Lithuania Criticised in United Nations Human Rights Council for LGBT* Human Rights Situation in the Country

On November 2nd, 2016 the Government of the Republic of Lithuania took part in the 26th session of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review, at which time it presented its report on the human rights situation in the country and responded to other member states’ questions and recommendations. In the 26th session, Lithuania received as many as 22 recommendations related to LGBT* rights (47% more than in 2011) from fellow member states.

SOGIESC questions submitted in advance for Lithuania:

Mexico: What measures have been taken to guarantee the rights of LGBT groups in the law, including the reform of existing legislation that may be discriminatory or the abstention from adopting legislative measures that may lead to discrimination?

The Netherlands: Is the government of Lithuania willing to look into the possibility to further incorporate a comprehensive Interinstitutional Action Plan on Non-Discrimination of LGBT-People?

Sweden: Could the Government of Lithuania please elaborate on what steps have been taken in the last 3 years to ensure that LGBTI-persons are not subject to harassment or discrimination, de jure or de facto, in Lithuania?

UK: Please could you outline the steps planned and delivered since the last UPR to ensure that LGBTI persons are protected legally from discrimination and are able to fully enjoy their right to freedom of expression?

Czech Republic: What concrete measures has the Government introduced to address comprehensively various forms of discrimination, e.g., based on sexual orientation and gender identity or religion or disability? Does it consider revising the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information so that it cannot be used as a pretext for discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity?

Germany: Since the last UPR Lithuania has adopted several legislative initiatives which may restrict the freedom of expression and may have the effect of discriminating against LGBTI individuals. How does Lithuania guarantee the protection of LGBTI persons and which concrete measures does Lithuania plan to encourage tolerance and non-discrimination of LGBTI, inter alia through respective school curricula?

Spain: President Dalia Grybauskaite has stated that national discussions about homophobia are required in Lithuania. How does the government plan to increase tolerance levels regarding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientations, gender identity or same-sex partnership?

Norway: How is the government of Lithuania working to prevent and combat hate speech and discrimination against minorities, such as LGBTI* community?

Recommendations for the Second Cycle (2016): Remarks made by the Recommending State:

Brazil: Finally, we commend Lithuania for ratifying OP-CAT and for implementing measures such as the training of police officers on combating hate crimes, the preparation of an amendment to the Criminal Code adding disability and age among prohibited grounds of discrimination and incitement, and the public campaign to raise visibility of transgender people in the country, in line with recommendations made by Brazil in the first UPR.

UK: We commend Lithuania on the successful hosting of Baltic Pride in 2016 and hope that this positive trend in supporting and empowering the LGBTI community will continue.

Australia: Australia remains concerned about the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTI) people in Lithuania. While the holding of the annual Baltic Pride March in Lithuania is a positive step.

Belgium: However, regarding certain issues there is still room for improvement. In particular, we remain concerned with the high prevalence of domestic violence against women and increasing negative attitudes against LGBTI.

Mexico: We believe that progress also can be made in the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We welcome the steps taken by the Lithuanian authorities to promote awareness of the challenges that the LGBT community faces and the efforts to ensure freedom of expression and assembly.

Norway: Norway commends significant progress in ensuring the right of assembly for LGBTI community during the Baltic Pride march in 2016. However, further effort is necessary to prevent discrimination and hate speech against the LGBTI community. Potentially homophobic legislative initiatives should be reevaluated.

The Netherlands: We share the concern of the Human Rights Committee at the increasing negative attitudes against and stigmatization of LGBTI persons in society, including in public debates around legislative initiatives. This has manifested itself in instances of discrimination and violence that need to be investigated.

In March, 2016 LGL submitted its shadow report on the LGBT* human rights situation in the country to the United Nations. In October, LGL representatives attended meetings with 25 different government representatives at the United Nations office in Geneva, urging them to draw the Lithuanian government’s attention to human rights violations against LGBT* individuals in the country.

LGL sought to draw the United Nations’ attention to (a) the “homosexual propaganda” law in effect in Lithuania, which limits LGBT* people’s right to freedom of expression; (b) homophobic and transphobic legislative initiatives being considered by Parliament; (c) critical problems in the investigation of hate crimes and hate speech on the basis of sexual orientation; and (d) lack of procedure for legal gender change. A review of these problematic aspects can be found in LGL’s brochure “We are people, not propaganda”.

“We are proud that LGL’s advocacy efforts in the 26th Universal Periodic Review session have received a broad and comprehensive response around the world,” said LGL’s Executive Director Vladimir Simonko. “We hope that these recommendations made to the Lithuanian government on LGBT* human rights significantly contribute to the improvement of this social group’s situation in our country.”

The Universal Periodic Review is a human rights monitoring mechanism implemented by the United Nations Human Rights Council. This mechanism assesses the human rights situation in every country in the world. The review mechanism encourages dialogue between governments, giving “reviewing” states the opportunity to ask questions and provide a range of recommendations. During the first review in 2011, the Lithuanian government received 15 recommendations concerned specifically with LGBT* human rights.

button_evz_engl_grossThe advocacy work of the National LGBT* Rights Organization LGL on the UN level is supported by the German foundation “Erinnerung. Verantwortung and Zukunft”, which supports activities that tackle contemporary discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. For more information, please consult http://www.stiftung-evz.de/eng. This submission does not represent an expression of opinion by the Foundation EVZ. The authors bear responsibility for the content.