The legal affairs committee of the Estonian parliament discussed raising the age of consent on Monday with representatives of the relevant authorities. Two bills by party groups have already been submitted for handling by the Riigikogu.
Chairman of the legal affairs committee Jaanus Karilaid (Center) said the objective of the sitting was to gather information enabling them to handle the bills with greater competence and make the necessary choices.
"It seems that society is ready to raise the age limit for sexual self-determination [consent] and that there is also a political consensus for achieving that," Karilaid said. "In our neighbors Finland, Russia and Latvia, the age limit is 16 and in Sweden it is 15."
"The issue is much more complex than merely amending one number in the Penal Code. We will continue this discussion in our next sittings and take all aspects into consideration," Karilaid said.
The two bills submitted by the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) and Estonian Conservative People's Party (ERKE) will reach the legal affairs committee at the start of April and the plenary sitting for discussing said bills is to be held in April. A meeting of representatives of ministries for discussing the matter has been scheduled for Tuesday.
Deputy chair of the legal affairs committee Heljo Pikhof underscored that when raising the age of consent, consensual relations between young people of similar age and the corresponding legal specifications must also be included the amendment.
"Children must be protected from sexual abuse of any kind and we need to do everything in our power to reduce the number of abuses," Pikhof said. "Norms provided by the law gradually also change attitudes in the society, including towards the notion that the responsibility lies with the adult."
The sitting was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of the Interior, Police and Border Guard Board, the prosecutor's office, office of the chancellor of justice, Union for Child Welfare and Education and Youth Board.
All participants in the meeting were in favor of raising the age of consent.
It was underscored that specifications need to be defined for relations between young people and that preventive action and the provision of sex education is needed among children, teachers, coaches and parents to ensure that children are able to speak up about problematic situations and that adults are capable of helping them.
Editor: Helen Wright