U.S. Department of State: Societal attitudes toward LGBTI persons in Lithuania remain largely negative

Intolerance and societal discrimination remained persistent in Lithuania during the last year, according to the annual report of the U.S. Department of State.

Regarding the freedom of expression and freedom of press, the report continues to mention that it is illegal to publish material that is “detrimental to minors’ bodies or thought processes” or that promotes the sexual abuse and harassment of minors, sexual relations among minors, or “sexual relations.”

Rape and domestic violence remained a pervasive problem. In the first eight months of the year, authorities received 82 reports of rape, compared with 100 during the same period in 2017. Convicted rapists generally received prison sentences of three to five years. No law specifically criminalizes spousal rape, and no data on spousal rape was available. According to the Human Rights Monitoring Institute’s (HRMI), even though the highest percentage of all domestic violence reports are against women, the percentage of pretrial investigations remains low.

Persons with disabilities still face lack of accessibility in public buildings. According to the Lithuanian Disability Forum, approximately 50 percent of public buildings are not accessible for persons with disabilities, including many state health institutions for persons with disabilities and buildings belonging to establishments of higher education.

The U.S. Department of State report highlights that even though the law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, ethnic and national minorities, several attacks happened during the past year. It shows that intolerance and societal discrimination is persisted.

  • On July 19, Fabian Sanchez, an Ecuadorian residing in Vilnius, was waiting at a bus stop when two men shouting “Lithuania for Lithuanians” physically assaulted him. In August, Vilnius police arrested two suspects, completed their investigation, and transferred the case to the Vilnius City District Court for further investigation.
  • In August and September, an unknown suspect set fire to the door of the home of openly gay film director Romas Zabarauskas. In August arsonists also burned the door of the LGL. Police arrested two suspects in the crime against the LGL. The police investigation into the fires allegedly targeting members of the LGBTI community continued at year’s end. On September 17, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius visited the LGL office to express support and solidarity and to discuss the recent acts of violence in Vilnius against the LGBTI community.

Societal attitudes toward LGBTI persons remained largely negative. As it is showed in the LGL’s survey, more than 50 percent of LGBTI students feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation. Another 27 percent reported hearing anti-LGBTI remarks from teachers or school staff sometimes, often, or frequently.

Even though there were no reports of egregious human rights abuses during the past year, Lithuania continues to face several problems regarding discrimination of under-represented groups of the society.