On March 23rd, 2017 the Government of the Republic of Lithuania placed two Lithuanian ministries, i.e. the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice, under obligation to prepare legal acts that would enable gender reassignment procedure in Lithuania. However, developments regarding gender reassignment procedure in Lithuania are slow.
Aurelijus Veryga, the Minister of Health of the Republic of Lithuania, admits of being “unsure on how to proceed with this request”, while Agnė Širinskienė, Lithuanian MP, Chair of the Committee on Health Affairs of Seimas and the member of the Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union Party, claims that “there are more important issues to address”.
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. In 2007 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). In 2014 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe transferred this case to the enhanced supervision procedure, because the Lithuanian authorities continue to disregard their international obligations in the field of human rights for transgender people.
Currently the legal gender recognition in Lithuania can be sanctioned only by the national courts after the accomplishment of the gender reassignment surgery, which is currently not available within the framework of the Lithuanian health care system. To put it in other words, the Lithuanian State imposes impossible-to-fulfil requirements upon its transgender citizens with the view of obtaining legal gender recognition.
“The Government has granted around 40 000 euros of compensation. Unfortunately, the problem did not simply go away since there are more than one transgender person in Lithuania. Currently some transgender persons go abroad to undergo gender reassignment procedures. Then they come back and apply before a national court with request to receive new personal identity documents. Moreover, based on the decision of the ECtHR, the national courts usually decide to award non-pecuniary damage to transgender applicants,” explained Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius, Policy Coordinator (Human Rights) of the National LGBT* Rights Organization LGL.
Since 2012, the Lithuanian Government has proposed various options to implement the ECtHR’s decision. The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania has proposed to abolish the provision requiring to adopt a gender reassignment legislation, while the Parliament has put up a proposal to ban gender reassignment procedures in Lithuania all together.
“Why the State is not active regarding gender reassignment procedure in Lithuania? I would try to answer this question by saying that it is due to the influence of the Church. This question is related to gender identity, and therefore it is a big red rag for the hierarchs of the Catholic Church,” stressed the Policy Coordinator (Human Rights) of LGL.
Meanwhile, the courts are setting a new precedent. A couple of weeks ago, the Vilnius City District Court announced a ruling, which obligated the Civil Registry to change gender in applicant’s personal documents without mandatory requirement to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Another verdict will be reached in a similar case in the upcoming month.
It is estimated that there are around 200 transgender people in Lithuania. Only a quarter of them would like to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Most transgender persons simply seek for their personal identity documents to reflect their true gender identity.
“I cannot go to certain restrooms. I cannot visit certain locker rooms. I cannot just show someone my ID in a shop, etc., without getting into an uncomfortable situation. It is very difficult and I believe it should not be like this,” commented transgender person Oskaras.
“The system, where a person performs gender reassignment surgery in one country and then comes back and is not able to change personal identity documents is unjust for many reasons. Transgender persons in Lithuania have no access to health care services and legal gender recognition,” told Natalija Bitiukova, Deputy Director at the Human Rights Monitoring Institute.
In more progressive countries, the procedure of legal gender recognition is quick, accessible and transparent and does not require for a transgender person to apply before a court.
Last month the Government of the Republic of Lithuania placed two Lithuanian ministries, i.e. the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice, under obligation to prepare legal acts that would enable gender reassignment procedure in Lithuania by September, 2017.
The Ministry of Justice claims that it is waiting for the Ministry of Health to establish a working group in order to implement this task. On the other hand, Aurelijus Veryga, the Minister of Health, admits of being “unable to determine whether such legislation is needed” and is “not sure what the task entails”.
“For now, I do not have an answer what we should change. I am not sure whether some ministerial procedure is enough to implement the request by the Government, or is there a need to change the laws. Currently, I cannot say what exactly will be needed to be done,” explained the Minister of Health.
“I believe, it is certainly not a priority question in our health system,” claimed Agnė Širinskienė, Lithuanian MP, Chair of the Committee on Health Affairs of Seimas and the member of the Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union Party.
„For many years already, we are blamed both in international forums and by unfriendly countries, claiming that Lithuania is violating human rights. My position is that the Government cannot ignore this issue any longer. We do not want to make excuses every year and send the same explanations, as to why we have not implemented the judgement by the ECtHR. The Government will prepare the corresponding bill. However, the final decision will be in the lawmakers’ hands,“ argued Saulius Skvernelis, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania.