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Prohibition of Discrimination

V. Discrimination on the Ground of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Lithuania decriminalized homosexual relations after amending its Criminal Code in 1993, but even 20 years later, manifestations of discrimination and intolerance abound in various fields. Paradoxically, the number of complaints regarding discrimination on ground of sexual orientation that the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office received in 2013-2014 continues to be low. There were no complaints in 2013 and 3 investigations in 2014.

According to the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) rights index, prepared by the international LGBTI organization ILGA-Europe, Lithuania in 2013 ranked 31st and in 2014 – 33rd out of 49 European states. The states were assessed with respect to their laws on equality and non-discrimination, marriage and partnership rights, hate speech, legal recognition of sex change, freedom of assembly, community and expression, as well as the ability of persons persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity to apply for asylum.[1]

A study of Lithuanian public opinions revealed the existence of public intolerance of sexual minorities. While 52% of respondents believe that homosexuals should be treated the same as heterosexuals in the labour markets, 42% said that they would be afraid if their child's teacher was homosexual; 37% would not wish to belong to any organization with homosexual members; 35% would not elect an openly homosexual candidate to parliament or municipal council; 26% agree with the idea that homosexual relations should be formalized not through marriage, but through partnership agreements. Half (50%) of the respondents believe that their relationship with their neighbours would not change if they found out a same sex couple was living in nearby; 30% would try to refrain from communicating with them; 4% would alerted other neighbours; 3% would take measures to have the same-sex couple evicted; another 2% said that they would warn neighbours with small children. Finding themselves in a situation where homosexual people are being talked about in insulting or disparaging terms, people would most often try to remain neutral (46%), 22% would try changing the subject, 12% would openly object to such behaviour, while 5% would enthusiastic support the conversation.[2] A survey of Lithuanian soldiers and cadets revealed that this social group is even less tolerant of homosexual people – as much as 71.5% of the respondents would not want to live near homosexuals and 70% would not want to work with them.[3]

March “For Equality” 2013, Lrt.lt photo.

On 27 July 2013, the second march "For Equality" took place in Lithuania, but 62% of the surveyed Lithuanian residents said they opposed them, 15.2% expressed support, while 15.8% said that they had no opinion on the matter.[4] Furthermore, permission for the participants to march down Gediminas Avenue was only granted after a judicial marathon lasting 7 months,[5] and the march itself attracted not only hostile protesters, but also attacks against participants.[6] A total of 28 people were sent to police headquarters for incidents related to the procession. Two pre-trial investigations (one for public disorder and one for the possession of drugs) were started, 16 reports for administrative violations relating to minor hooliganism were drawn up, 6 instances of persons refusing to obey law enforcement officers were recorded and one police officer was injured. [7]

People in Lithuania are still afraid to publicly admit their sexual orientation. An online survey of men who have sexual relations with other men conducted in 38 European countries revealed that 24% of Lithuanian respondents said that only the people closest to them know about their sexual orientation.[8] These results were also confirmed by a study of the Lithuanian public: 71% of respondents indicated they do not know of any homosexual people around them; 12.8% said that while they do not know it exactly, they suspect that there are gay or lesbian people around them; only one in ten residents in Lithuania claimed to know homosexual people – 11.4%.[9] In addition, in Lithuania, one in two men had experienced violence because of someone knowing or suspecting that they are gay. Younger men indicated having experienced violence more often. [10]

Despite the country's international commitments and the interpretation given by the Constitutional Court of Lithuania on concept of family, more than a few draft laws were proposed in Parliament that contained provisions directly or indirectly discriminating against LGBT people. One member of Parliament registered an amendment to the Law on Fundamentals of Child Rights Protection that would have prohibited same-sex couples from adopting Lithuanian citizens.[11] A proposal to amend Article 38 of the Constitution was also submitted, associating family with marriage, fatherhood and motherhood.[12] There were repeat submissions of an amendment to the Code of Administrative Offences that proposed establishing administrative sanctions for the public denigration of a constitutional virtue – namely, the family – through speech, displayed objects, posters, slogans, audio-visual media and other acts.[13] Just like the previous proposals, those amendments sought to establish administrative sanctions for processions for the rights of LGBT people.

An amendment to the Criminal Code was also submitted, that sought to establish that criticism and discussion of sexual behaviour or sexual practices, beliefs or opinions, or attempts to persuade someone to change such behaviour, practices, beliefs and opinions did not in themselves amount to insults, stigmatization, incitement to hatred, discrimination or incitement to discrimination.[14] None of the above legislative proposals have been accepted.

A survey of Lithuanian soldiers and cadets revealed that this social group is even less tolerant of homosexual people – as much as 71.5% of the respondents would not want to live near homosexuals and 70% would not want to work with them.

One member of Parliament, while publicly expressing support for the law adopted by Russia which prohibited the promotion of unconventional relations, urged introducing similar penalties in Lithuania as well.[15] The Central Electoral Commission refused to register a steering group for collecting signatures for a referendum on limiting the dissemination of information concerning homosexuals. A Kaunas politician proposed organizing a consultative referendum on the wording that "any information relating to the promotion of homosexuality in the media could only be aired after 10pm." The initiative was rejected because the referendum sought to limit the rights of a certain group of people.[16]

Other areas also exhibit abundant manifestations of intolerance and discrimination towards sexual minorities. For example, during the elections to the European Parliament, the Lithuanian Nationalist Union chose an unconventional way to advertise themselves by decorating their car with a slogan directed against LGBT people.[17] The distribution of "Amber Heart", a collection of fairy tales, was also stopped because two stories talked about the love of same-sex couples.[18]

Findings and Recommendations

  • Results of public surveys, proposed draft legislation, opposition to processions and other actions against LGBT people demonstrate that intolerance towards this group is still strong among the Lithuanian people. This attitude discourages people from confessing about their sexual orientation to anyone, even their close ones.
  • Even though not one of the draft laws directly or indirectly discriminatory against sexual minorities were adopted, the very fact that they were submitted for consideration – as well as attempts to organize a referendum on limiting the availability of information relating to homosexuality – reveals that Lithuanian politicians are ignoring the country's international obligations in the field of human rights and hope to garner voter approval through populist measures.

[1] "In terms of protecting LGBTI rights, Lithuania is between Italy and Andora", lzinios.lt, 13 May 2014, http://lzinios.lt/lzinios/Lietuvoje/pagal-lgbti-teisiu-apsauga-lietuva-tarp-italijos-ir-andoros/179578

[2] Equal Opportunities Omubudsman's Office, "Study of the opinion of the Lithuanian public on the discrimination of various social groups", October 2013, slide 44, http://lygybe.lt/lt/tyrimai-lygybes-srityje.html

[3] Eglė Samoškaitė, “Study in Military Prompted by V. Tomaševskis and Gay March", delfi.lt, 25 October 2013, http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/kariuomeneje-atliktas-tyrimas-kuri-paskatino-v-tomasevskis-ir-geju-eitynes.d?id=63120322

[4] Mindaugas Jackevičius, "71% don't know any homosexuals, 62% do not support their processions", delfi.lt, 4 March 2013, http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/71-proc-homoseksualu-nepazista-62-proc-ju-eitynems-nepritaria.d?id=60784743

[5] Mindaugas Jackevičius, "Homosexuals won back the Gediminas Avenue", delfi.lt, 30 July 2013, http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/homoseksualai-atkovojo-gedimino-prospekta.d?id=61967879

[6] Mindaugas Jackevičius, "People throwing eggs at the procession were caught on camera", delfi.lt, 29 July 2013, http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/uzfiksuota-kas-i-eityniu-dalyvius-svaide-kiausinius.d?id=61956473

[7] “March "For Equality" took place in Vilnius", lrt.lt, 27 July 2013, http://www.lrt.lt/naujienos/lietuvoje/2/22358/vilniuje_vyko_eitynes_uz_lygybe_

[8] Mindaugas Jackevičius, "Lithuanian homosexuals are not lewd", delfi.lt, 7 November 2013, http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/lietuvos-homoseksualai-nera-istvirke.d?id=63229630

[9] Mindaugas Jackevičius, "71% don't know any homosexuals, 62% do not support their processions“, delfi.lt, 4 March 2013, http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/71-proc-homoseksualu-nepazista-62-proc-ju-eitynems-nepritaria.d?id=60784743

[10] Mindaugas Jackevičius, "Lithuanian homosexuals are not lewd", delfi.lt, 7 November 2013, http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/lietuvos-homoseksualai-nera-istvirke.d?id=63229630

[11] Draft Law Amending Article 26 of Law No. I-1234 on Fundamentals of Child Rights Protection, 27 January 2014, XIIP-1469(2), http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=464939&p_tr2=2

[12] Draft Law Amending and Supplementing Article 38 of the Constitution, 15 November 2013, XIIP-1217, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=459884&p_tr2=2

[13] Draft Law Amending Article 224 and 259(1) of and Including Article 188(21) in the Code of Administrative Offences, 15 January 2014, XIP-4490(3), http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=464145&p_tr2=2

[14] Draft Law Amending Article 170 of the Criminal Code, 11 June 2013., XIIP-687, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=450517&p_tr2=2

[15] “P. Gražulis: Lithuania and the whole of the EU must follow Russia's example", delfi.lt, 2 July 2013, http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/p-grazulis-lietuva-ir-visa-es-turi-sekti-rusijos-pavyzdziu.d?id=61756063

[16] "CEC did not allow collecting signatures for a referendum on the restriction of "propagation of homosexuality", balsas.lt, 5 August 2013, http://balsas.tv3.lt/naujiena/746456/vrk-neleido-rinkti-parasu-referendumui-del-homoseksualizmo-propagavimo-ribojimo

[17] Martynas Čerkauskas, “New hobby horse for elections: gays and Conchita Wurst", lrytas.lt, 14 May 2014, http://www.lrytas.lt/lietuvos-diena/aktualijos/naujas-rinkimu-triukas-gejai-ir-conchita-wurst.htm

[18] Jūratė Juškaitė, "Neringa Dangvydė, author of the prohibited book of fairy tales: "The mind boggles, but it's official - there is censorship of books in Lithuania", 15min.lt, 3 June 2014, http://www.15min.lt/naujiena/aktualu/interviu/uzdraustos-pasaku-knygos-autore-neringa-dangvyde-protu-sunku-suvokti-bet-tai-faktas-lietuvoje-veikia-knygu-cenzura-599-431218


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