The problem of using rights as a means to advocate legal reforms: the example of the eviction order and its severe consequences
General Research Unit The National Research Institute of Legal Policy Helsinki, Finland
Occasionally, social movements tend to transform welfare issues and power conflicts into the language of rights in order to justify and advocate legal reforms. However, using law as an instrument for empowering a specific group of people and improving their conditions may backfire. What easily happens is that a simplistic solution is offered to a complex problem, and for the sake of argumentation the parties involved become homogenised. This leads to unrealistic premises, means and goals for the legislators and finally, when the law is implemented, at the worst to severe consequences. Political pressure aggrevates the setting.
This has all come true in the case example of launching "eviction orders" in Finland. It is an internationally spreading but poorly evaluated legal instrument for preventing violence against women, in which the violent person is required to move out from the common household and is banned from returning for a predetermined length of time. Driven by feminist movement linked with feminist research, the order is justified based on rights rather than needs or sufficient cultural understanding, homogenising the parties involved.
The neglect of paying attention to contextual circumstances has resulted in severe consequences, including for example hidden violence, social exclusion and suicides. Many people in all groups involved, that is women, men, children, and the elderly have become victims of the state driven, short sighted feminist agenda. Thus, the intervention was designed to help suppressed victims of violence but due to a poorly prepared legislation, it does a misservice for them and produces new victims also of the perpetrators.
This paper is based on an evaluation research that focuses on the premises, implementation and consequences of the law on eviction orders in Finland; it came into force in 2005. The data consist of law drafting documents, interviews and all orders from 2005 and 2006, including district court decisions and police records of the parties involved.