Estonian politicians do not have the courage to speak for gays, refugees or other minority social groups, sowing a belief that it is OK to mock others, said Kristina Kallas, head of the Estonian Refugee Council NGO.
“Tolerance is a political question - will we find a politician willing to stand up against hatred, to speak up against intolerance?” Kallas said, speaking today at the Open Society Forum in Tallinn.
Speakers at the forum found that, in contrast to trends in the United States, prejudice among Estonian youths is on the rise.
Kallas highlighted an example in the ad for a male chef, which one of Tallinn's most prestigious schools recently ran, with the director of the school saying that older women could not be hired, as they steal. Kallas said that politicians should have spoken out against the director.
A second root of the problem lies in the education system, Kallas said, adding that Estonian schools fail to teach children how to cope their own emotions or feel empathy towards others.
Students leave schools with inadequate social skills and take out their emotions on others, she said.