Minister of Justice, Mme Anna-Maja Henriksson, and Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Mme Paula Risikko, received the representatives of Finnish and Estonian Zontians on 22 November, 2013. This was when Governor Marja Koivula together with Lt Governor Salla Tuominen, Advocacy Committee Chairman Tuija Kirveskari-Tähtinen and Member Tuulikki Petäjäniemi, as well as PR and Communications Committee Chairman Erja Lindholm presented them with the Announcement of the Lahti District Conference of 5 – 6 October, 2013, to launch District 20 Zonta Says NO Campaign and to urge Finnish Parliament to enforce the 2011 Istanbul Agreement on the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
Many communities have no easily accessible services to help victims of violence, or perpetrators. Running and maintaining Safe Houses also suffers from the economic difficulties local authorities are facing. Members therefore took this opportunity to propose that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health take up this matter and give it priority in negotiations with local authorities, so that Finland should have locally comprehensive community services and a network of Safe Houses. They also proposed that a Public Recognition Award be granted to local authorities that in 2014 and 2015 start a new Safe House in their region.
The programme to reduce violence against women over the period of five years, from 2010 to 2015, has indeed resulted in a reduction in the numbers of reports on family violence. Domestic emergency cases regarded as domestic violence have, on the other hand, increased. According to the members, this programme needs a follow-up. Finnish Zontians are of the opinion that in basic education, health education should continue to include guidance to both girls and boys on how to implement the programme of non-violence and genre equality. It is essential, in their opinion, that the 2011 Istanbul Agreement on the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence be enforced in Finland forthwith with all its obligations. They feel, mere announcements, programmes and plans will not eliminate violence against women or help women and children who are victims of domestic violence. They also emphasize the fact that the proposal to change Finnish Criminal Law Article 20 referring to the essential elements of rape does not include enough criteria of the victim’s consent/non-consent. “Non-consent”-based rape criteria depict equality between female and male better than ”Coercion”.