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Finnish military backtracks after saying homosexuality ‘is an obstacle’ to full service and in the same category as mental illness

Emma Powys Maurice November 8, 2020
Finland

Finland military troops (Creative Commons/A. v. Z.)

Finland’s defence forces have been criticised for using discriminatory training material that described homosexuality as an “obstacle” to service.

The shocking advice came from the Centre for Military Medicine, which is responsible for the health of conscripts and defence personnel.

According to a report by the Finnish Parliamentary Ombudsman, the centre said in a training manual that sexual orientation, specifically homosexuality, was an obstacle to military service.

The material referred to “demanding terms of service” and community housing, Nord News reported. For this reason, it said, cadets should doubt their chances of successfully completing the training.

Gay cadets were advised to opt for the Class C category in fitness checks, a category that is exempt from peacetime military service and includes those with mental health issues.

In response to criticism from the ombudsman, the Defence Command insisted that the Finnish military does not consider homosexuality to be a mental disorder, nor should it have been a criterion in Class C.

However, the ombudsman said that the training material might have given health professionals the impression that sexuality could hinder military service, despite Finland declassifying homosexuality as an illness in 1981.

The ombudsman found that the material was offensive and discriminatory, and these sections have now been removed from the document.

The controversial guidance is surprising coming from Finland, which is widely viewed as one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in the world.

Last year the Gay Happiness Index ranked it as the happiest country for LGBT+ people, beating Denmark, Norway, Iceland, The Netherlands, Sweden and New Zealand.

Public opinion is similarly high: a 2019 poll found that 80 per cent of Finns think LGBT+ people should enjoy all the same rights as heterosexual people, and their newly-elected prime minister Sanna Marin is the proud daughter of same-sex parents. She says her family’s strong belief in equality is the foundation of her political views.

More: Europe, Finland, helsinki, military training

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