No Changes on Gender Reassignment in Lithuania, New Government Says

The Vilnius City District Court will have to rule on absent legal gender recognition procedure in Lithuania. On December 22nd, 2016 two transgender men – T.K. and M.V. – lodged a legal complaint with the view of obtaining legal gender recognition without undergoing the compulsory gender reassignment surgery. The newly appointed Government is skeptical about the possibility of legislating on gender reassignment procedure in Lithuania, while some politicians even propose to ban gender reassignment surgeries all together.

“The appearance of the applicants does not correspond to their gender marker and personal identification number in their identity documents. Therefore the applicants face substantial barriers in their social and economic lives. It is important to note that both applicants would like to perform a gender reassignment surgery. However, gender reassignment procedure in Lithuania is not available,“ says Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius, Policy Coordinator (Human Rights) of the National LGBT* rights organization LGL.

Despite the fact that the Lithuanian Civil Code (Article 2.27) foresees the individual right to go through gender reassignment procedure, the enabling legislation has never been adopted. Nevertheless, some transgender Lithuanians perform gender reassignment surgeries abroad and apply to the national courts regarding legal gender recognition and pecuniary damages. However, it is highly unlikely that legal gender recognition procedure will be introduced by the current Lithuanian Parliament, known for its support to “Christian values”.

“We think that such legislation should be prepared by the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania. We hope to cooperate during the process,” assured Milda Vainiūtė, the newly appointed Minister of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania.

“It is really not our priority. This is an expensive procedure, we really lack money in all other sectors, particularly where it is necessary to save lives. It is the question of a person‘s self-determination, what they want to do with their bodies and what they want to change. But this is not our first necessity, it is not a life-saving matter. Therefore I really do not think it will become our priority,” said Aurelius Veryga, the newly appointed Minister of Health of the Republic of Lithuania.

Ten years ago, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case L. v. Lithuania concluded that this legal gap constitutes a violation of the Article 8 of the Convention (i.e. the right to respect for private life). However, Agnė Širinskienė, the Chair of the Committee on Health Affairs of Seimas, does not think that trans people‘s rights or expectations are being violated in Lithuania.

“The ECtHR has never ruled that gender reassignment is a human right. I think that it is a financial issue in terms of the state budget and, of course, an issue of the safety of patients, because, with a few sex-change operations within a period of one year in Lithuania it would be very difficult to talk about adequate surgical experience in this area,” claimed the newly appointed Chair of the Committee on Health Affairs of Seimas.

Conservative MP Antanas Matulas expressed even more skeptical position and proposed to ban gender reassignment surgeries in Lithuania all together. A few years ago the politician presented corresponding bill aiming at amending the Civil Code. However, it was rejected by the Government of the Republic of Lithuania. The new Government was formed and Mr. Matulas plans to submit the bill aiming at banning gender reassignment surgeries in Lithuania once again.

“Unfortunately, the chromosomes cannot be changed. A person has to commit to lifelong intake of hormones. As a medical professional, however, I have conservative views, and I think that gender reassignment surgery addresses external and not psychological problems,” explained the member of the Lithuanian Parliament.

Although there are no official statistics, around 40 transgender persons might be seeking for gender reassignment surgery in Lithuania. Some of them are already undergoing treatment abroad, mainly in Belarus, Serbia, Thailand. Hormone replacement therapy, plastic surgeries and gender reassignment surgery cost about EUR 40 000 in total.