Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and physical abuse, including domestic violence. The law was 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 had suffered sexual violence, including rape.
According to NGOs and shelter managers, violence against women, including domestic violence, was a problem. During the first six months of the year, physical abuse crimes dropped 5 percent, including domestic violence cases. Women constituted more than 80 percent of the victims of domestic violence registered by police. Police registered 3 percent fewer reports of domestic violence in 2020 than in the previous year. Of domestic violence crimes, 85 percent were physical abuse cases, 11 percent were threatening cases, 3 percent were sexual offenses, and less than 1 percent were murders or attempted murders.
NGOs, local governments, and others could seek assistance for survivors 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 survivors 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, but 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 2020 the number of sexual harassment cases did not materially change compared with the previous year; 97 percent of the victims in reported cases of sexual harassment were women. The number of registered stalking incidents in 2020 grew 11 percent compared to the previous year; 88 percent of reported stalking victims were women while 92 percent of alleged perpetrators were men.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.
Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, religious, personal status, and nationality laws as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property. 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.).
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
Discrimination is prohibited by the constitution. The law prohibits violence and discrimination against members of racial or ethnic minorities or minority groups. The government effectively enforced these prohibitions.
Human rights groups raised concern regarding the country’s hate crimes law, which requires a victim demonstrate that his or her life, health, or property were endangered to pursue charges. Observers noted that this high bar resulted in very few hate-crime charges. In addition, human rights NGOs noted that differentiations in antidiscrimination laws limited their effectiveness. Although gender discrimination and discrimination based on race or ethnicity are prohibited in employment, housing, health care, social welfare, education, goods and services, discrimination based on religion, age, disability, and sexual orientation is only prohibited for employment. For these other forms of discrimination there is no mechanism for affected individuals to receive state assistance or claim compensation.
Kristo Kivisto, who called for the establishment of an Estonian cell of the violent far-right Nordic Resistance Movement, was arrested for threats and defamation, including against young social democrats; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) events; and the EU. On social media, Kivisto, who was 21 at the time of his arrest, threatened to use violence and posted photos of far-right terrorists and mass murderers, including photos of Anders Behring Breivik and Brenton Tarrant, who committed mass shootings in Norway and New Zealand, respectively. In February the Parnu County Court sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment for threats and defamation of a foreign symbol (the EU flag). The discovery of prohibited objects in Kivisto’s home, including knives and grenades, added weight to the state’s case. In addition, in online conversations, Kivisto sought weapons and information on how manufacture them himself. In February the Parnu County Court sentenced him to six months’ probation for those charges.
In 2020 police registered two cases of physical abuse, breach of public order, or threats that included hatred against persons from racial, religious, or ethnic minority groups. Roma, who numbered fewer than 1,000 persons, 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
The government took steps to mitigate conditions that could contribute to racial or ethnic violence and discrimination. Under the Equal Treatment Act, the government established a commissioner for gender equality and equal treatment. In 2020 the Ministry of Social Affairs mounted a public-awareness campaign to promote understanding and solidarity between different social groups in the country. The “Settle in Estonia Program” is a free educational program provided by the government to help new immigrants better adapt to life in the country. In addition, the Police and Border Guard Board has a dedicated office to combating extremism, which, in concert with social support agencies, worked with minority and religious groups.
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.
The government also provides citizenship, without any special application by the parents, to persons younger than 15 who were born in the country and whose parents were not citizens of Estonia or of any other country and had lived in the country for five years at the time of the birth of the child.
Child Abuse: In 2020 the number of sexual crimes committed against persons younger than 18 dropped by 15 percent from 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.
On April 2, individuals desecrated the site of the Holocaust Memorial in Rahumae Jewish Cemetery in Tallinn. Police identified the individuals involved and filed charges under the penal code’s section on desecration of graves.
In August unknown persons defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti a poster promoting vaccination. Local government officials denounced the incident, but as of October 1, no perpetrators had been identified or formal charges filed.
On January 27, the government held an annual memorial event on Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Rahumae Jewish Cemetery. Schools participated in commemorative activities throughout the country. The Education and Research Ministry, in cooperation with the country’s Jewish community, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the Estonian Memory Institute, and the Museum of Occupation, organized an essay-writing competition for schoolchildren on topics related to the lessons of the Holocaust.
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
Persons with disabilities can access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. 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. Persons with disabilities may avail themselves of government assistance in accessing information and may request individual personal assistants when necessary. The government generally enforced these provisions.
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. The legal chancellor also raised concerns regarding movement restrictions on residents of homes for persons 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 assistant, support persons, and transportation) depended on that person’s own ability to seek assistance.
There were reports of discrimination against persons with disabilities in occupation or employment. Between 2015 and 2021, the share of employers who hired persons with disabilities rose from 29 percent to 33 percent. During the year the legal chancellor and the commissioner for gender equality and equal treatment received 36 claims of discrimination based on disability (also see section 7.d.).
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 LGBTQI+ individuals. In 2020 police registered one case that included expression of hatred against LGBTQI+ persons. Advocacy groups reported that societal harassment and discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons remained common but noted improving public attitudes towards LGBTQI+ persons. A 2021 survey of citizens showed that more than half of the respondents considered same-sex sexual orientation completely or somewhat acceptable (53 percent), a 12-point increase since the same question was posed in 2019.