Covering events from January - December 2004

Estonia was the subject of a report by the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights which identified a number of human rights concerns, including violence against women.

Violence against women in the home

Domestic violence continued to be widespread, according to the report of the Commissioner for Human Rights, published in February. The number of cases reported to the police remained only a fraction of the total. Fear of retaliation was among the reasons for low reporting: at the time of the Commissioner's visit to Estonia in October 2003 there was only one shelter specifically for women survivors of domestic violence, and one for women with their children. In addition, police and prosecutors reportedly often viewed domestic violence as a private matter rather than a crime deserving particular attention. The Commissioner recommended strengthening the legislative framework for combating domestic violence; ensuring that the legal definition of domestic violence covers both physical and psychological aspects; improving provisions for the protection of survivors; and sensitizing the police and judiciary to this issue.

The Commissioner welcomed the fact that in December 2003 parliament adopted a law that enlarged the system of victim support services and increased the amount of compensation paid by the state. He noted that the authorities had defined the fight against domestic violence as one of the priorities in the field of criminal law for 2004.

Trafficking in women

Internal trafficking of women for forced sexual exploitation continued to be of considerable concern. The Commissioner for Human Rights reported that, according to the Estonian authorities, the number of women trafficked abroad for sexual exploitation had declined in recent years. However, no government statistics on the extent of trafficking existed. He stated that there was a clear need to conduct research and analysis in order to address the issue effectively. He also noted that the provision of protection and assistance for survivors of trafficking appeared insufficient. In response, the authorities reported that a national Round Table had been established, one of its tasks being to draft a National Action Plan against trafficking in human beings.

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