Prohibition of all corporal punishment in Estonia (2014)

In 2011, the Government of Estonia signalled its commitment to enacting legislation to prohibit all corporal punishment of children when it clearly accepted the recommendation to do so made during the Universal Periodic Review of Estonia. In November 2014, this law reform was achieved with the passage of the Child Welfare Act 2014.

Article 24 of the Act explicitly prohibits all corporal punishment, without exception. It clarifies that physical force may be used for purposes of restraint, but emphasises that force may not be used to punish a child. The full text of the article is as follows (unofficial translation):

(1) It is prohibited to neglect a child, to mentally, emotionally, physically or sexually abuse a child, including to humiliate, frighten or physically punish a child, and also to punish a child in any other way that endangers the mental, emotional or physical health of a child.

(2) To prevent child abuse, the legal representative of a child has the right to obtain information about the punishment record of another person under the Punishment Register Act.

(3) It is not child abuse within the meaning of this Act if a child’s behaviour represents a direct and immediate danger to the life or health of the child himself or of another person and this danger cannot be averted, including through conversation, persuasion or verbal calming, and therefore a person bringing up the child, a person working with the child or a child protection worker has to use physical force to restrain the child to an extent that does not cause physical, mental or emotional harm to the child and infringes the child’s rights and freedom as little as possible.

(4) The use of physical force is only permissible for the purpose of this Act to restrict the movement or movements of a child to the extent that is proportionate and necessary to avert the danger either threatening the child or coming from the child. It is not permitted to use physical force for the purpose of punishment."

The new law comes into force on 1 January 2016.


Further information

  • Global Initiative country report for Estonia
  • Child Welfare Act 2014 (Estonian)
This is an automatic translation service. Extracts from laws, treaty body recommendations and Universal Periodic Review outcomes are unofficial translations.