Estonia: consent law against rape?

After a highly contentious court decision in which two defendants were acquitted of rape charges, Estonia is debating a reform of its sexual offence laws. One option under consideration is to stipulate in law, as in Spain for example, that sex is only legal when all parties involved have given their clear consent. The national press examines the pros and cons of such an approach.

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Encourage victims to go to the police

Eesti Päevaleht explains why it makes no sense to consider the victim’s active resistance as necessary proof of rape:

“It is expected that the victim will defend themself in a rape situation. But freezing up due to shock is recognised as a common physiological and psychological reaction in sexual assaults, one that renders the victim incapable of resisting the attack. ... We need to create a society where victims of sexual violence have the courage to go to the police and don’t have to fear that the law will not protect them.”

Joanna Veeremaa
Eesti Ekspress (EE) /

Proving consent is problematic

Eesti Ekspress warns against touching the presumption of innocence as a principle of justice:

“Violent sex, such as sadomasochism, is not forbidden in Estonia. It only becomes rape when coercion is added. Some say that Estonia, following the example of Western countries, should criminalise non-consensual sex. But even that is not the magic wand that will stop people from committing rape. In the case of rape, the immediate question is how to prove that consent to sex was given. The Estonian Constitution clearly states that ‘no one is obliged to prove their innocence in criminal proceedings’.”

Sulev Vedler