Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and physical abuse, including domestic violence. The law is effectively enforced. The penalty for rape, including spousal rape, is imprisonment for up to 15 years. According to the NGO Sexual Health Union, 13 percent of women have suffered sexual abuse, including rape.
According to NGOs and shelter managers, violence against women, including domestic violence, was a problem. During the first nine months of the year, domestic violence crimes made up 40 percent of all violent crimes in the country. Women constituted more than 80 percent of the victims of domestic violence registered by police. During the first nine months of the year, there were six percent fewer official reports of domestic violence than in the same period in 2019.
NGOs, local governments, and others could seek assistance for victims from the national government. There is 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. There are four treatment centers for victims of sexual violence. Police officers, border guards, and social workers received training related to domestic and gender violence from NGOs and the Ministries of Social Affairs, Interior, and Justice.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, and there were reports of such harassment in the workplace and on public transport. By law, sexual harassment complaints may be resolved in court. The penalty for sexual harassment is a fine or detention for up to 30 days. In 2019 the number of registered sexual harassment cases was 17 percent above the previous year; 97 percent of the victims in reported cases of sexual harassment were women. The number of registered stalking incidents in 2019 was similar to the previous year; 88 percent of reported stalking victims were women, 92 percent of alleged perpetrators were men.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children; to manage their reproductive health; and to have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. The government provides access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
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 the citizenship of at least one parent. Either citizen parent may pass citizenship to a child regardless of the other parent’s citizenship status. Children born to parents who are not citizens of Estonia or of any other country and have lived in the country for five years acquire citizenship at birth. Registration of births occurred in a timely manner.
Child Abuse: In 2019 the number of sexual crimes committed against persons younger than 18 grew by 18 percent over the previous year. The Police and Border Guard Board worked to combat child abuse, including sexual abuse. The legal chancellor acted as children’s ombudsman. Police provided training to officers on combatting sexual abuse in cooperation with the justice, education, and social ministries and local and international organizations.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18. A court may extend the legal capacity of a person who is at least 15 for the purpose of marriage.
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. Girls were more frequently exploited than boys.
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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
The Jewish community numbered an estimated 2,000 to 2,500 persons. There were no 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. The Education and Research Ministry, in cooperation with the Estonian Jewish community, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the Estonian Memory Institute, and the Museum of Occupation, organized an essay writing competition on topics related to the Holocaust for schoolchildren. The competition was dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Klooga concentration camp.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. 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 new or renovated buildings 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, including protections against the use of unauthorized restraint measures in psychiatric care institutions. In April the legal chancellor also raised concerns about movement restrictions on residents of state-run homes for those with disabilities during the COVID-19 emergency.
NGOs complained that, while services typically were accessible in the capital, persons with disabilities in some rural areas had difficulty receiving appropriate care. For persons with disabilities outside of major population centers, access to local government social services (such as a personal assistants, support persons, and transportation) depended on that person’s own ability to seek assistance.
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. The government focused on developing rehabilitation services to improve the ability of those with disabilities to cope independently.
Members of National/Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups
On October 25, at the height of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, pigs’ heads were found in front of the Estonian Islamic Center and the embassies of Turkey and Azerbaijan. Police identified the perpetrator and initiated misdemeanor proceedings pursuant to the law concerning incitement to hatred. The perpetrator was ultimately charged with littering and fined 20 euros ($24).
In 2019 police registered eight cases of physical abuse, breach of public order, or threats that included hatred against persons from racial, religious, or ethnic minorities.
In August several racially motivated scuffles took place on three separate occasions between neo-Nazis and foreign students in Tartu, the country’s second largest city, leading to altercations between the groups. All cases involved the same neo-Nazi perpetrators. The incidents remained under investigation.
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. Russian speakers stated that Estonian language requirements resulted in job and salary discrimination. The government continued to provide free and subsidized opportunities for learning Estonian.
In districts where more than half the population spoke a language other than Estonian, the law entitles inhabitants to receive official information in their language, and authorities respected the law.
Roma, who numbered fewer than 1,000, reportedly faced discrimination in several areas, including employment. The government took steps to emphasize the importance of education for Romani children, but their school dropout rate remained high.
Nonwhite residents reported discrimination in housing. The government faced difficulties finding housing for resettled refugees, which refugee advocates attributed to societal discrimination.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. While the law is not specific regarding the forms of sexual orientation and gender identity covered, the general understanding is that it encompasses lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals. In 2019 police registered two cases that included hatred against LGBTI persons. Advocacy groups reported that societal harassment and discrimination against LGBTI persons remained common but noted improving public attitudes towards LGBTI persons.