Ministers propose raising age limit for sexual self-determination

  • 2021-03-23
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Minister of Justice Maris Lauri, Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo, Minister of the Interior Kristian Jaani and Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna, who met via video bridge on Tuesday, jointly proposed raising the age limit for sexual self-determination in Estonia.

"It was decided at the meeting that the Ministry of Justice would start preparing the bill with a view to completing it by the end of April. Changing the age limit must be preceded by a debate involving various parties such as doctors, psychologists, universities, the National Institute for Health Development, youth representative organizations, the police, the prosecutor's office, courts, the bar and others," Minister of Justice Maris Lauri said.

One of the issues that needs to be discussed is whether to raise the age limit from the current 14 years of age to 15 or 16. A 2015 study of child and youth sexual abuse revealed that the average age of both girls and boys at the time of their first intercourse was 15.4 years. Estonia's neighboring countries are known to have a higher age limit for sexual self-determination, which is why the practice of these countries should also be looked at. For example, in Finland, Latvia and Lithuania, the age limit is 16 years, while in Sweden and Denmark it is 15 years.

"Another question that needs to be considered is what age range is appropriate and reasonable to consider as a normal sexual relationship between young people. This is because the majority of sexual relations between young people of this age take place between peers or young people with a small age difference and are consensual. Cases with a larger age difference are less frequent," Lauri said.

According to the 2015 survey on the prevalence of sexual abuse of children and young people, four percent of young people had had consensual sexual intercourse with a person at least five years older at the age of 14 or younger.

If the age limit is raised, it will also be necessary to decide whether other age-related provisions concerning minors need to be amended, in particular the current possibility to marry at the age of 15 in certain cases. It is worth noting that guilt capacity, for example, is currently 14 years of age.

"It is also important to emphasize that if sexual intercourse does not take place by mutual consent, it is in any case a crime, regardless of whether it is a relationship between young people or a larger age difference," Lauri added.

According to a study conducted in 2020, the average age of a victim at the time of the first or most unpleasant case of sexual abuse was 15.7 years. If a child has been sexually abused, help or advice can be sought anonymously from the Child Support hotline 116 111 and the victim support emergency hotline 116 006, or from the police at 112.