Transcript of our presentation in the WHRC Feminist Question Time webinar
Good afternoon everyone. We’d like to begin by thanking the Women’s Human Rights Campaign for inviting us to this webinar. We are proud to be here with you today as an association as well as individuals.
We’re also signatories of the WHRC declaration and stand by it wholeheartedly.
First, allow us to introduce ourselves and our organization. We are board members of Naisten rintama ry, or in English, Women’s Front NGO. Our speakers today are our vice chairman, accompanied with our secretary and board member.
We’re a newly founded women’s rights association based in Finland and were officially registered on the 5th of May this year. We are a group of ordinary women from varying backgrounds – what unites us all is the indisputable motivation to safeguard the existing rights of women in Finland; and furthermore, to advance the position of women and girls in our society. Our values are openness, fairness, and courage and we’re committed to stand by these values in everything we do as an association. We’re ideologically and politically independent.
While there are several other women’s organizations in our country, the biggest distinction between them and us is that we felt it’s crucial to be able to define “woman” in order to meaningfully advance women’s rights. In fact, the very first principle of Women’s Front states: a woman is an adult human female. The other women’s organizations define a woman as “anyone who identifies as a woman”. This doesn’t align with our values and in our view, also makes it difficult to talk about female-specific topics. We see that only distinct, fact-based terminology allows us to determine when women’s rights may be conflicted.
Next we’d like to tell you a bit about what we have been doing.
For our first year we’ve deemed that our main focus will be on the revisioning of the existing Act on Legal Gender Recognition, which is currently on the agenda for the Finnish Government.
One part of this revision seeks to remove the sterilization requirement for people who’ve sought to go through a gender transition process and the legal recognition of their preferred gender. Justly so, The European Court of Human Rights mandates that such a requirement be removed, as it violates the bodily autonomy of transgender people. Women’s Front fully supports the removal of the sterilization requirement.
It should be noted though that in Finland, no trans person is forcefully sterilized, although this is how certain parties choose to speak of it. The sterilization requirement means that the person needs to, for example, use Hormonal contraception, after which they’re deemed “infertile” by medical professionals.
The deliberate muddling of wording here makes it seem as though Finnish trans people are forced into invasive operations – which simply is not true.
Most importantly: as a women’s rights organization we have noted there are other clauses in the revision plan that could, if passed through the legislative process, infringe upon the safety and rights of women and girls. We’re sure you’re all aware of what we mean: self-identification. The right for any Finnish citizen – whether with a trans identity or not – to legally self-identify into the sex class they choose, with no diagnosis or medical process required.
It’s crucial to acknowledge that in Finland neither sex have so called sex-based rights. Should self-identification become legal, our country’s legislation offers very little protections to women, as the legal sex of the person would be on par with biological sex in the eyes of the law.
The public discourse over this matter in the media is one-sided at best and non-existent at its worst, which is why we deem it important that we bring this discussion to the public as best we can.
As for now we have diligently gone through the statute drafting of the proposed Act on Legal Gender Recognition which was initiated by the Finnish Government. We’ve also reviewed the internal guidelines of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, who are responsible for overlooking the law-making process. We found their approach lacking and in parts, even alarming, as they had clearly not followed their very own directives on Gender Impact Assessment, the aim of which is to assess the consequences of a law or policy on the state of gender equality between men and women.
To this date we’ve sent two separate requests for an official statement to the Ministry. We presented a large variety of pertinent questions regarding self-identification and how it could impact the lives of women and girls. While we’re happy they’ve responded to us we aren’t fully content with what they had to say so far.
In their first reply they admitted they had not taken into consideration the impacts of Self-ID on the sexes as per the Equality Act. It’s also notable that in the Finnish Equality Act, words such as gender identity and gender expression are given definitions – but “woman” and “man” are not defined in the Act at all.
In their second reply the Ministry stated their appreciation towards our valid concerns regarding the rights and safety of women and girls. However, we found this reply to be insufficient. At the moment we remain uncertain whether the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will include in their board of experts any parties that have a fully impartial view on the legislative proposal. At this moment a large part of experts of the panel are members of organizations that have openly campaigned for self-identification.
We’ll aim to maintain our correspondence with the Ministry and will follow up the entire process closely.
As a women’s rights association there are, of course, many other important topics we wish to bring up to discussion. We have written about keeping women’s sports female-only; the possible downsides of socially transitioning minors; the confusion between gender-critical and anti-trans; and latest, the conflicting idea of gender identity being conflated with sex. Some of these texts were sent to newspapers. As we weren’t allowed a platform in the mainstream media we have so far published these on our own website only.
Moreover, we wish to bring the discussion about women’s rights back to where they belong – to women from all walks of life. For this reason we have a blog section where we post texts from our members. There are pieces regarding female prisoners, working conditions in female-specific fields, so called “inclusive language,” and the harmful impact of pornography on women and girls.
We have also made an official complaint to The Council of Mass Media in our country regarding one Finnish publication that openly and uncritically advocates for the GenderGP clinic. As you may know, the founder of this controversial transgender health clinic, Dr Helen Webberley, has been accused of failing to provide good clinical care to child patients, and the clinic itself seems to be administering puberty blockers and hormones to minors without parental consent.
In our view it was unethical to write about the GenderGP clinic without any mention of these questionable practices. Despite the evidence, the Council of Mass Media decided not to process our complaint. Regardless, we’ll be paying attention to any articles that from our point of view can be harmful to young girls and women especially; and will follow the due process in order to report such pieces to the Council in the future as well.
We’d like to talk a bit about how we were initially received and what seems to be the public understanding of our organization’s goals and values.
It’s probably not surprising that we haven’t been able to get our opinion pieces published in newspapers. After all, what we stand for does not quite fit in with the current narrative on gender-identity ideology that seems to be prevalent in the media as well as certain academic circles.
While our inception did not make much waves amongst the general populace, people aware of the new wave of women’s rights activism were quick to condemn us. We were called a “TERF club” and other slurs. On Twitter, unsurprisingly, people were sharing fabricated information about us in order to smear us and to encourage others to block our Twitter account. One person went as far as to share some personal information about our board members online. What made this all the more concerning is that this person was, and still is, a vocal member of a political party. In addition, one group targeted us in one of their event’s official social media pages – naming us specifically and telling us to “fuck off.” This event was basically meant for LGBT people which was disturbing, as we have women belonging to sexual minorities in our members.
There have also been articles in the mainstream media where we have not been explicitly named – but it seems we and any others who are critical of the ideology of gender identity are being lumped together with far-right, conservative, religious, fascist groups and other similar movements. Needless to say, we do not share any common goals with any such groups.
Regardless of the deliberate smears and obfuscation of what our association truly stands for, we are resolute to stand by our core values. Standing for women’s and girls’ rights and safety is of utmost importance for us. Therefore we won’t allow any negativity to silence us, or to dishearten us.
We know our work is important and will keep speaking about matters that have to do with the female sex.
Once again thank you for inviting us to participate in this webinar. It’s encouraging to speak to other women who understand our views and values.
The board of Women’s Front NGO