71 per cent of domestic and intimate partner violence falls on women, 15 per cent on men, and the rest on children under the age of 15. Every year, more than 20 women die due to domestic violence which is a problem in every age group and social class.
In the Finnish Equality Act, it is stated (2 §) that the stipulations are not applied to family members or other intimate relationships. Equality inside the family is defined mainly by the combination of tradition, culture, and social environment. In some cases, equality is not respected in the family, and it may be replaced by violence. That is always serious and, in some situations, people are in need for a refuge; a safe house.
Safe houses are meant for people who have met – or have been threatened with – domestic violence and who need support to recover and a temporary place to live. There is a safe house in 12 Finnish towns. Both women and men can come to the safe house – alone or with children – any time, day and night. Safe houses also provide counselling by phone and advise how to deal with domestic violence.
It has been noticed widely that safe houses are an effective way to prevent domestic violence. Financing has been hanging in the balance for a long time due to economic difficulties in many municipalities, but soon social and healthcare reform will change the structure and economic framework of the safe houses. Hopefully we are on the right track.
Personally, I do voluntary work in the board of the local safe house. Volunteers are an indispensable resource and I have found the work very rewarding and valuable. Safe houses help and take care also of the children who are often neglected in the cases of domestic violence. Adults have to remember that even though children adapt quite well to new situations, every incident leaves a memory trace.
Last year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) scrutinised the status of equality in 136 countries. They looked into male and female participation in politics, economic equality, and access to education and health care, and gave each country a grade. According to the WEF, the status of women is poor in the Middle East, North Africa, and especially in Yemen, and equality has not increased in those areas.
The same report shows that Finland is the second best country in the world as far as gender equality is concerned. Despite our good placing, we still have work to do.
Kolumni julkaistu Helsinki Times lehdessä 3.7.2014.