Lithuania

For a summary of Lithuania’s review at the second cycle please click here.

12th UPR session
Date of review: 11 October 2011
Date of report adoption: March 2012
Working Group report: A/HRC/19/15

Summary

Recommendations: Refrain from legislative initiatives which may criminalise homosexual relations between consenting adults; develop public awareness campaigns to combat manifestations of discrimination against LGBT people; Ensure the full respect for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly for all, including LGBT people; Take all necessary measures to prevent and prosecute all forms of violence and harassment related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Response: Accepted.

Recommendations: Review the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information in order to remove all possibilities that this law may be applied in such a way to stigmatise or discriminate against LGBT people or to breach their rights to freedom of assembly or expression; Repeal any discriminatory provision in existing laws on sexual orientation and gender identity; Take steps to ensure that legislation protects the full rights of sexual minorities.

Response: Already implemented or in the process of implementation.

Recommendation: Take the necessary legislative measures and enact policies that recognise the diversity of families and provide same sex couples with the same rights and social security benefits as heterosexual couples;

Response: No clear response.

I. Key issues/recommendations identified by NGOs

  • Include gender identity in non-discrimination legislation;
  • Ensure that notions of public morality or public health are not employed to restrict exercise of freedom of opinion and expression that affirm diverse sexual orientations and gender identities;
  • Take measures to ensure respect for each person’s self-defined gender identity, including access to sex reassignment surgery and to official documents that reflect an individual’s gender identity;
  • Ensure equal rights between same sex and opposite sex couples;
  • Officially recognise diverse forms of the family.

II. Excerpts from input reports
National report

II. Legal and institutional framework for the protection of human rights
C. Institutions

12. Set up in 1999 under the Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, the Office of Equal Opportunities for Women and Men Ombudsperson was transformed into the Office of the Ombudsman for Equal Opportunities with a broader mandate to oversee compliance with the Law on Equal Opportunities. The Ombudsman for Equal Opportunities now examines complaints on discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, nationality, language, origin, social status, faith, beliefs or attitudes, age, sexual orientation, disability, ethnic dependence and religion. The Ombudsman may transfer the investigation materials to a pre-trial investigation institution or a prosecutor, examine cases of administrative law and impose administrative sanctions, and warn about a committed violation. In addition, the Ombudsman carries out independent investigations and publishes reports into discrimination-related matters, submits recommendations related to implementation and proposals on the improvement of legislation and priorities of the equal opportunities policy.

15. The Office of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics has operated since 2001. Under the Law on the Provision of Information to the Public, the Inspector examines complaints of persons regarding breaches of their personal honour and dignity, violations of the right to privacy and in handling personal data in mass media. Under the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information, the Inspector examines complaints regarding violations of this law. In addition, it has the function of determining, based on expert opinions, whether public information provided in mass media instigates discord based on gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, language, origin, social status, faith, beliefs or attitudes. The Inspector is also engaged in preventive work (warning portal editors about and asking to remove disclosed personal data of minors; submitting proposals to public authorities regarding due compliance with the law).

III. Protection of human rights
I. Promoting human rights

100. The principle of non-discrimination, enshrined in the Constitution, is detailed in the 2005 Law on Equal Opportunities as amended in line with EU law and the practice of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman. Recent additions include specific prohibition to discriminate in respect of involvement in the activities of employee or employer organizations or other associations whose members are persons of certain age, sexual orientation, social status, disability, race or ethnic dependence, religion, beliefs or faith; the right to claim from the guilty parties indemnity for pecuniary or non-pecuniary damage; authorising employee and employer organizations or other legal entities upon the person’s written consent to represent him or her in judicial or administrative proceedings; the rule on the transfer of the burden of proof to the defendant. In view of the recommendations from UN experts, in 2009 the Criminal Code was supplemented with a new aggravating circumstance: “actions committed with the aim to express hatred to a group of persons or to a person belonging to it based on age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, race, nationality, language, origin, social status, faith, beliefs or attitudes”, and tightened criminal liability for hate crimes, i.e. for criminal acts committed based on the belonging of the aggrieved person to a specific social group.

103. Official publications regularly announce statistics on criminal acts committed to express hatred based on race, nationality, religion, language and sexual orientation. The current system of controlling illegal information on the Internet was analysed, conclusions and proposals were submitted to the Government. The Prosecutor General’s Office developed methodological guidelines on criminal acts committed on racial, nationalistic, xenophobic, homophobic and other discriminative grounds and on specifics of pre-trial investigation. The Ministry of Social Security and Labour organized informal education for members of youth associations on nurturing tolerance and respect for a human being. An inter-institutional action plan 2012-2014 is currently being drafted to ensure continuity of the Anti-discrimination Programme.

Compilation of UN information

I. Background and framework
B. Constitutional and legislative framework

5. CERD and CAT welcomed the enactment of the Law on Equal Treatment in 2005 which prohibits direct or indirect discrimination on the grounds of, inter alia, age, sexual orientation, disability, race and ethnic origin. CEDAW welcomed that this law allowed temporary special measures to accelerate women’s de facto equality with men. At the same time, it encouraged Lithuania to amend the Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men to simplify the procedure of applying temporary special measures in practice.

II. Promotion and protection of human rights on the ground
B. Implementation of international human rights obligations
5. Freedom of religion or belief, expression and association

57. In 2009, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression together with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders sent an urgent appeal to the Government of Lithuania regarding the adoption of the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information. The Law sought to ban public dissemination of information considered harmful to the mental health or the intellectual and moral development of minors. Concern was expressed that the aforementioned legislation could result in limiting the right of freedom of expression in Lithuania. Further concern was expressed that the law could be applied to limit the legitimate work of human rights defenders, particularly those working to defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the country. The Government sent a detailed response.

Summary of stakeholders’ information

II. Promotion and protection of human rights on the ground
B. Implementation of international human rights obligations

1. Equality and non-discrimination

15. AI highlighted that, Article 39 of the 2010 Law on Provision of Public Information stated that advertising and audiovisual communication “must not contain any manifestation or promotion of sexual orientation.” JS5 stated that this Law was obviously meant to restrict information and “promotion” of homosexual relationships and that it would be used against LGBT related information. JS5 recommended that Lithuania remove the discriminatory article from this Law; and ensure that public information served to enhance equality, tolerance and respect for human rights for all, including LGBT people.

4. Right to privacy, marriage and family life

30. JS3 noted that Lithuania recognized one’s right to change gender and civil status, however, it noted that there was no law providing for the conditions and procedures of full gender reassignment, nor for procedures of the change of civil-status documents.

31. JS3 noted that in June 2008, the Parliament adopted the Conceptual Framework for National Family Policy. It stated that this Framework provided for a concept of family limited to married heterosexual couples with children. Such a narrow perception of the family embodied a systematic discrimination against cohabitating couples with children, single parents and homosexual families.  Moreover, it did not provide equal legal protection for children born out of wedlock and had a negative impact on women’s enjoyment of their human rights in marriage and family relations. Since 2008 Parliament had initiated a number of legal acts relying on the provisions of this Framework and consequently reinforced stigmatization, exclusion and discrimination of persons beyond the restricted concept of family definition. It noted that the Law on Partnership had not been adopted yet and thus, cohabitating couples, both heterosexual and homosexual, could not legally register their civil partnership. As a result, legal acts such as property regulations, social benefits and child adoption, provided different treatment to persons in marriage and cohabitating partners.

5. Freedom of religion or belief, expression, association and peaceful assembly

33. Amnesty International (AI) indicated that the 2010 Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information classified as detrimental to children any information which “denigrated family values” or encouraged a concept of marriage other than the union of a man and a woman, and consequently banned such information from places accessible to children. AI was concerned that the law could be used to restrict freedom of expression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBTs) and advocates for their rights.[1] AI called on Lithuania to revise this law to remove all possibilities of it being applied in a manner that stigmatised or discriminated against LGBTs or violated their rights to freedom of assembly and expression; and to refrain from legislative initiatives which would criminalize homosexual relations.

34. JS5 and AI noted that the Parliament adopted legislative amendments in 2010 to the Code on Administrative Offence which would criminalize the “promotion of homosexual relations in public places”.  JS5 urged Lithuania to reject discriminatory law initiatives and ensure freedom of expression for all, including LGBT people, and encourage a constructive public and political debate on the rights of LGBT people.

35. JS5 referred to a number of events planned for 2007 encouraging tolerance towards lesbian and gay workers which were not permitted in Vilnius including the ‘anti-discrimination truck’, which was touring Europe in the framework of the EU Year of Equal Opportunities for All, but was refused permission to stop in Vilnius. JS5 indicated that the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information was already used to try to ban the first LGBT pride event which finally took place on 8 May 2010. It stated that in March 2010, 53 (out of 141) Parliamentarians signed a petition calling to revoke the authorisation for the event on the grounds that it would violate this new law. On 3 May 2010, Lithuania’s Interim Prosecutor General and a member of the Kaunas City Council applied to the court to ban the Baltic Pride/March for Equality scheduled for 8 May 2010. However, the authorization was issued in which it was stated that the police were ready to ensure public order and security in the event. JS5 urged Lithuania to ensure the freedom of expression and right to assembly for all, including LGBT people; provide protection from all forms of violence and harassment related to sexual orientation and gender identity; and ensure that perpetrators were prosecuted and duly punished.

III. References to SOGI during the Working Group review
B. Interactive dialogue and responses by the State under review

25. Norway […] was concerned at the negative attitudes in the population towards minorities, in particular sexual minorities. Norway was pleased that Lithuania expanded the mandate of the Ombudsperson beyond gender equality, but it was concerned at the leverage of human rights institutions.

27. Sweden welcomed the opportunity to continue the dialogue with Lithuania. Considering some reports of crimes committed towards Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons, Sweden asked Lithuania what measures will take to strengthen their rights and how can the Law be refined to avoid discrimination of LGBT persons.

33. Belgium stated that new amendments to the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information rendered secret information “disparaging family values” or referring to marriage other than between people of the opposite sex. Belgium also noted that intolerance towards homosexuals increased over the past years due to discriminatory legislative initiatives.

34. Regarding its family policy Lithuania noted a recent ruling by the Constitutional Court which acknowledged partnership as another form of family and the current debate on how to better protect the rights of unmarried couples.

35. Replying to questions about the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effects of Public Information, Lithuania stressed that the law was adopted in order to implement the requirement of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child that appropriate guidelines are developed for the protection of the child from information and material injurious to his or her well-being. As the original wording of the law evoked misgivings about its possible interpretation in a manner discriminatory against sexual minorities, the law was amended. Its current version does not classify information on homosexuality as detrimental to minors and actually protects sexual minorities by classifying as detrimental such information which humiliates a person because of their sexual orientation.

36. To explain the attitude of the State towards sexual minorities Lithuania stated that the Parliament rejected legislative initiatives which contained suggestions to impose administrative sanctions for propagating homosexual relationships.

37. Lithuania mentioned the trend to prosecute hate crimes more intensively and gave an example of a recent case related to commentaries on the internet about sexual minorities.

49. Denmark expressed concerns at Lithuania’s homophobic legislation and recent proposals in the Parliament undermining the rights of sexual minorities. It referred to Amnesty International’s recommendations in this regard.

51. Switzerland […] expressed concerns at the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information and at new amendments, which are discriminatory against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people.

69. Netherlands noted that Lithuania was part of most human rights instruments and closely cooperated with Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures. While acknowledging the general legal framework for the promotion of human rights, Netherlands expressed concerns at legislative initiatives affecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender people.

83. Lithuania underlined that a major conceptual challenge was to ensure that all human rights are protected and not only the most popular of them. For example, regarding the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information is just one example on how to reconcile competing claims relating to the protection of human rights. Lithuania was open to critical remarks with regard to the choices it made to address difficult questions.

86. On freedom of peaceful assembly, Lithuania indicated that it was guaranteed by law and the only restriction was related to the necessity of ensuring public safety. Lithuanian courts ensured public safety was not used as a means of unreasonable restriction of that freedom. Lithuania provided examples to back its statement, namely the 2010 Baltic gay parade, which took place in Vilnius, and a protest action by trade unions which took place in front of the Parliament.

IV. Conclusions and/or recommendations
88. The recommendations listed below enjoy the support of Lithuania:

88.4. Refrain from adopting legislative measures which criminalise homosexual relations or breach the rights to freedom of expression and to non-discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (Belgium);

88.5. Refrain from legislative initiatives which may criminalise homosexual relations between consenting adults (Slovenia);

88.23. Develop public awareness campaigns to combat manifestations of discrimination and racism, including xenophobia, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and other forms of intolerance in order to further protect and strengthen the rights of members of minority groups, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals and the Roma Community (United States of America);

88.24. Consider/study the possibility to take additional measures to combat discrimination against LGBT people (Argentina);

88.25. Take action in order to avoid discrimination of LGBT persons, in practice and through law (Sweden);

88.26. Carefully consider whether the right balance is struck when the main street of Vilnius is made available for annual marches by neo-Nazis on Independence Day, whilst vulnerable groups like the LGBT society are refused to use the same venue, and are referred to less attractive locations (Norway) ;

88.27. Take further steps to eliminate discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity (Ireland);

88.31. Take all necessary measures to prevent and prosecute all forms of violence and harassment related to sexual orientation and gender identity (Slovenia);

88.33. Continue to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly (Australia);

88.34. Ensure the full respect for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly for all, including LGBT people (Slovenia)

90. The following recommendations will be examined by Lithuania which will provide responses in due time, but no later than the 19th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2012:

90.10. Review the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information in order to remove all possibilities that this law may be applied in such a way to stigmatise or discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people or to breach their rights to freedom of assembly or expression (Belgium);

90.11. Introduce necessary measures to ensure full respect of human rights for all including for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, by reviewing the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information (Switzerland);

90.12. Take the necessary legislative measures and enact policies that recognise the diversity of families and provide same sex couples with the same rights and social security benefits as heterosexual couples (Netherlands);

90.13. Take steps to ensure that legislation protects the full rights of sexual minorities (Denmark);

90.15. Repeal any discriminatory provision in existing laws on sexual orientation and gender identity (Slovenia);

V. Adoption of the Report
The report of the working group was adopted at the 19th regular session of the Human Rights Council in March 2012.

Response by Lithuania on pending recommendations, Addendum to the report of the Working Group (A/HRC/19/15/Add.1)

10. Lithuania has already implemented recommendations 90.10 and 90.11 to review the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information in order to ensure that its application does not violate the rights of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people. Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation is prohibited in Lithuania. This law does not contain provisions that would allow discrimination of persons by reason of their sexual orientation. The implementation of the provisions of the law is supervised by the Journalist Ethics Inspector. The inspector also summarises the practice of application of the said law and performs the function of drafting legislation for the implementation of this law and submitting those drafts to responsible authorities. Thus, the law itself provides a mechanism for monitoring and improvement thereof.

11. Lithuania is currently unable to provide a final response concerning recommendation 90.12 on the recognition of the diversity of families, because there is an active discussion going on in the political and legal domains on the concept of family and respective legal amendments are being drafted and considered. Provision of the same rights to same sex couples and opposite sex couples is not envisaged.

12. Lithuania has already implemented recommendations 90.13 and 90.15 on the protection of sexual minority rights and on the repeal of statutory provisions discriminating persons on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, at the same time noting that the precise evaluation of these recommendations depends on the interpretation of the terms “sexual minorities”, “gender identity”, “full rights” and “discrimination”. In Lithuania, discrimination on various grounds is prohibited by the Constitution and the list of grounds for discrimination given therein is understood as an open (non-exhaustive) list. The prohibition of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation is elaborated in the Law on Equal Opportunities.

Statements by States and other Stakeholders

Lithuania Gay League, COC Netherlands and ILGA-Europe

We would like to thank Lithuania for its positive participation in the UPR process and would like to commend Lithuania for accepting recommendations to combat discrimination against LGBT people, ensure the full respect for freedom of expression and assembly for all, and prevent and prosecute all forms of violence and harassment related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

We want to draw the Lithuanian Government’s attention to the case L v Lithuania, which Lithuania lost in the European Court of Human Rights in 2007. The ruling obliges Lithuania to pass a law regulating the procedure and conditions of gender reassignment, which Lithuania has subsequently ignored. Further, members of parliament last March registered a proposal to amend the Civil Code with a prohibition of gender reassignment surgery. We urge the Lithuanian Government to act in conformity with the commitments made during the UPR process and rulings of the European Court of Human rights, which entail the responsibility to ensure that transgender people have access to reassignment surgeries.

In response to the recommendation on recognition of family diversity, the government stated that active discussion on the concept of family is ongoing, but it is not foreseen to equalize the rights of same sex and opposite sex couples. We are concerned about a proposed amendment to the Constitution defining the concept of family as based on a marriage between a man and a woman. We recommend that Lithuania ensures equal rights between same sex and opposite sex couples in its legislation and policies, for example by introducing the possibility of partnership registration.

Whilst the government states that there are no provisions in the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information which would allow discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, we remain concerned that the law could be used to restrict freedom of expression of LGBT people. The law in itself sends outs a message to society that contributes to stigma and discrimination of LGBT people.

We are concerned over legislative initiatives that are blatantly discriminatory and unlawfully restrict the right to freedom of expression of LGBT people. We urge the Lithuanian Government to engage in constructive dialogue with experts and NGOs regarding these issues to ensure that the human rights of LGBT people are fully upheld.

VI. Further information
UPR Documentation

National report 1 :  ACE | FR | S
Compilation of UN information 2 :  AC | E | FR | S
Summary of stakeholders’ information 3 :  AC | E | FR | S
Questions submitted in advance:  E
Addendum 1: E
Addendum 2: E
Addendum 3: E
Addendum 4: E

www.upr-info.org