General legal framework

AuthorAnu Laas
2 General legal framework
2.1 Constitution
2.1.1 Constitutional ban on sex discrimination
The Constitution of the Republic of Estonia prohibits discrimination and incitement to
discrimination. Article 12 of the Constitution sets forth the g eneral principle of equality
and non-discrimination:
‘Everyone is equal before the law. No one may be discriminated against on the basis
of nationality, race, colour, sex, language, origin, religion, political or other views,
property or social status, or on other grounds. In citement to ethnic, racial, religious
or political hatred, violence or discrimination is prohibited and punishable by law.
Incitement to hatred and violence between social classes or to discrimination against
a social class is also prohibited and punishable by law.’
The Constitution prohibits discrimination on several grounds and leaves the list open-
2.1.2 Other constitutional protection of equality between men an d women
Article 27 of the Constitution stipulates equal rights of spouses. The provision emphasises
the equality of wife and husband21 and highlights their rights and duties to raise and care
for their children. Case law has specified that the pr otection of family life means that
cohabiting women and men have the same parental rights and duties as married couples.22
In 2019, the Constitutional Judgment stressed that protected family life also includes
same-sex cohabitation if living in a stable de fa cto partnership.23 The Sup reme Court en
banc declared the Aliens Act unconstitutional and repealed it insofar as it precludes issuing
a temporary residence permit to an alien for settling in Estonia with a registered same-
sex partner who is an Estonian citizen. The Court als o pointed to ECHR jurisprudence, as
well as the principles of human dignity and equal treatment guaranteed under the Estonian
2.2 Equal treatment legislation
Estonia has two main legal text s on equal treatment. The Gender Equality Act (GEA) wa s
adopted in 2004 and several amendments were made in 2009. Article 1(2)(1) of the GEA
prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex in the private and public secto rs. The GEA
prohibits discrimination in all areas of social life.
The Equal Treatment Act (ETA) entered into force on 1 January 2009. The ETA prohibits
discrimination on the grounds of nationality (ethnic origin), race or colour in relation to
education and access to vocational guidance, vocational training, advanced vocational
training and retraining, including practical work experience. The ETA al so establishes
prohibition of disc rimination on the grounds of religion or other beliefs, age, disability o r
sexual orientation in relation to ac cess to vocational guidance, vocational training,
advanced vocational training and retraining, including access to practical work experience.
Articles pertaining to equal treatment exist in the Civil Service Act, Employment Contracts
Act, and Penal Code. Employees are protected against discrimination on the grounds of
sex, racial origin, age, ethnic origin, level of language proficiency, disability, sexual
21 In Estonian: ‘Abikaasad on võrdõiguslikud’.
22 Supreme Court of Estonia, Judgment of the Administrative Law Chamber, No. 3-3-1-16-00 of 19 June
23 Supreme Court of Estonia, SC en banc Constitutional Judgment, No. 5-18-5 of 21 June 2019,

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