New online exhibition at the Police Museum: Crime and Love

Publication date 4.11.2021 13.55
News item

How have the police responded to crimes against homosexuals at different times? Why do we need the Police Rainbow Association? The new online exhibition “Crime and Love – The Decriminalization of Homosexual Acts” will answer these and many other questions.

Homosexuality was a crime in Finland from 1894 to 1971. In 2021, it will be 50 years since the criminalization of homosexual acts was removed from the Criminal Code of Finland, and 40 years since homosexuality was removed from the classification of diseases. The Police Museum’s online exhibition “Crime and Love – The Decriminalization of Homosexual Acts” highlights the importance of these changes for the operations of the police and the rights of sexual minorities.

“In the debate leading up to the decriminalization, the arguments of advocates of the legal amendment included scientific facts, people's personal experiences, uniqueness and privacy. Opponents, on the other hand, considered homosexuality to be perverse, morally inappropriate and frightening. Such attitudes live on for a long time, even when the law changes,” says Tiina Tuulasvaara-Kaleva, Chief Intendant at the Police Museum.

The online exhibition describes, for example, how homosexual acts were monitored by the police before the law changed, and the attitudes towards violence or crime against homosexuals.

“As a whole, there was not much police monitoring of homosexual acts, and the few cases that occurred were mainly investigations relating to persons caught in the act, or were based on information received. The fact that there was not much monitoring or investigation was probably not due to sympathetic attitudes towards sexual minorities. More likely reasons were ignorance and fear of the unknown. The investigation of such cases was not really taught much in police education or in criminal law textbooks.

“Moreover, homosexuals did not necessarily have the courage to report crime, or seek help, when they fell victim to violence, because of the preconception they had of the police, not necessarily being likely to intervene in the violence or crime faced by homosexuals.”

Sexual minorities in the police

One of the themes of the online exhibition “Crime and Love” is police officers representing sexual minorities, a topic that has long been kept quiet in the police work community. For years after the decriminalization, unequal attitudes still affected police operations, and adjustment to the change of law was slow.

“It wasn't until the 2000s that there was a clear change in attitudes. At that time, for example, in the application process for police education, questions were not asked about the applicants' personal sexual orientation, but about their attitudes towards colleagues representing a sexual minority. The aim was to clarify applicants' potential prejudice against minorities and to eliminate such attitudes early in the application process,” Tiina Tuulasvaara-Kaleva says.

The Finnish Police Rainbow Association was founded in 2017 for the purpose of promoting citizens' trust in the police. This can be achieved by highlighting the work of the police in the areas of equality and non-discrimination, by addressing any internal shortcomings in the police, and by offering peer support to representatives of minorities.

In cooperation with the University of Turku

The content of the online exhibition “Crime and Love” is based on a study, commissioned by the Police Museum, carried out at the University of Turku as a student project in the Degree Programme in Cultural Production and Landscape Studies.

“Our students who participated in the project investigated how the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1971 has affected police operations and police education, as well as the debate on sexual and gender minorities in our society in general. Based on the report, the students then produced the contents of the new online exhibition for the Police Museum,” says University Lecturer Riina Haanpää, the instructor of the study project.

Updated November 26, 2021: the name of the exhibition was updated.