Public Opinion is Clear: Urgent Legislation Required to Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation! Read the story

Despite Finland’s high standards for protecting children against sexual violence and guaranteeing their well-being, some gaps remain

Posted on Apr 13, 2023


Strasbourg / Helsinki, 13 April 2023 —A new joint document developed by the Council of Europe and ECPAT International presented in Helsinki today highlights the need for more resources to identify and support victims of child sexual exploitation, including from the most vulnerable groups.

While acknowledging the comprehensive framework for the protection of children against sexual abuse and exploitation, active work of the Finnish authorities in the adoption of policy plans and integrating education on sexuality matters through “safety education” into the national school curriculum, the Country Overview points out some issues that need to be addressed.
Sexual abuse and exploitation appears to be on the rise: according to the information provided by the Finnish authorities, a total of 2,660 and 3,210 child victims of sexual crimes were reported to the police in 2020 and 2021 respectively. This includes sexual abuse, aggravated sexual abuse and aggravated rape. Children in Finland are also increasingly suffering from sexual harassment; exploitation of children through prostitution is a reality; sexual abuse and exploitation facilitated by technology is equally an issue: 62% of 1,762 respondents aged 11-17 indicated they had experienced grooming attempts of various sort. Children with disabilities, children of foreign origin, or LGBTI and gender diverse children are particularly vulnerable.
The authorities are encouraged to further enhance legislation, policies, and measures to fight sexual abuse and exploitation. Child-friendly justice in Finland can benefit from the correct use of technology to better identify victims, and from further expansion of the Barnahus model.
There are several key tracks which the Government of Finland could follow:
• Standardise the definitions of child sexual abuse to better address the needs of child victims
• Further criminalise online child sexual abuse and exploitation: for example, live streaming of child sexual abuse could be explicitly criminalised under the Finnish legal framework.
• Introduce a national referral mechanism which would include NGOs, labour inspectors, social workers, health-care staff, municipal staff.
• Ensure mechanisms for data collection at national or local level, and make sure that these also have a specific focus on migrant children.
• Ensure that all staff responsible for interviewing child victims have been specially trained, and that interviews of the child victim are conducted in a child-friendly setting, separate from the usual interview premises, such as police, hospital, or court.
Summary of the Country Overview (English) Full Country Overview (English)
Contacts: Tatiana Baeva, Spokesperson/Media Officer, Council of Europe, +33 388 41 21 41

Note to the editors
The document on Finland is the first one in the series of Country Overviews covering the states Parties to the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention). The Council of Europe joined forces with ECPAT International Secretariat on this project in 2022. The Country Overviews are prepared in close collaboration with the national authorities and are based on the information submitted through a General Overview Questionnaire, earlier recommendations adopted by the Lanzarote Committee, and on the desk-based research to take into account the progress recently made. Next Country Overviews to be published will focus on the Republic of Moldova and on Italy.
Council of Europe
The Council of Europe is the continent’s leading human rights organisation. It has 46 member states, including all members of the European Union. All Council of Europe member states have signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, a treaty designed to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law. All member States have also ratified the Lanzarote Convention.
ECPAT International Secretariat
ECPAT International is a global network of more than 124 civil society organisations, in more than 100 countries, working towards the vision of ending the sexual exploitation of children. With over 30 years of experience in engaging and managing multi-stakeholder processes and partnerships at the national, regional and global levels, ECPAT works to end the sexual exploitation of children.