Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have the pleasure to greet you on behalf of the Finnish Embassy in Tallinn, and to thank you for organizing this important seminar.
Prostitution and human trafficking do not recognize national borders. As many as two million persons are estimated to become victims of human trafficking every year. Because of the geographical proximity and constant flow of people between our countries, these themes are highly topical in Finland as well.
Thousands of victims of human trafficking move between the Nordic and Baltic countries. About 80 per cent of them are women and children and, based on international surveys, 70 per cent of them are victims of forced prostitution. We can say that prostitution is hardly ever a voluntary choice of a career.
Finland is both a transit country and destination of trafficking in women. Tens or, based on another estimate, two to three hundred prostitutes are believed to work in restaurants in Helsinki. There is also sex tourism from Finland to Estonia and Russia. Among the more than seven million border crossings between Finland and Estonia yearly, there are, unfortunately, also victims of trafficking in women and sex tourists.
International organized crime aims at economic profit and power. The proceeds gained from the sale of sexual services are often used to finance criminal organizations, which are engaged in other serious crime, too, involving weapons, narcotic drugs and economic crime.
What is Finland doing to improve the situation? The Government adopted a National Plan of Action against trafficking in human beings last autumn. The Plan of Action draws attention to closer cooperation between the public authorities both in Finland and internationally. Non-governmental organizations are considered to be important partners of cooperation and, there is surely never too much cooperation like this.
The Foreign Service of Finland has its own duties in the combat of trafficking in humans, such as monitoring of the human trafficking situation, cooperation with the neighbouring countries and preventive work, an example of which is control of visas. In the Finnish Embassy in Tallinn, the Consulate is assisted by the Police, a Customs Liaison Officer and joint Prosecutor. Our daily contacts and cooperation with the Estonian public authorities are very fruitful.
By means of joining their forces, the Nordic and Baltic public authorities have, for example, managed to reveal prostitution rings. The number of public sex restaurants in Tallinn has decreased. Legislation pertaining to human trafficking has improved in the Baltic Sea States, and new reforms are planned. I suppose that all of you have followed the public discussion on the prohibition of the purchase of sex in Finland by law. The Government Bill has been submitted to the Parliament. You will hear more about the matter by the Finnish participants who will address this seminar today.
What can we do to combat trafficking in women? We can try to reduce the demand and prevent supply, and, above all to help the victims. The victims of trafficking in women are often also victims of unequal societies. Reduction of the differences between living standards in the neighbouring areas in the future hopefully improves the situation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I do not believe that there is a simple solution to the complex question of how to reduce trafficking in people. We need to consider such values as morals, humanity and equality. When economic welfare and meeting of social needs are discussed, what is needed is social policy and legislation. Furthermore, effective action by the various public authorities and cooperation with non-governmental organisations are required. Globally speaking, it is also important to deal with the subordinate position of women, their lower pay and education and the so-called womanization of poverty.
I wish every success to your seminar and strength in your important work.
Thank you for your attention.