. World News – UK – Sanna Marin: The Feminist Prime Minister who says transsexuals have a right to self-identify.


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. css-14iz86j-BoldText {font-weight: bold;} It will soon be a year since the new Finnish coalition government, led by five women, began its work. It has dealt efficiently with the coronavirus pandemic while developing an ambitious gender equality program – a program that states, among other things, that everyone has the right to determine their own gender identity.

The Prime Minister’s office is less than 200 meters from the House of Estates, where Prime Minister Sanna Marin is about to chair a meeting on the gender equality program signed by her government.

She doesn’t feel like small talk, but who would go back to work in the first week after a honeymoon? The brief break in an undisclosed location followed a surprise wedding in August, quickly arranged with the father of her toddler in a global pandemic.

A photo of Sanna Marin in her long-sleeved Finnish couture satin wedding dress that was hugging husband Markus Räikkönen, a former professional footballer and her 16-year-old partner, was an unexpected post on her active and very personal Instagram account. She had previously shared a photo of herself breastfeeding her daughter Emma.

The couple stood with embraced arms and smiled broadly in the picturesque grounds of Kesaranta, the official residence of the Prime Minister in Helsinki, an ornate wooden villa on the shores of the Baltic Sea.

It was quickly shared by political editors and fashion bloggers, podcasters and students – the second photo of Sanna Marin in less than a year that had an immediate impact.

About a dozen reporters are waiting on the steps of the Finnish Estates House, a Renaissance building where the coalition government meets behind closed doors.

« I don’t prepare what I tell you, » says Sanna Marin as she approaches them and her bodyguard goes after them. « You will ask me anything and I will answer honestly. « 

« No.. They want to know something about the subject, we have big plans, « she replies firmly. « Maybe in the end they ask. « 

Some of the reporters are wearing masks and some are holding boom microphones. Everyone is noticed as she walks up the other side of the cordoned off steps to face them.

She is the first female politician to come to the meeting and she is right – the Finnish media ask her about the issues.

And four hours later, after the meeting, she stops outside to speak to them again.

The first photo of Sanna Marin to go viral was taken more than 200 days earlier, in December 2019, on the first day of her new job. As Finland’s new and youngest Prime Minister of all time, Sanna Marin, then 34, stood smiling broadly next to the other politicians who would lead her center-left coalition government.

They were all women. At the time of the photo’s release, only one five-party coalition leader was over 34 years old.

She stood on the podium with her cabinet and told a sea of ​​photographers that she represented a younger generation and welcomed the attention of the international media. It was an opportunity to show the world « who we Finns are ». .

Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello posted a photo of the coalition on his Instagram page, showing Sanna Marin as a fan of his American rock band. She confirmed the feeling in a millennial way by liking his post.

There were also sexist memes depicting the women making decisions while bathing in a sauna together.

In many ways, the stage for such a coalition was already set. If any country was to be a feminist utopia on Wonderwoman Island, it was Finland.

In 1906 it was the first country in the world to give women both full suffrage and parliamentary rights, an achievement that most other Western nations would only achieve after World War I..

The following year, 19 women were elected to parliament. In 2000 Finland elected its first female president, Tarja Halonen. A prime minister, Anneli Jaatteenmaki, followed in 2003.

In late 2019 and after another Prime Minister, Marin was selected by her center-left Social Democratic Party to replace Prime Minister Antti Rinne after criticizing how he handled a postal strike.

The appointment made her the youngest leader in the country, and no one could have predicted what to expect.

Almost three months before the day on 11. March, the World Health Organization declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic. But the Marin cabinet was ready when the virus hit.

Until 16. On March 1st, Finland was not only at a standstill, but had also triggered the Emergency Powers Act, last enacted in World War II, which gave the government the power to regulate wages and require « compulsory labor recruitment. ». . This move received criticism in the media, but polls showed that the public supported it.

A clear instruction was given to the Finnish citizens: stay at home where possible. Any person with mild symptoms was encouraged to get tested and regular online meetings between laboratories, doctors, and clinics were established to coordinate plans.

Sanna Marin and her four top cabinet colleagues gave weekly coronavirus briefings and answered questions from citizens and the media. One was devoted to questions from children.

She has been praised and placed in the same group as the chiefs of Taiwan, Germany, and New Zealand, leading some to wonder whether female leaders are better at dealing with a crisis.

« There are countries that are run by men who have also done well, » Sanna Marin told the BBC. « So I don’t think it’s a gender issue. I think we should focus more on what the countries that did well have learned. « 

Finland with 5 inhabitants. 5 million, has had just over 370 deaths, a rate of around 60 deaths per million people.

« I think some of the things we learned in Finland are that it is important to listen to scientists, to use all the knowledge there is and to make bold decisions in uncertainty – I think that is also very important, « says Sanna Marin.

« We have a society based on trust. People trust the government, they trust the democratic order. « 

Restrictions on the Emergency Act were lifted ahead of schedule in June, but the coalition faced another shaky moment when the Center Party’s deputy prime minister and leader, Katri Kulmuni – at 33, the youngest of Sanna Marin’s four coalition partners – due to resigned a cost scandal. In September she was replaced by another woman, Annika Saarikko.

« No party can have it in its own way, » says the education minister and leader of the Left Alliance, 33-year-old Li Andersson.

« Sometimes there is such tension, which has to do with compromise behind closed doors. I think there is kind of a tendency of some people to say that because you are a woman you will make a certain type of policy or it will be easier for you to agree if you are all women and so on. And that’s not necessarily the case. « 

In her youth, Marin could not imagine a future in which she would live with her husband and their two-year-old daughter Emma in Kesaranta.

« Politicians and politics seemed very far away. A completely different world than me, « she says.

« Like many other Finns, my family is full of sad stories, » she wrote in 2016 on her personal blog.

She was raised by her mother and her mother’s friend in a small town in southwestern Finland called Pirkkala. A « rainbow family, » she says, but under constant financial pressure. After her mother, who grew up in an orphanage, divorced her alcoholic father, she survived on social benefits. From a young age, Sanna Marin worked – mostly in retail – to support her family.

There were no early signs of potential. Her teacher Pasi Kervinen at Pirkkala High School calls her « an average student » even though she asked for extra homework at the age of 15 to improve her grades.

Her political wake-up call, as she calls it, came in her twenties when she began to believe that it was possible to improve not only her own circumstances but those of others around her as well.

This is the motivation for the Marin Government’s gender equality program, which includes measures to encourage parents to share caring responsibilities equally, tackle domestic violence, close the gender pay gap, and improve educational outcomes for children from poorer backgrounds and to improve migrant families.

There are also plans to reform the Trans Act, a law that currently requires people seeking legal gender recognition to undergo years of mental health exams and, if they are not already sterile, enforce sterilization.

« Everyone should have the right to determine their own identity. And the program supports this, « says Sanna Marin.

« It’s not my job to identify people, » she says firmly. « It is everyone’s job to identify. It is not my job to say. « 

She may be the only head of government to have openly expressed such a position on gender self-identification.

Trans rights activists have been campaigning for reform of the « backward » trans law for years, and some still doubt that this government will achieve it.

All previous governments that have tried to change the law have had to resign under conservative pressure, says activist Kasper Kivisto, who met the coalition to offer his advice.

« We have the youngest female leader in a country, but by itself it’s only a sign, » he says. « It has to have the system’s support before it actually makes a difference. « 

But this time all five parties are in the coalition for reform, and a bill is due to go to parliament next year.

« Finland has always had coalition governments. So we’re used to compromising and finding consensus between different parties and ideologies, « says Sanna Marin. « I think that’s a strength, but it’s not always the fastest way to get things done. « 

In April, Marin’s handling of the pandemic helped her get an 85% approval rating, despite saying she doesn’t look at polls.

But there was criticism. During the global protests against Black Lives Matter, some black Finns used social media to point out that, while the Equality Plan addresses various forms of inequality, it fails to recognize that those who suffer from it are most often black people.

A 2019 Council of Europe report found that 63% of people of African descent in Finland have experienced regular racist harassment – the highest rate in Europe.

Maria Ohisalo, the 35-year-old leader of the Finnish Green League, agrees with those who say the government needs to do more to promote diversity in public life.

« Five educated white women don’t end up being very representative. If we really look at the equality here, it’s not showing up yet, « she says.

« Of course, our backgrounds still influence the choices we have in life, and that shouldn’t be the case, » says Sanna Marin. But fixing that is not just a job for her, it’s one for all Finns, she says. And she insists that the equality program will help improve the position of racist minorities.

« We all need to focus on how to make the program a reality, » she says. « So this is my mission as Prime Minister. « 

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