The Tapanila sexual assault case is a good example of how the Finnish media permitted again its prejudices to get the better of itself. Those who committed the crime had everything against them: They were “Somalis,” or youths with “foreign backgrounds,” who committed “gang rape.” In today’s Finland, where xenophobia is thick in the air, those two words are sure to unlock your darkest prejudices.
Jukka Kemppinen, a professor in information law and forme court of appeals judge, writes a sobering blog entry where he states that the sentences that three of the five suspects got was fair.
He writes: “‘Gang rape’ gives us a picture of sexual intercourse where there many are involved. This didn’t happen in the Tapanila case. Criminal law makes the difference between rape and aggravated rape. These types of cases are explained in the law. I’m of the opinion that what happened wasn’t aggravated rape from what was said about the case and at the district court. Force was used in the act. The victim was fingered under her clothes. That’s all that happened. ”
Another matter that showed how our racism ignited our mass hysteria to fever pitch was the labels that were given by the police and media of the assailants. After the five suspects were in police custody, the police published a statement were they called them youths “with foreign backgrounds.”
Migrant Tales spoke shortly after the case became public with the policeman, Jyri Hiltunen, who was in charge of the Tapanila sexual assault case. He confirmed that some of the suspects are Finnish citizens.
“I don’t know exactly if all of them are citizens or not because this isn’t an essential piece of information in the case,” he said. “But some are [Finnish citizens].”
Not an essential piece of information? I disagree.
Labeling the youths as people “with foreign backgrounds” only fueled people’s prejudice and racist myths so prevalent in Finnish society today.
Fadumo Dayib, a presidential candidate for president of Somalia who moved to Finland in 1990, considered all the hysteria in the media and public reaction to the Tapanila case as spreading hatred and hate speech, according to YLE’s A-studio.
“I think it’s high time that we should accept the reality that those Somalis are Finns. They’re not going to be sent away from here,” she said, adding that it’s unfortunate that all Somalis are labelled as criminals.
If you consider that the Tapanila case helped the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party in the elections, which enabled them to get into government for the first time, the sentence wasn’t lenient at all since the PS will do everything possible in government to take away, stall and worsen migrants’ rights in this country.
A lot can be learned about the Tapanlia case but there are very few representatives of the media, politicians and the public that are willing to not commit the same mistakes again.
* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English-language names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.