Cell of a ‘lover of men’
2021 marks 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Finland. The Prison honours this milestone by expanding its exhibition with the ‘cell of a lover of men,’ a cell of a man convicted of homosexuality.
‘Same-sex fornication’ was a crime in the first Criminal Code of Finland from 1894 to 1971. Whereas the provision was originally written without much ado, its removal from the Code 80 years later caused widespread public debate. During those years, Finnish courts of law convicted 1,074 people, most of whom were men (1,034 people), of sexual acts with a person of the same sex based on the fornication provision (Chapter 20, Section 12, Subsection 1). The maximum sentence was two years’ imprisonment.Cell #25 on the second floor, the cell of a ‘lover of men,’ tells the gruesome story of the status of homosexuals in Finnish society before the decriminalisation. The cell includes an overhead projector with information about the crime that was called ‘same-sex fornication.’ The cell also has a copy of the ‘96’ magazine published by the Psyke association. Psyke was the first organisation especially for the LGBTQ+ community in Finland. For a long time, the ‘96’ magazine was the only one to publish personal advertisements of gay men and lesbians. The major national newspaper ‘Helsingin Sanomat’ had refused to publish any advertisements that hinted at homosexual relationships.
In the cell, you can also listen to audio from the 1967 documentary ‘A different kind of Independence Day programme’ by Reino Paasilinna, in which a homosexual man was given his turn to speak. You can hear personal thoughts of homosexuality at a time when it was still a crime.
On the desk, there is a letter hand-written by a person convicted of homosexuality to the District Court of Helsinki on 16 January 1934.