Milestones of gender equality

The 19th century 

1860 – The husband’s right to impose corporal punishment is no longer accepted in jurisprudence. 

1864 – Unmarried women (at age 25) become legally competent and obtain full legal rights. 

1878 – Equal hereditary rights for men and women.

1883 – The first mixed-gender school in Finland is founded.

1884 – The Finnish Women’s Association, calling for universal suffrage for women, is founded.

1886 – The first Finnish mixed-gender school in Finland is founded.

1892 – Unioni, The League of Finnish Feminists - now known as The Feminist Association Unioni, is founded. 

1897 – Women become legally competent at the same age as men, 21.

The 20 th century 

1900 – Suomen Työläisnaisliitto (“Finnish working women’s association") is founded.

1901 – Women obtain equal right to study in universities.

1906 – Finnish women are the first in Europe to obtain suffrage in national elections and the first in the world to obtain the right to stand as candidates. 

1907 – The bourgeois Finnish Women’s Alliance is founded.

1907 – 19 women elected as the first MPs, many of them activists in various women’s organisations.

The 1910s 

1911 – The National Council of Women in Finland is founded.

1917 – Women and men obtain universal suffrage in local government elections. 

1919 – Married women obtain the right to engage in gainful employment without needing their husband’s consent.

The 1920s 

1926 – The first female minister of Government: Miina Sillanpää, Assistant Minister for Social Affairs.

1926 – Act on women’s eligibility for state office. 

1927 – Alma Söderhjelm becomes the first woman professor at Åbo Akademi. 

The 1930s 

1930 – A new Marriage Act takes effect: the guardianship of the husband over his wife is abolished and wives are given the right to own property in their own name.

1937 – The Maternity Benefits Act providing maternity grants is adopted.

The 1940s 

1943 – Statutory school meals.

1944 – The act on prenatal and child health clinics.

The 1950s

1950 – Therapeutic abortion is legalised. 

The 1960s 

1961 – Usage of the contraceptive pill is accepted. 

1962 – Finland ratifies the ILO’s Equal Remuneration Convention, calling for equal pay for work of equal value.

1965 – Women and men’s joint association Yhdistys 9 is founded.

1967 – A committee analysing the position of women is founded (1967–1970).

The 1970s 

1967 – Final report by the committee analysing the position of women.

1970 – Women's share of elected MPs is higher than 20 percent for the first time

1970 – The Act on the Interruption of Pregnancy: abortion is allowed for social reasons.

1970 – The Employment Contracts Act prohibits discrimination. 

1971 – Decriminalisation of homosexual acts.

1972 – Contraceptive services ensured by law. 

1972 – The Council for Gender Equality (TANE) is founded. 

1973 – The Day-care Act takes effect.

1973 – The first feminist women’s groups: Marxist-Feministerna and Rödkärringar (Puna-Akat).

1974 – Seta – LGBTI Rights in Finland is founded. 

1975 – The UN International Women’s Year.

1975 – The Paternity Act and Child Maintenance Act: children born in and out of wedlock obtain equal rights. 

1978 – The right for parents to divide parental leave among themselves.

The 1980s 

1980 – The first Government Action Plan for Gender Equality. 

1982 – The first female candidate nominated for presidential election – Helvi Sipilä (Liberal People’s Party). 

1983 – Joint custody becomes possible. 

1983 – For the first time, women's share of elected MPs is higher than 30 percent.

1985 – The Children’s Home Care Support Act; the terms maternity, paternity and parental leave are confirmed. 

1986 – The Names Act, under which a woman getting married may keep her surname and the surname of either parent can be given to a child. 

1986 – Finland ratifies the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

1986 – Women obtain the right to act as priests (the first female priests are ordained in 1988). 

1987 – The Act on Equality between Women and Men is adopted (Equality Act).

1987 – The Act on the Ombudsman for Equality is adopted and the Equality Board is established.

1988 – NYTKIS – The Coalition of Finnish Women’s Associations is founded.

The 1990s 

1990 – Children obtain the subjective right to municipal day care until age 3. 

1990 – The first woman appointed as Minister for Defence – Elisabeth Rehn.

1991 – Fathers obtain a separate paternity leave (6 days), which does not reduce the parental allowance period. 

1992 – The first woman elected as the director of the Bank of Finland – Sirkka Hämäläinen. 

1992 – The first woman to be appointed the president of a university – Aino Sallinen (University of Jyväskylä).

1994 – Rape within marriage is criminalised. 

1994 – The first woman to be elected Speaker of the Parliament – Riitta Uosukainen. 

1995 – The quota provision and the principle of gender mainstreaming are included in the revised Equality Act. 

1995 – Voluntary military service becomes a possibility for women. 

1995 – Gender-based discrimination is prohibited in the revised Constitution of Finland. 

1995 – The first woman appointed as Minister for Foreign Affairs – Tarja Halonen. 

1995 – Miessakit Association is founded.

1996 – Children obtain the subjective right to municipal day care until school age. 

1999 – The Act on Restraining Orders. 

1999 – The Penal Code’s provisions on the right to sexual self-determination are revised. 

1999 – Abolishment of certain sexual offence provisions (including prohibitions on homosexual acts and adultery). 

The 2000s 

2000 – The first woman President of Finland  Tarja Halonen. 

2000 – A general prohibition of discrimination included in the revised Constitution of Finland. 

2001 – Act on Registered Partnerships.

2003 – “Daddy Month” 

2003 – The first women appointed as captain in the Defence Forces  Mervi Pehkonen (Border Guard). 

2003 – The first woman prime minister  Anneli Jäätteenmäki. 

2004 – Assault in a private place becomes subject to official prosecution (petty assault remains a complainant offence).

2005 – Reform of the Equality Act. 

2006 – First woman Chief Justice of the Supreme Court  Pauliine Koskelo. 

2007 – Over 40 percent of female MPs for the first time; female majority in Finnish Government (60 percent).

The 2010s 

2010 – The first female bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Irja Askola, Diocese of Helsinki). 

2010 – The Central Association for Men’s Organizations in Finland is founded.

2011 – Transvestism eliminated from the classification diseases. 

2011 – Even petty assaults in intimate relationships become subject to official prosecution. 

2011 – Sexual intercourse with a defenceless party is specified as rape. 

2011 – The first female Minister of Finance – Jutta Urpilainen.

2015 – Non-discrimination of gender minorities included in the Equality Act.

2015 – The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) enters into force.

2017 – Equal Marriage Act

2019 – Maternity Act 

2019 – Child Marriage Ban

2019 – Alternating residence included in the Act on Child Custody and Right of Access.

2019 – The majority (54 %) of those elected in the European elections are women.

2019 – The first female European Commissioner of Finland  – Jutta Urpilainen.

The 2020s

2021 – For the first time, women's share of elected members in local elections is higher than 40 percent.

2022 – The Non-discrimination Ombudsman appointed as the National Rapporteur on violence against women

2022 – 53 percent of councillors elected in the first county elections are women.

2022 – Family leave reform: in a two-parent family both parents receive 160 days of parental allowance

2023 – Revised legislation on sexual offences 

2023 – Transgender legislation reform: the legal recognition of gender is separated from medical examinations and treatments

2023 – Abortion law reform