LGBT* Rights in Lithuania

Homosexuality was decriminalised in Lithuania in 1993. Since 2004 – with accession of Lithuania to the European Union – Lithuania has implemented the main legislative acts of the European Commission regarding anti-discrimination. The main Law ensuring equality and non-discrimination – the Law on Equal Treatment – came to power in 2003, prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. The law also covers discrimination within employment, education and access to goods and services. Gender identity, however, remains unrecognised in Lithuanian law. Lithuania is one of the six countries of European Union without civil unions or equal marriage laws in place.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Nations (UN) Cycle 1 of 2011 brought 15 recommendations for Lithuania regarding LGBT* issues. Lithuania accepted 10 of these recommendations (e.g. combating hate crimes, ensuring rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly, etc.), and other 5 recommendations were moved to the national level for futher assessment (i.e. censoring LGBT* related public information, acknowledging family diversity and eliminating discrimination on grounds of gender identity). In 2012 the Government declared that all of these recommendations had been already implemented. Up to this day, they have not resulted in any concrete legislative or public policy measures.

In 2012-2016 Lithuania organized 4 coordination meetings with the wiev of implementing these UPR recommendations. Around 17 NGOs and public institutions participated, which made it impossible  to come to any conclusion in a 2-hour meeting organized once a year. The process of implementing recommendations thus seems highly formalistic and pretentious towards the UN community.

In the UPR Cycle 2 of 2016 Lithuania received 22 recommendations related to LGBT* rights (47% more than in 2011). LGL subsequently submitted its shadow report on the LGBT* human rights situation in the country to the UN and met with 25 different government representatives at the UN office in Geneva, urging them to draw the Lithuanian government’s attention to human rights violations against LGBT* persons in the country.

Most commonly violated rights in Lithuania include:

  • Right to Freedom of Expression
  • Right to Equality and Non-discrimination
  • Right to Education
  • Right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
  • Right to Life, Liberty and Security of a Person
  • Right to Privacy
  • Right to Health

Anti-gay propaganda legislation

The Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detriment Effect of Public Information, which is included in Lithuanian legislation, reads that “public information shall be attributed to information which has a detrimental effect on minors […] which expresses contempt for family values, encourages the concept of entry into a marriage and creation of a family other than stipulated in the Constitution and the Civil Code”. There have been 3 cases where this provision directly interfered with the right to freedom of expression of LGBT* persons.:

  • Baltic Pride 2013 Promotional Videos (More info here.)
  • Fairytale Book “Amber Heart” (More info here.)
  • Promotional Video “CHANGE IT!” (More info here.)

Homophobic and/or transphobic legislative initiatives

There were ten openly homophobic and transphobic legislative initiatives in the Parliament so far. Such a high level political legitimization is dangerous in terms of effective limitation of the human rights of LGBT* persons.

(a) The amendment to the Civil Code No. XIIP-17 seeks to place a total ban on gender reassignment surgeries.

(b) The amendment to the Criminal Code No. XIIP-687 seeks to establish that the criticism of homosexuality and attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation would not qualify as discrimination or harassment on the ground of sexual orientation.

(c) The amendment to the Law on Public Meetings No. XIIP-940 proposes that the organizers of the public assemblies cover all expenses in relation to ensuring safety and public order in the course of an event.

(d) The amendment to the Law on the Fundamentals of Protection of the Rights of the Child No. XIIP-473 stipulates, “Every child has the natural right to a father and a mother, emanating from sex differences and mutual compatibility between motherhood and fatherhood”.

(e) The amendment to the Law on the Fundamentals of Protection of the Rights of the Child No. XIIP-1469(2) seeks to establish that “it is forbidden for same-sex couples to adopt citizens of the Republic of Lithuania.”

(f) The amendment to the Article 38 of the Constitution No. XIIP-1217 seeks to redefine the constitutionally protected concept of “family life” as emanating from a traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

(g) The amendment to the Code of Administrative Violations No. XIP-4490(3) introduces administrative liability for any public defiance of the constitutionally established “family values”.

(h) The Law on Strengthening the Family No. XIIP 4255 seeks to establish that “complementarity of a man and a woman is a foundation of a family as primary and fundamental community and environment which is the most suitable for bringing up, development and education of a child”.

(i) The draft amendment to the Civil Code No. XIIIP-750 seeks to introduce an “agreement for cohabitation” that would allow two or more cohabitants to realize certain property rights without an intention to create family relations. The proponents of this bill claim that the “agreement for cohabitation” would be suitable form of legal recognition for same-sex couple. However, it effectively prevents same-sex couples from enjoying the status of “family members”.

(j) The draft amendment to the Law on Equal Opportunities No. XIIIP-837(3) excludes family members of registered partners, who are the citizens of the EU or the EEA countries, from the ambit of protection offered by the Law on Equal Opportunities.

Hate crime and hate speech

Hate speech online targeting sexual orientation is widely neglected by the law enforcement bodies, refusing the investigation of complaints. National LGBT* Rights Organization LGL submitted 24 complaints based on 206 instances of alleged hate speech online only within 2013-2015. All the pre-trial investigations regarding these complaints were either halted or terminated and did not lead to the actual punishment of alleged offenders. To read about the case example of hate crime, click here.

Gender reassignment and the trans* issues in Lithuania

Lithuania has no procedures in place for legal gender recognition and medical gender reassignment. The Civil Code does establish that “[a]n unmarried natural person of full age enjoys the right to the change of designation of sex in cases when it is feasible from the medical point of view”, but the enabling legislation has never been adopted.

In 2007 the ECtHR in the case L. v. Lithuania  stated that failure by the authorities to legislate on the issue has violated the applicant’s right to respect for private life. The general measures of the case (i.e. requirement to adopt legislation) have not been implemented yet. In 2014 the Committee of Ministers transferred the implementation of the case to the enhanced supervision procedure. Furthermore, transgender people cannot receive specific health care services in the Lithuanian health care system, because the required secondary legislation (i.e. order by the Minister of Health) has not been adopted. As a result, transgender people are forced to litigate before the courts in order to obtain LGR. In April and May 2017 the national courts provided first 2 transgender individuals with LGR without the requirement for gender reassignment surgery, i.e. based on mental diagnosis. In March 2017, the Government mandated the Miniproy of Justice and the Ministry of Health to prepare draft legislation enabling gender reassignment. The draft legislation will be prepared by September 1st, 2017 and it should be considered by the Parliament in 2018.

The social situation of transgender people in Lithuania remains challenging. According to the LGBT* survey (2012) conducted by the EU Fundamental Rights agency (FRA), 60% of transgender respondents from Lithuania have experienced instances of physical or sexual violence in the last five years, while 55% have experienced discrimination or harassment on grounds of their gender identity in the last twelve months. These problems remain highly invisible in the Lithuanian society. According to the Special Eurobarometer 393 (2012), only 3% of Lithuanians claim to know at least one transgender person. It can be concluded that transgender individuals do not reveal their gender identity due to the prevailing transphobic attitudes in the Lithuanian society.