Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and physical abuse, including domestic violence. The penalty for rape, including spousal rape, is imprisonment for up to 15 years. According to the Sexual Health Union (an NGO), 13 percent of women have suffered from sexual abuse, including rape. In 68 percent of cases, perpetrators were familiar and either an existing or an earlier partner. During the first nine months of the year, police filed 12 percent fewer physical abuse cases, including domestic violence cases, compared with the similar period in 2015; however, police recorded 7 percent more rapes during the first nine months of the year compared with the similar period in 2015.
According to NGOs and shelter managers, violence against women, including domestic violence, was a problem. More than 80 percent of the domestic violence victims registered by the police were women. Courts ruled on approximately one-fourth of domestic violence cases reported.
Victims of domestic and sexual violence could obtain help, including counseling and legal assistance, from social workers employed by local governments and from specialized NGOs that received partial funding from local governments. NGOs, local governments, and others could seek additional assistance for victims from the national government. There was a network of shelters for women, and women with children, who were victims of gender-based violence as well as hotlines for domestic violence and child abuse. Police officers, border guards, and social workers received training related to domestic and gender violence from NGOs, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Justice.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but there were reports of such harassment in the workplace. By law sexual harassment complaints may be resolved in court, before the legal chancellor, by the Labor Dispute Committee, or by the gender-equality and equal-treatment commissioner. An injured party may demand termination of the harmful activity and compensation for damages.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.
Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The government generally enforced such laws. There were reports of discrimination in employment and occupation, and unequal treatment, due to gender, age, disability, and sexual preference (see section 7.d.).
Birth Registration: Citizenship derives primarily from one’s parents. Either citizen parent may pass citizenship to a child regardless of the other parent’s citizenship status. An amendment to the law passed in January 2015 and effective on January 1 provides that children born to persons who are not citizens of Estonia or of any other country and who have lived in the country for five years acquire citizenship at birth. Registration of births occurred in a timely manner.
Child Abuse: Child abuse continued to be a problem. In 2015 approximately 72 percent of sexual crimes were committed against minors. Of 161 rape cases reported in 2015, 85 victims were underage. The Police and Border Guard Board worked to combat child abuse, including sexual abuse. The legal chancellor acted as children’s ombudsman.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and authorities enforced the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 14. Conviction of engaging in child pornography carries punishment ranging from a fine to three years in prison.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parent Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The Jewish community numbered an estimated 2,500 persons. In August the Jewish community reported that unknown persons drew swastikas on the Holocaust monument in Harju County. There were no other reports of anti-Semitic acts.
On January 27, the government held an annual memorial event on Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Rahumae Jewish Cemetery in Tallinn. Schools participated in commemorative activities throughout the country. On January 29, the Ministry of Education and Research in cooperation with the Estonian NATO Association and other organizations sponsored a seminar for history and civics teachers from across the country to introduce them to best practices in the classroom for Holocaust commemoration. The event took place in the Museum of Occupations.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, or the provision of other state services. The government generally enforced these provisions.
Persons with disabilities may avail themselves of government assistance in accessing information and may request individual personal assistants when necessary. The law provides that buildings constructed or renovated after 2002 must be accessible to persons with disabilities. Few older buildings were accessible, but new or renovated ones generally were. According to the legal chancellor, measures to safeguard the fundamental rights of individuals in mental health facilities remained inadequate. Problems included abusive use of physical restraints, documentation thereof, and inadequate medical care. NGOs complained that, while services typically were accessible in the capital, persons with disabilities in some rural areas had difficulty receiving appropriate care. There were reports of discrimination in occupation or employment (also see section 7.d.).
The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, and local governments are responsible for the provision of social welfare services to persons with disabilities. Children with disabilities attended school (primary, secondary, and higher education). The government implemented the Work Ability Reform, which was intended for persons with reduced working ability and whose ability to be active in the society was assessed individually. The reform sought to bring persons with disabilities back to the labor market and encouraged the increased social inclusion of individuals with disabilities. The government focused on developing rehabilitation services to improve the ability of those with disabilities to cope independently. The government also provided compensation for some additional expenses incurred by persons with disabilities.
Instances of overt hostility based on ethnicity or race were more frequent than in previous years. In 2015 police registered six cases of physical abuse, which included inciting hatred against racial/ethnic minorities. One of the cases reached the court at the end of 2015 and another at the beginning of the year with the court finding the perpetrators guilty.
The government encouraged the social integration of the 28 percent of the population, mostly Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians, who were members of ethnic minorities, through a policy that promoted naturalization and learning the Estonian language. In districts where more than half the population speaks a language other than Estonian, the law entitles inhabitants to receive official information in their language, and authorities respected the law. The government also funded activities, including cultural associations and societies that focused on the languages and cultures of minority groups.
Knowledge of Estonian is required to obtain citizenship, and all public servants and public-sector employees, service personnel, medical professionals, and other workers who have contact with the public must possess a minimum competence in the language. A language inspectorate enforces language skill requirements in those sectors, referring persons with insufficient skills to language classes and imposing small fines.
Russian speakers alleged that Estonian language requirements resulted in job and salary discrimination (see section 7.d.).
The government continued to implement its requirement that “Russian-speaking” high schools conduct 60 percent of their instruction in Estonian. Many schools implemented this transition more rapidly than required.
Roma, who numbered fewer than 1,000, reportedly faced discrimination in several areas, including employment (see section 7.d.). The government took steps to emphasize the importance of education for Romani children, but their dropout rate remained high.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics. While the law is not specific regarding the forms of sexual orientation and gender identity covered, the general understanding is that all are included. Advocacy groups reported that harassment and discrimination against LGBTI persons remained routine within society.
During the first seven months of the year, notaries registered 29 civil partnerships, including same-sex couples, after the gender-neutral Registered Partnership Act took effect on January 1. In 2015 police recorded one case of physical abuse, where the victim was attacked, because he was homosexual.