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Tuesday's papers: Estonian rail dreams, military service exemptions and trans education

Finland's papers include stories on a historic governmental meeting in Tallinn, the military service exemption enjoyed by Jehovah's Witnesses, and sex education.

Pääministerit pöydän ääressä.
Prime Ministers Juha Sipilä and Jüri Ratas. Image: IT-tugi Riigikantselei

On Monday Finland's and Estonia's governments met in Tallinn for a 'Jubilee meeting' to celebrate the two countries hundredth birthdays as independent states (Estonia this year, Finland last). Helsingin Sanomat covers the cordial discussions, which were unusually dominated by railway projects.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are hoping to start construction work on the Rail Baltic project next year, with the rail link to Berlin to be completed by 2026. They would like Finland to join the holding company in charge of the project, Rail Baltic AB, but when asked by HS Finland's Prime Minister Juha Sipilä avoided the question.

"Finns are excited about joining a chain that links Central Europe via Rail Baltic to Tallinn, Tallinn to Helsinki by tunnel and Helsinki to the Mediterranean by rail," said Sipilä.

The Finnish PM said that Finland was committed to Rail Baltic and had offered expert help, while his Estonian counterpart Jüri Ratas said that the door was open but the project isn't slowed by a lack of Finnish involvement in the company.

The rest of the meeting went well, according to HS: Sipilä had such a good time that he suggested the joint meetings might be held again in the future.

Military service moves

Uutissuomalainen outlets including Etelä-Suomen Sanomat report that a majority of members of parliament's defence committee would abolish the exemption to military service currently enjoyed by Jehovah's Witnesses. At present they are allowed to skip their service because of their religious convictions.

Men in Finland are obligated to perform either civil or military service after turning 18. Women are exempt, and so are Jehovah's Witnesses, but a recent court ruling has thrown that convention into doubt.

Uutissuomalainen asked 14 of the 16 members of parliament's crucial committee what they thought should be done. Ten of those said they'd abolish the exemption, with Green MP Krista Mikkonen ready to extend the exemption to other pacifists. At present, male conscientious objectors have to serve a prison sentence if they refuse civil or military service.

Many of those questioned said that they would wait until the Defence Ministry published its report on the matter before forming a settled view, however.

Trans teaching in schools

Iltalehti picks up a blog post written by a concerned mother of a trans child who was upset by apparently old-fashioned teaching material in a sex education class. The mother said that the material was from 1999, and did not properly inform students about transgender people and their lives.

The mother said that the school nurse had said that boys become men and girls become women, and while she had mentioned trans people she had not explained further. The mother wrote that transgender identities are not something people can change, and that finding their identity helps many trans people avoid serious mental health issues.

The local municipality said in a statement that it could not comment further on the matter, but that it gratefully receives any and all feedback.

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