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Finland: first female total objector to go to prison?

On 6 December 2009, Finnish Independence Day (a very militarist event in the country), a woman conscientious objector declared her total objection in Finland. She declared: "I don't want to support a machinery of violence by any means, because it is not creating a happy and just future for us. Militaristic activities only sow and feed hatred and bitterness. We should use all our resources for building and maintaining a sustainable future."

Finland does not have conscription for women, but does allow women to volunteer for military service. During the first 45 days of service the female volunteers have a right to discontinue their service without any consequences and correspondingly the military has a right to send them home. However, after this "trial period" the laws regulating conscription for men also apply to women, which means the service ceases to be voluntary. Finland's law on conscientious objection consequently also applies to women who volunteer for military service.

According to the army´s statistics, 522 women applied to voluntary military service in 2009. The number has been quite stable. There have been only a few cases of women applying for conscientious objection after the trial period, who then performed the rest of their service as substitute service, but the present case is the first case of total objection of a woman conscientious objector.

The new woman conscientious objector, who wishes to remain anonymous, had performed 11 months of military service before it was interrupted in November 2008 because of medical reasons. She then had only one month left of her service. During her military service and the deferment her opinions on the military changed, and she decided to declare her conscientious objection.

Her decision to object was also influenced by the fact that the military's medical treatment did not offer her appropriate surgical treatment when she got a physical injury during the service. She sees this as an example of how the military does not respect basic human rights.

Before her refusal she applied for conscientious objection, and was accepted, but she did not want to perform substitute service either, because she sees it as an appendage of the military. According to the Alternative Service Act she will be sentenced to prison for two weeks.

As she is living in a garrison town in the Kainuu region (Northern Finland), where 20% of the employment is by the military, she prefers to remain anonymous, although she welcomes publicity for her case.

Sources: Conscientious objection declaration (Finnish), 6 December 2009, Helsinki Times: Woman conscientious objector faces prison in Finland, 9 December 2009, Correspondence with AKL Finland.

Veröffentlicht in CO-Update, January 2010, No. 53