“Amnesty International” criticizes Lithuania’s violation of LGBT* rights

In its annual report concerning the state of human rights throughout the world, the international non-governmental organization Amnesty International criticized Lithuania’s violation of LGBT* rights. “The law designed for the ‘protection of minors’ against the detrimental effect of public information violates the freedom of self-expression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people,” states the report’s section on Lithuania.

Following a submission to the European Commission by the national LGBT* organization LGL, EU institutions are paying close attention to Lithuania’s disproportionate restrictions on information. Currently, the European Commission is engaged in discussions with Lithuania regarding the congruency of the Lithuanian Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information with the EU acquis. It has been reported that an infringement procedure may begin due to these legal provisions.

The Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information of the Republic of Lithuania states that any information that “encourages a concept of marriage and family other than the one stipulated in the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania or in the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania” is detrimental to minors and should be restricted.

Amnesty International calls attention to the fact that in September 2014, Lithuanian channels invoked these legal provisions and gained approval from the Lithuanian Office of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics for their decision to refuse to the national LGBT* rights organization’s LGL video clip for its social campaign “Change it,” which aimed to raise societal tolerance for LGBT* people. According to experts from the Inspector of Journalist Ethics, the commercial had to be restricted because it “has a detrimental effect on minors’ emotional, spiritual, [and] mental development and health, and [their] formation of fundamental life values.”

On November 25th, 2014, the Lithuanian Psychological Association (LPS) issued a statement indicating that LGL’s video has “no contents that would be scientifically proven to have a negative impact on the emotional, spiritual and psychological development and health of minors. LPS experts believe that it is not the video clip that is capable of causing harm to minors, but rather the ban on public discussion regarding the hardships that LGBT* people experience due to their stigmatization and discrimination in our society, and [the ban on] encouraging their understanding and acceptance.”

Additionally, the report issued by Amnesty International calls attention to the Office of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics’ conclusion in May 2014 that Neringa Dangvydė’s book of fairy tales (“Amber Heart”), which included stories of same-sex relationships, has a “negative effect on minors.” As a result of this decision, the book’s distribution was stopped.

The restrictions on LGBT* people’s freedoms of speech and self-expression in Lithuania have also been condemned by members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights, EP vice-president Ulrike Lunacek, Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld, as well as the international human rights organizations Human Rights Watch and ILGA-Europe.

Furthermore, Amnesty International emphasizes that although the right of transgender people to seek gender reassignment surgery was confirmed in the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania in 2001, and the European Court of Human Rights adopted a decision against Lithuania in the L. v. Lithuania case in 2007, our state still does not grant legal recognition of gender reassignment to transgender people due to loopholes in the law. In October 2014, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe invoked the comments made by the national LGBT* rights organization LGL and other nongovernmental organizations to urge the Lithuanian government to rapidly undertake reforms that would allow Lithuanians to change their stated gender on personal identification documents.

Transgender people in Lithuania cannot access the benefits of basic legal protection available to other members of the LGBT* community. The legal categories of ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’ do not exist in the Lithuanian legal system, and the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on Equal Opportunities does not prohibit discrimination against transgender people, and the Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania does not consider transphobic violence and abusive comments to constitute hate crimes and hate speech. Therefore, transgender people are the most vulnerable group of the LGBT* community in Lithuania.