The past week has been a week of good news for Finnish families, especially those who are something else than heterosexual nuclear families with biological children.
First, on Friday the 22nd September, the so-called Maternity law got the majority of the legal committee of the Finnish parliament behind it. This will give same-sex couples (or in practice couples consisting of juridically defined women) the right to validate the parenthood of the ”other mother” already before their child is born, thus getting rid of the need for adoption processes in many same-sex-families.
Second, on Tuesday the 26th September, the Social and Welfare Ministry arranged a hearing in order to start a process of renewing the parental leave system in Finland. In the hearing, it became evident that the diversity of families will be a central starting point in this process, hopefully granting equal possibilities for parental leave to all forms of families.
Third, on Friday the 29th September, the Ministry of Justice published a memorandum for a renewal of the legislation of custody and visitation rights for children. This memorandum promises visitation rights also to parents who have no juridical relationship to their children if they have a ”parent-like” connection to the child. This protects the child’s relationship to for example step-parents in newbuilt families, social parents in rainbow families or foster parents in case the child goes back to live with their biological parent(s).
This reform would also give a possibility for parents, or in the last instance courts, to order the child to live equally in two homes. This reform, again, opens up for future possibilities of both parents getting the necessary social benefits based on living arrangements, and the child’s right to get services such as healthcare or school rides also from the other parent’s home.
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A good week, then, for a lobbyist of family affairs such as myself. And indeed, I have had a hand in all of these reforms. But essentially what is most important is this: In Finland, the society is now ready to acknowledge that family is not one. Those families are diverse, and a variety of families can have a variety of needs that need to be accounted for.
What is lacking is knowledge on HOW exactly these families would best be acknowledged. And this is where research, such as is done also in the CoreKin-project, comes in very valuable. So that I, the lobbyist, would have the evidence-based knowledge to take forward to the decisionmakers.
So that they, the politicians, would have the scientific knowledge to base their decisions on. But also so that phenomena still hidden in the margins of kinship and family would have the possibility to surface, to become topics of discussion and eventually also social and legal change.
Now it is time to celebrate. But after a short celebration, work continues, both through research and through politics, toward a world more equal to all kinds of people, whatever may be their living arrangements, kinship relations or family forms.