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Finland's gender-neutral policies 'conceal female victims of violence'

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Finland's gender-neutral policies 'conceal female victims of violence'
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Ulla Köykkä is one of the approximate 130,000 people that are victims of domestic violence in Finland every year.

But while experts have praised Helsinki's efforts to address the problem they say the country's "gender-neutral" policies often do not help women who are "more frequently and more severely impacted" by domestic violence.

"We have seen that many measures are framed in a gender-neutral way, and in many instances this does not allow the specific experiences of women to become visible and it does not really allow their needs to be addressed," said Iris Luarasi, the vice president of the Council of Europe's Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.

Köykkä got help at a safe house to escape the violence of a man she'd been with for six years.

She fled her own home after her two teenage children — from a previous relationship — started noticing the violence Köykkä was being subjected to.

The relationship had become so bad that the partner prevented her from going for even short walks alone and she was never allowed to wear white clothing.

"I have to stand up for my kids," Köykkä told Euronews, explaining why she escaped the abusive relationship.

"It's sad that I didn't have so much feeling that I have to stand up for myself, but I had the feeling that I have to stand for my kids."

In a report released in September 2019 by the Council of Europe, experts congratulated Finland on its efforts to "increase services to victims".

They were analysing the country's implementation of the Istanbul Convention — a 2011 international convention designed to prevent violence against women.

The country says it will set up a special rapporteur on violence against women.

Köykkä, meanwhile, says she is now ready to return to her marketing career, taking back the life that her ex once controlled for her.

Euronews is telling women’s stories across Europe in the run-up to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (November 25).

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