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Wednesday's papers: Rape acquittal, status of Swedish and a transgender baseball star

Wednesday's papers report on the sexual abuse of a 10-year-old girl, the status of Swedish in Finland, and a Finnish baseball star who came out as transgender.

Alexander Saloranta (oik.) Itä-Länsi-ottelussa 2016.
Alexander Saloranta (formerly Paula Saloranta) at Finnish baseball's All-star game in 2016. Image: Tomi Hänninen

Several media report on the appeal of a 23-year-old asylum seeker convicted of the sexual abuse of a 10-year-old girl. The man was sentenced to three years in jail for aggravated sexual abuse, but acquitted of rape in a verdict that prompted extensive debate on social media.

The court ruled that the man had sex with the girl in a deserted courtyard of an apartment building in Pirkanmaa, and that constituted aggravated sexual abuse, but acquitted him of rape because the court ruled there was not adequate evidence the girl was afraid or helpless.

Aamulehti reported on the case on Tuesday with a look at the nuts and bolts of the rape law that underpinned the verdict. That law holds that for a rape conviction to stand either violence or the threat of violence should be used; or the victim should be unable to defend themselves or articulate their rejection of the attacker.

Needless to say, the court's view that a 10-year-old did not meet these criteria has raised eyebrows.

"If this situation doesn't have the essential elements of a rape offence, then yes we should consider changing the law," said Professor of Criminal Law Matti Tolvanen in comments to Aamulehti that were widely reported in other media. Yle's Finnish-language service reported the appeal court's verdict last Friday.

Swedish under threat?

A broad survey on attitudes towards the Swedish language makes the news today, with Helsingin Sanomat reporting that "The position of Swedish isn't important to the young". That refers to a finding that just 52 percent of those questioned aged under 30 regarded the position of Swedish in Finnish society as important.

That percentage rises to 80 percent among pensioners. The older the respondent, the the stronger the desire to protect the status of Swedish. Good Swedish skills were regarded as important in decision-makers by just 60 percent of respondents, down from 80 percent in the same survet in 2008.

Half of respondents said they had no use for Swedish skills, while nearly half of Finnish speakers questioned said that public services in Swedish cost the taxpayer too much money.

Trans baseball star announces transition

Iltalehti reports on the first transgender Finnish baseball player to come out in Finland. Alexander Saloranta announced last week that he wants to live as a man. He has five baseball championships to his name, was voted player of the year in 2011 and plays for the Lapua team in a rural part of South Ostrobothnia.

The news came as a surprise to those who knew him as Paula, his birth name, but the 30-year-old was now ready to go public.

Saloranta says he always knew he wanted to be a boy, even as a small child. His fiance Sari and his parents have been supportive, and even as Paula, Saloranta was one of the few openly LGBT sports stars in Finland.

Now his career in the women's leagues is over, as hormones will show in doping tests and result in a ban from playing. He says he won't seek a men's team to play for, but if one asks, he might well give it a try.

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