TALLINN - The Council of Europe recognizes in its report Estonia's commitment to combating violence against women but recommends to pay more attention to violence against the elderly and women with disabilities.
The report by the Council of Europe welcomes Estonia's progress following the country joining the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Estonia joined the convention in 2017 and the first assessment round for the country has just been concluded. The fulfillment of the requirements of the convention and the conformity of legislation are periodically checked by an assessment group created for this purpose and consisting of high-level experts .
In its report, the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) recognizes a clear commitment to eliminate gender-based violence, but also calls on Estonian authorities to address all forms of violence against women, provide more specialist services to victims, implement existing legislation and train professionals.
GREVIO also notes a number of shortcomings -- despite positive developments in the area of criminal legislation, the Estonian Penal Code still defines rape based on the use of force or the resistance of the victim; more emphasis should be placed on gendered differences in the experience of all forms of violence against women with a view to addressing their root causes; training and awareness-raising efforts should address the different forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, and be offered to all professionals, including law-enforcement officials, prosecution authorities and the judiciary; there is also a need for a stronger criminal justice response to all forms of violence against women.
"We will thoroughly review the report and consider all relevant proposals to further improve our legal system in order to eradicate violence against women from society. We must continuously make an effort to ensure a safe environment and efficient protection for our girls and women," Estonian Minister of Justice Lea Danilson-Jarg said.
"The report welcomes progress in Estonia's efforts in the criminalization of new forms of violence against women, such as stalking, as well as female genital mutilation and forced marriage," she said.
Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo said that Estonia has greatly contributed to support services for victims of domestic violence, which was also highlighted in the report.
"In the state budget for the next year, 1.7 million euros has been earmarked for services for victims of violence against women and domestic violence," she said.
"There are women's shelters in each county in Estonia where support and help is provided for victims of violence against women as well as their children. Estonia also has four support centers for victims of sexual violence providing free health care around the clock," the minister said. "The last of four children's houses providing help and support for sexually abused children also opened this fall."
The report also mentions as positive aspects the well-established system of data collection across the law-enforcement and justice sector which allows the tracking of cases involving violence against women and particularly domestic violence, as well as various initiatives to involve the media and the private sector in the fight against violence against women.