The European Commission in early March adopted a proposal for an EU-wide directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence, the Estonian-language translation of which was published last Thursday. Estonia's Ministry of Justice on Friday contacted various institutions and interest groups in the country seeking input on the proposed directive.
The new directive is set to criminalize rape, female genital mutilation (FGM) and cyber violence, including the non-consensual sharing of intimate material, cyber stalking and cyber harassment, among other offenses, at the EU level for the first time.
The new rules should also improve victims' access to legal protection and provide for sufficient and specialized protection and support. The directive likewise provides for targeted assistance to victims with specific needs and groups at risk.
According to Ministry of Justice spokesperson Maria-Elisa Tuulik, it is too early to tell yet whether and what changes the passing of the directive at the EU level would bring with it to Estonian legislation.
"The directive's Estonian-language translation was published on Thursday night," Tuulik explained. "First, each member state will assess whether such a regulation should even exist in the EU in its member states' opinion. Thereafter they will begin discussing the currently published text of the directive, one article at a time. This may take a year or two, and if the directive is passed, then member states will be given a reasonable amount of time in which to bring their laws into line [with the directive]."
As a result, it's not yet possible for the ministry to say whether or not there is a need to make any changes.
"We cannot confirm such a need until the text of the directive is in place, as it can change significantly compared with the current version," the ministry spokesperson said. "Estonia has the chance to have a say regarding changes to the text of the directive."
She said an initial understanding of whether Estonia supports the directive and whether there are any topics that Estonia would like to change or that it strongly disagrees with could be expected sometime in May. "The government's positions will be prepared by then," Tuulik said.
The Ministry of Justice contacted several other ministries as well as nonprofits and other institutions seeking feedback on the text of the proposed EU directive. The deadline for feedback is April 8, following which the ministry will begin drawing up the government's positions regarding the directive.
Among institutions to be contacted were circuit and county courts, universities, the NGO Estonian Union for Child Welfare, the National Institute for Health Development, the Estonian Medical Students' Association, the Estonian Pediatric Association, the Estonian Gynecologists' Society, the Estonian Human Rights Center, the Women's Support and Information Center, the Estonian Women's Studies and Resource Center, the Estonian Women's Shelters Union, the nonprofit Oma Tuba, the Estonian Women's Associations Roundtable, the Estonian Sexual Health Association and the nonprofit Eluliin.
Click here to read more about the European Commission's proposed directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence.
Editor: Aili Vahtla