that there is a staff shortage.

Since the spring, the nursing staff has no longer agreed to come in for extra shifts when scheduled workers fall ill. Intensive care of the patients has suffered due to the lack of replacements, a service lapse that the nurses have consequently reported to the regional administrative authority in the form of 17 complaints or statements.

The closure of several municipal emergency care units in the outlying areas is another reason KYS has become so crowded. Lines for access to emergency service are long, and everyone is tense, the tabloid reports. The waiting times have become a running joke in the city.

"Most of the time, we can sign in for emergency care relatively quickly, but everything beyond that is at a standstill. There are no updates, no information about if the line is moving. Every once in awhile, someone skips ahead to the front, usually someone who is under the influence," says one father who has visited the clinic often with his child.

Finland not doing enough to prevent violence against women

And the southwest newspaper Turun Sanomat interviews Kevät Nousiainen, a professor of comparative law and legal theory at Turku University, on domestic violence in Finland.

Nousiainen says that people are largely left to their own devices when it comes to safeguarding themselves from violent offenders, as the authorities in Finland tend to focus on the assailant and not the victim. For example, officials rarely petition for a restraining order on behalf of a victim, as in most cases the people under persecution are expected to apply for it themselves.

"The tradition in Western Europe is to see a woman as the weaker sex, who must be legally protected from violence. This kind of thinking doesn't really exist in Finland," she says. 

Another problem is dwindling police resources, says Nousiainen, as it is not possible for the police to devote personnel to guarding a victim's home, for example. She joined with two other Finnish lawyers at the turn of the year to submit a complaint to the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women about Finland's inability to fulfil its obligation to protect women from violence.

Human rights problem

She tells TS that violence against women is a very serious human rights problem in Finland.

"On an international scale, Finland has a great deal of violence that targets women, and yet there is slow and reluctant progress adapting our legislation to deal with it," she says. As examples, she points out that Finland only made restraining orders possible in the late 1990s, while stalking only became a punishable crime in 2014, and that was under protest.

Finland ratified the Council of Europe's Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence in 2015, but no national programme has been rolled out to implement it universally since then.

"Cooperation between authorities has been made a municipal responsibility, and there are many differences in how cities approach the matter," Nousiainen says.

Trial today

The Helsinki District Court will hear a case today in which a 45-year-old man is accused of planning a serious assault against his former girlfriend, repeatedly threatening to kill both her and her loved ones. He had earlier been convicted of abuse, stalking and threatening behaviour on many occasions, and refused to comply with restraining orders that he felt were groundless.

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