Justice minister, gynecologists discuss raising age of consent

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Maris Lauri. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Minister of Justice Maris Lauri (Reform) met on Monday with gynecologists, psychologists and victim support representatives to discuss raising the legal age of consent in Estonia.

"The age limit for sexual self-determination in Estonia is currently 14 years and the key issue is if it should be raised to 15 or 16. This is the issue in which we're seeking expert opinion before making any decisions, and it was also discussed at today's meeting. Gynecologists and psychologists opined that the age limit should be raised to 16 years," the minister said.

"A second important issue is the age disparity in the range of which sexual relations between young people should be permitted without criminal liability. With both of these issues, young people's positions on the matter must also be taken into consideration, which is why the minister of social protection is scheduled to meet with representatives of youth organizations tomorrow," Lauri added.

Results of a survey conducted in 2015 by the National Institute for Health Development into young people's knowledge, attitudes and behaviors relating to HIV showed that the average age of first sexual intercourse was 17.5 years among respondents who were aged 25-29 at the time of the survey. The age of consent is 16 years in Estonia's neighboring countries Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania and 15 in Sweden and Denmark.

It was decided at a meeting of the minister of justice, minister of social protection, minister of the interior and minister of education and research on March 23 that the age of consent must be raised and that the Ministry of Justice is to start drawing up a bill for this purpose. The objective is to finish the drafting of the bill by the end of April and send it to a round of approvals.

If the coronavirus situation permits it, the minister of justice is to visit a sexual violence crisis aid center at the gynecologists' invitation in June.

The meeting was attended by gynecologists Kai Part and Made Laanpere, psychotherapist Kait Sinisalu, head of services at sexual violence crisis aid centers Keete Janter and child psychologist Mariana Saksniit.

Raising the age of consent has become a topic of political and public discussion after a string of allegations about youth sports coaches sexually abusing teenage girls have come to light in recent weeks.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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