Feb 11, 2009


Today the Civilian Service Center in Lapinjärvi should be receiving my letter.

According to 127 § of the Finnish constitution, every Finnish citizen is obliged to participate in the defense of their country, as decreed by law. The law in question states that every male Finnish citizen is required to perform military service. However, male citizens living in Ahvenanmaa or belonging to the Jehovah's Witnesses religious movement are exempt.

The Finnish constitution guarantees every citizen the right to not be discriminated against on basis of, among other things, their gender or convictions. The current laws on conscription in Finland do both of these things. I refuse to serve in the armed forces or in the "alternative" civilian service because I do not believe the government has any right to force me to do so. Jehovah's Witnesses in Finland also hold a conviction that makes them refuse compulsory service. However, under Finnish law they are exempt from service because of their convictions, while I am not.

Also, rather obviously I'm subject to compulsory service in the first place because of my gender.

Both of these things are in clear violation of the Finnish constitution, and also of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights:
Article 20
Equality before the law

Everyone is equal before the law.

Article 21

1. Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited.

I maintain that the current Finnish legistlation on conscription is, in fact, itself illegal. I have therefore refused to serve either in the army or in the "alternate" civilian service, which is the normal punishment for those who refuse armed service. This means I'll be going to prison within maybe the next year or so as a conscientious objector.

For the benefit of Finnish readers, I've posted most of my letter over on my Finnish-language blag, which is linked on the sidebar.


I have no illusions as to what will happen. In Europe in general, and in Finland in particular, the justice system is always secondary to the political system. I intend to take my case to court, because I will have to go to court for refusing to serve, but I am 100% convinced that no argument I make will have any bearing on the end result. Hundreds of people have made these same arguments before me, and they've all ended up in prison as conscientious objectors. I have no doubt in my mind that I, too, will be sentenced to prison and be forced to serve my term.

However, I will use every legal option to fight this. After the initial court case, I can appeal to the Apellate Court, and possibly to the Finnish Supreme Court. At the very least I hope I can force someone to actually put on paper what the supposed "acceptable reasons" for forcing only certain men to serve are. I don't believe there are any, but I know most of the people in this country are convinced otherwise.

Overall I don't believe what I'm doing will achieve anything. I may be able to demonstrate that the Finnish constitution doesn't mean anything, but I think everyone knows that already. I expect to be sentenced in court and the sentence to be upheld in the Apellate Court, and then to be refused appeal to either the Finnish Supreme Court or the European Court of Human Rights.

The fact that this is futile is exactly the reason why I want to do it. If the only thing I can demonstrate is that the pretty words about non-discrimination and equality in our constitutions and charters don't actually mean anything, then so be it.

I believe that we only have those rights that we're willing to fight for. If we all meekly submit, we'll have no freedoms at all. The government can put me in prison for refusing to serve. I certainly expect it to. But I refuse to submit quietly to a law that I believe is unjust and illegal. I feel this is my only choice, both as a libertarian and as a feminist. This is by no means a popular choice. I've already suffered for originally refusing armed service, and refusing alternate service as well is not going to make me any friends. On the contrary. At the very least I'm going to lose my job, and I'll likely lose friends and several opportunities in life.

That doesn't really matter to me. If I don't stand up for what I believe in, I'll lose myself. We all have to sacrifice some of our personal integrity to get by in this world, but we also need to draw the line somewhere. I've drawn mine, and I'm going to prison for it.


Kellopyy said...


There doesn't seem to be much to be said.

Kellopyy said...

On second thought there is something...

"Away, I'd rather sail away
Like a swan that's here and gone
A man gets tied up to the ground
He gives the world.."

Aaro Sahari said...

I'll come and witness the disgrace of Finland, and your far greater power of will. Respect!

Mikko Sandt said...

Did you ever consider trying to get c-papers ("unfit for service")? Two of my friends managed to obtain them even though their real reason was that they just didn't want to go. I guess it's a matter of finding the right kind of a doctor.

Michael Halila said...

Thanks for the support, guys!

Yeah, I did think about getting an exemption. I figure I could get one from a psychiatrist if I wanted. I feel that for me, that would be immoral. I think I would be capable of serving in the army, and it wouldn't square with my conscience to get an exemption.