Officials in Finland have proposed a number of changes to the nation’s laws on sexual offences, one of which is that men who send non-consensual explicit photographs could be punished with up to six months in prison, a spokesman for the Finnish justice ministry said on Tuesday, October 13.
A study by children’s rights group Plan International reveals that online sexual harassment, including the sending of non-consensual explicit pictures, widely referred to as “d**k pics” or “cyber-flashing”, is widespread.
51% of 14 000 girls and young women surveyed across the world say that they have experienced online sexual harassment, according to the study. While 35% of the survey, aged 15 to 25, confirmed that they had received “sexual or explicit photos or images.”
At present, Finnish law only classifies an act as sexual harassment if it involves touching, which means that sending pictures of genitalia does not constitute a sexual crime, according to The Independent.
This means that the only way Finnish offenders can be prosecuted is under the country’s defamation laws.
To address this gap, the proposed legislation would expand the definition of sexual harassment to include “harassment verbally, through pictures or messages, taking photos of another or exposing oneself,” said a statement by the justice ministry, according to AFP.
Punishment will range from a fine to a stint in prison, depending on the seriousness of the crime.
Sami Kiriakos, a senior legislative advisor to the justice ministry, told AFP that the proposed changes would be presented to the government ‘sometime next year’ before a parliamentary vote.
Kiriakos referred to the Plan International study, saying “the studies show that sexual harassment is quite common and that the victims of this type of behaviour are most often female, so it is very relevant to consider how it should be dealt with in law.”
Many countries have been slow to criminalise online sexual harassment, which can be difficult to enforce and investigate.
However, Kiriakos says, “investigative authorities do have coercive measures which apply to sexual offences if certain conditions are met, such as access to telecommunications data.”
This form of harassment has been criminalised in Scotland since 2010 and offenders in Texas found guilty of sending unwanted explicit pictures are liable for a fine of $500 (R8 335), as of 2020.
With the proposed changes to legislation, the Finnish justice ministry also aims to expand the definition of rape to include sex without consent.
At present, nonconsensual sex is not defined as rape because for an act to be considered rape in Finland, there has to be physical violence or the threat thereof.