No. 31




Domestic Violence: Social Phenomenon that Requires a more Forceful Legal Intervention

10 June 2015


RiTo No. 31, 2015

  • Iris Pettai

    Director, Estonian Institute for Open Society Research

  • Silvia Kaugia

    University of Tartu, Lecturer of Comparative Law

  • Raul Narits

    University of Tartu, Professor of Comparative Law

The article analyses the legal treatment and legal regulation of domestic violence. Domestic violence is rampant in Estonia, yet the police is not notified of every case, even the most brutal ones; and even in the reported cases, only a small percentage leads to a guilty verdict.

Estonia has no separate Act on the prevention of domestic violence, which might be one of the reasons why the attention is more on the consequences of domestic violence than on how to prevent it. There is also a shortage of institutions dealing with the prevention of domestic violence, rehabilitation of victims and providing correctional programmes for perpetrators. The article cites the results of an expert survey conducted at the end of 2014, which aimed to determine the attitude of practising lawyers towards domestic violence, current legal regulation, and so forth.

The survey suggested that Estonia’s legal bodies should be given the authority to intervene immediately in situation of domestic violence, prosecute the perpetrators and protect the victims from the continuation of violence. With an Act, the state would assume the responsibility for ending the violence by guaranteeing that the state, and not the victim, is responsible for holding the perpetrator accountable. Estonia could follow the lead of states who have sent a clear message to the victims with an Act on domestic violence: you can rely on the state, the state will protect you and your children from violence. The perpetrators also need to receive a clear message from the state: violence against one’s family members is a crime that will be punished. All this would also help to shape the attitude of the society towards domestic violence and those involved in it.

The states who have adopted a special Act (Austria, United Kingdom, USA, Australia, Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Netherlands, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Lithuania, etc.) have major advantages. These countries have seen the Act on domestic violence contribute to an understanding on legal culture and legislation by sending the public a clear message: violence in an intimate relationship is a serious crime.

Estonia has acceded to the Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe on prevention and combating violence against women and domestic violence, which sets our country in a completely new situation in the context of dealing with domestic violence – we have to take a fim stand in our attitude towards the victim and the perpetrator, and make it our priority to support and help the victim. This is a major challenge for the state, demanding that many resources be created and focused on fulfiling this objective.

An Act on domestic violence would constitute a signifiant contribution towards fulfiling the requirements and obligations arising from the Istanbul Convention.

Full article in Estonian