Finnish lawmakers are set to update the country’s sexual harassment law. Through this new law, they wish to make sending unsolicited, explicit photographs punishable by law. Now, people can go to jail for 6 months for sending unwanted “d**k pics”.
The earlier sexual harassment law had a limited purview. Only offenses involving physical touching fell under the bracket of sexual offense or harassment.
To widen the scope of the law, lawmakers have brought out draft legislation amending the previous one. According to a statement, the draft legislation broadens the definition of sexual harassment to include verbal harassment, or harassment through pictures or messages, or taking photos of another, or exposing oneself.
The punishment for offenses under this category ranges from a fine to a 6-months prison sentence.
Sexual Offenders Prosecuted Under Defamation Law
Some sexual offenders sending explicit pictures have recently been prosecuted by the Finnish authorities. However, this was under Finland’s defamation law. Nowhere is the sexual dimension of these offenses included in those prosecutions. This is what triggered the change.
Several campaigners had recently asked for this law to go away as it failed to point out the actual offense. Although ongoing talks about this reformed bill are circling, there is no chance that the bill comes into effect before 2021.
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Sami Kiriakos, a senior legislative advisor from Finland’s justice ministry, said in a statement that the draft proposal will be submitted “sometime next year” to the government who would put it before the parliament for voting.
Sexual harassment studies show that virtual sexual offenses are extensive. This includes the widespread sending of explicit content non-consensually. A recent study on such cyber-flashing was conducted by children’s rights charity Plan International this year. Researchers surveyed 14,000 women and girls across the world and the reports were shocking. It shows that 51% of them have experienced some form of online sexual harassment.
About 35% of the women falling under the age-group of 15-25 have received sexually explicit pictures online or via texts, according to the study.
Sexual Harassment Offenses Can Be “Difficult To Investigate”
Kiriakos also added that sexual offenses of this sort are quite common in the country. It’s not a figure to hide but to amend. Additionally, most of these offenses are directed towards females. They become the default victims of such sexual harassment, online or otherwise. The law has to change considering these relevant pointers, he suggests.
Some places like Scotland have already taken strict measures to punish such online sexual offenses. Scotland outlawed cyber-flashing back in 2010.
Texas, as recent as last year, introduced a fine of $500 for sending explicit content without consent.
But these countries remain anomalies as many others have still not taken steps to eradicate such crimes. Many countries are slow in taking action as the enforcement can prove to be tricky.
Anything can happen virtually, mentions Kiriakos, who also says that these offenses can be hard to investigate.
The new sexual harassment law can even change the legal definition of rape to define it as ‘sex without consent’, instead of the current definition, which relies more on the ‘violence’ of the act.
Image Featured: BjÃ¶rn Forenius