Finland's PM says young female government has been target of hate speech

·3 min read
FILE PHOTO: Finland's PM Marin is pictured at her official residence, Kesaranta, in Helsinki

By Essi Lehto and Anne Kauranen

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Prime Minister Sanna Marin of Finland says she and her fellow young female ministers have been targeted with extensive hate speech for their gender and appearance while in office.

"We can see that when you are young and female the hate speech that we are facing is often sexualised," Marin told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday, a little more than two years into her term as Finland's state leader.

Marin, 36, became the world's youngest serving government leader in December 2019 when she was sworn in as prime minister https://www.reuters.com/article/us-finland-government-finmin-idUSKBN1YD0IN, and originally all five party leaders in her centre-left coalition government were female.

Marin, who has more than 540,000 followers on Instagram around the world, said she doesn't allow the hate speech to affect her decisions but she is concerned about social media becoming more hurtful.

"I worry about so many others and this is why we want to make sure that we are not tolerating this kind of behaviour."

Marin made national and international headlines in December when she decided not to cut https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/finlands-prime-minister-was-nightclub-after-being-exposed-covid-19-reports-2021-12-08 her night out short after finding out she had been exposed to COVID-19 the day before. Four days later Marin apologised saying she should have acted differently.

Finland's young prime minister clubbing during a pandemic became the topic of memes around the world, some of which were humorous and others insulting.

Some opponents have attacked her for appearing on the covers of some of the world's largest fashion magazines and for being often spotted out with popsingers and social media influencers in Helsinki.

"I am who I am, a 36-year-old mother and a young person who has friends and a social life," she said.

Marin, who enjoys cleaning her own premises and going for 20-km (12-mile) runs outdoors, said she wants to bring a human side to high-level political leadership and show other young adults that young people can lead too.

In December, the minister in charge of Finland's COVID response, Krista Kiuru, announced she is expecting a baby due in March, making her the fifth minister in Marin's government to have a child and take parental leave while in office.

"Globally the image of a leader is still very masculine..., and there are few decision-makers from a younger generation," Marin said, stressing she wanted to change that.

A report https://stratcomcoe.org/publications/abuse-of-power-coordinated-online-harassment-of-finnish-government-ministers/5 by the NATO Strategic Communications Centre last February found that female Finnish politicians are subject to gendered abuse on Twitter, much of which came from clusters of right-wing accounts and did not seem highly coordinated.

(Reporting by Essi Lehto and Anne Kauranen, editing by Mark Heinrich)