Finnish officials have begun work to bring the country's sexual assault legislation into line with international standards, by defining rape as sex without consent, the country's justice minister said on Wednesday. Although considered one of the world's most gender-equal societies, Finland has come under fire for its legal definition of rape which requires a victim to prove violence was used, or that they were in a state of fear and helplessness.
"In January I decided that the justice ministry will begin a total reform of rape legislation," Justice Minister Antti Hakkanen said during an event hosted by the rights group Amnesty International.
"The legislation will be clearer than it currently is, and brought up to date, in part, by strengthening the legal role of consent," Hakkanen said.
The proposal for the new law will come before parliament some time during the coming four-year parliamentary term, the justice ministry said.
Anger at Finland's record on tackling sexual crimes came to a head in 2017 when a court ruled that a 23-year-old man who had sex with a 10-year-old was not guilty of rape because the child had not opposed intercourse with the attacker and violence was not used.
The man was given a two-year sentence for the lesser crime of sexual abuse. The sentence was subsequently upheld on appeal.
The prevalence of violence against women in Finland is among the highest in the EU, according to the bloc's Fundamental Rights Agency.
In a report released on Wednesday, Amnesty International said the Finnish justice system currently "ignores, denies and tacitly condones sexual violence against women".
Finland is a signatory to the Istanbul Convention, which commits states to criminalising non-consensual sex.
According to Amnesty, only a minority of EU states define rape as sex without consent, and the organisation is campaigning for law changes across the continent.
Sweden became the latest country to adopt a new "consent law" in cases of sexual assault, which came into force in July last year.