Lesbian Couples In Finland Seek Legal Reforms
Activists are seeking a legal reform through a citizens' initiative.
Elina Laavi and Elisa Jokelin
The fight to be recognized as the legal parent of a child is not uncommon for same-sex couples. In Finland, lesbians are forced to go through an inconvenient and bureaucratic process to simply be recognized as their child’s mother. This is especially frustrating for couples when their unmarried heterosexual counterparts can claim paternity before the birth of the child.
Now, activists in Finland are seeking a legal reform through a citizens’ initiative.
The initiative is based on a Justice Ministry draft law that was never implemented by the previous government. Currently it has 7,000 of the 50,000 signatures required to compel parliament to consider a reform.
Juha Jämsä of the Rainbow Families pressure group displays just how problematic the current laws are for the families affected.
Jämsä says, “It’s a problematic situation for the children, if the parents split up or if one of them dies before the adoption has been finalized. The child can be left without the right to support, inheritance and above all the right to meet the other parent.”
The numbers for female couples registering an adoption are rising in Finland. Last year an estimated 140 couples applied.
One couple, Elina Laavi and Elisa Jokelin of Helsinki, have had to deal with this process since starting their family three years ago. Elina had to claim motherhood through an “internal adoption” because Elisa gave birth to both children.
Elina explains, “After the birth we had to go to the social services office. They checked out my identity, and whether the birth mother really accepted the adoption. The current process feels quite like bullying.”
The couple explains that the adoption process took about two months for both children. Elina says, “Luckily we were dealt with by one official who ensured things proceeded relatively quickly.”
However, during the two months, Elina had no legal relationship with her children until the adoptions were approved in a district court.
The couple say that the process is relatively easy in Helsinki but in other parts of Finland “you hear some horrible stories.” Elina says, “Many couples have had problems with the authorities. They’ve come to inspect the home and things like that.”
If the initiative is successful, Finland will join ranks with other Nordic countries that have already changed their laws to recognize children of lesbian couples.