Promoting equal access and tackling discrimination against gender and sexual minorities in sport and physical education (PREACT)

Main funder

Funder's project number: OKM/48/626/2017,OKM/75/626/2018,OKM/89/626/2019

Funds granted by main funder (€)

  • 375 000,00

Funding program

Project timetable

Project start date: 01/04/2018

Project end date: 31/12/2021


Although Finland is a relatively egalitarian country, high levels of discrimination against GSM in Finland have caught the attention of the Finnish Ministry of Justice (2014). Disturbingly, children and youth belonging to GSM, who are especially vulnerable to discrimination, have reportedly been at the receiving end of bullying, name-calling, isolation and stigmatization (Aaltonen et al., 2009, p. 63; Kankkunen et al., 2010). In Finland, the nationwide Finnish Child Victim Survey revealed that about 8% of 12- and 15-year-old children who had a sports hobby had heard coaches telling sexual jokes or stories (Peltola, 2016), indicating general sexual harassment and hostility in the sports club context. In childhood and adolescence, sports hobbies are, indeed, the third most common place of discrimination in Finland, after school and the Internet (Laine et al., 2016). In school, GSM children and youth find physical education (PE) classes the most discriminatory and hostile environments (Huotari et al., 2011, p. 68). Reports of transgender pupils being given a release from school PE on the grounds of a psychiatric report or completing PE independently under the supervision of school helper (Villa et al., 2014) speak to the challenges of transgender children in school PE and to the need for further investigation.
The first and thus far the only scientific study on discrimination in Finland against GSM in sport and exercise was conducted a few years later by Kokkonen (2012/2014), revealing that avoidance, disrespectful behaviour, insulting comments and sexually coloured jokes are forms of discrimination frequently experienced by GSM people in competitive and recreational sport, as well as in school PE in Finland. Moreover, the more frequently GSM individuals experience such discrimination, the higher their depression, stress and psychosomatic symptoms, and the lower their self-esteem (Kokkonen, 2016).
Since Kokkonen’s (2012/2014) study, national equal treatment and anti-discrimination legislation has been reformed. However, there is no evidence on how these new or renewed laws promoting equality and forbidding discrimination have been received and implemented by school PE programmes and sports clubs, or on whether they have brought any positive changes, such as decreased discrimination or increased tolerance, to the lives of GSM individuals. As for Finnish children and youth, there is only scarce scientific evidence of inequality or equality in the sporting context (Berg & Piirtola, 2014, p. 63). Furthermore, no prior evidence exists of the level of tolerance towards gender and sexual diversity in Finnish school PE and sports club contexts, and there is no understanding of Finland’s standing in relation to other cultures generally known to have higher levels of discrimination against GSM. The proposed study aims to fill these gaps.
The main scientific objectives of PREACT are threefold: 1) to examine perceived and witnessed discrimination in sport and school PE based on being a GSM, 2) to investigate the level of tolerance towards gender and sexual diversity in sport in comparison with British and Singaporean sports cultures and 3) to explore practices and experiences related to gender-segregation versus mixed-gender school PE and sports clubs training. To reach these objectives, a mixed-methods approach will be adopted: the PREACT will combine both survey data, analysed statistically, and interview data analysed through qualitative content analysis and thematic analysis.
The following collaborators have confirmed their research commitment in writing: the Finnish Coaches Association, Professional Coaches of Finland, Association of Physical and Health Educators in Finland, Finnish Youth Research Society/Network, Finnish Centre for Integrity in Sports (FINCIS), Finnish gay and lesbian multi-sports club HOT and Finnish Olympic Committee. The University of Brighton (UK) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU; Singapore) are also partners through academic collaboration with Dr Channon and Dr Koh.

Principal Investigator

Other persons related to this project (JYU)

Primary responsible unit

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Last updated on 2021-18-05 at 06:32