LGBT rights highlighted during the Universal Periodic Review of Lithuania

Submitted by Lithuanian Gay League

LGL participated on 21 February in a meeting of the Lithuanian Human Rights Coalition hosted by Ambassador David Hunt at the British Embassy. LGL presented comments and recommendations made at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Lithuania regarding LGBT rights to the meeting participants, including several ambassadors to Lithuania.

The Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review held its twelfth session from 3 to 14 October 2011, during which a review of Lithuania was held. LGL in collaboration with other NGOs contributed to the preparation of documents for this session, giving an overview on the status of LGBT individuals in Lithuania in collaboration with ILGA-Europe. The Lithuanian State was questioned by the Members States of the Human Rights Council about the actions that have been undertaken to improve the human rights situation in the country and to fulfill the human rights obligations.

Considering some reports of crimes committed towards LGBT persons, Sweden asked Lithuania what measures it will take to strengthen their rights and how the law could be refined to avoid discrimination against LGBT persons, and recommended taking action in order to avoid discrimination of LGBT persons, in practice and through law. Belgium stated that new amendments to the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information made secret any information “disparaging family values” or referring to marriage other than between people of the opposite sex. Belgium also noted that intolerance towards homosexuals increased over the past years due to discriminatory legislatives initiatives. Denmark expressed concerns at Lithuania’s homophobic legislation and recent proposals in the Parliament undermining the rights of sexual minorities. It referred to Amnesty International’s recommendations in this regard. Switzerland expressed concerns at the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information and at new amendments, which are discriminatory against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The Netherlands expressed concerns at legislative initiatives affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people.

The recommendations listed below enjoy the support of Lithuania:

Belgium: Refrain from adopting legislative measures which criminalise homosexual relations or breach the rights to freedom of expression and to non-discrimination of LGBT people.
Brazil: Further strengthen measures to prevent and combat discrimination and to investigate allegations of hate crimes;
USA: Develop public awareness campaigns to combat manifestations of discrimination and racism, including xenophobia, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and other forms of intolerance in order to further protect and strengthen the rights of members of minority groups, including LGBT individuals and the Roma community;
Argentina: Consider/study the possibility to take additional measures to combat discrimination against LGBT people;
Ireland: Take further steps to eliminate discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity;
Australia: Continue to ensure that LGBT people are able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
Norway: Carefully consider whether the right balance is struck when the main street of Vilnius is made available for annual marches by neo-Nazis on Independence Day, whilst vulnerable groups like the LGBT society are refused to use the same venue, and are referred to less attractive locations; Develop even closer co-operation with civil society on human rights related issues
Slovenia: Refrain from legislative initiatives which may criminalize homosexual relations between consenting adults; take all necessary measures to prevent and prosecute all forms of violence and harassment related to sexual orientation and gender identity; ensure the full respect for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly for all, including LGBT people.

The following recommendations will be examined by Lithuania which will provide responses in due time, but no later than the nineteenth session of the Human Rights Council in March 2012:

Belgium: Review the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information in order to remove all possibilities that this law may be applied in such a way to stigmatize or discriminate against LGBT people or to breach their rights to freedom of assembly or expression.
Switzerland: Introduce necessary measures to ensure full respect of human rights for all, including for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people, by reviewing the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information.
Netherlands: Take the necessary legislative measures and enact policies that recognise the diversity of families and provide same sex couples with the same rights and social security benefits as heterosexual couples.
Denmark: Take steps to ensure that legislation protects the full rights of sexual minorities.
Slovenia: Repeal any discriminatory provision in existing laws on sexual orientation and gender identity

Responses by Lithuania:

Regarding its family policy, Lithuania noted a recent ruling by the Constitutional Court which acknowledged partnership as another form of family and the current debate on how to better protect the rights of unmarried couples.

Replying to questions about the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effects of Public Information, Lithuania stressed that the law was adopted in order to implement the requirement of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that appropriate guidelines be developed for the protection of the child from information and material injurious to his or her well-being. As the original wording of the law evoked misgivings about its possible interpretation in a manner discriminatory against sexual minorities, the law was amended. Its current version did not classify information on homosexuality as detrimental to minors and actually protected sexual minorities by classifying as detrimental information which humiliates a person because of their sexual orientation.
To explain the attitude of the State towards sexual minorities, Lithuania stated that the Parliament rejected legislative initiatives which contained suggestions that it impose administrative sanctions for propagating homosexual relationships.
Lithuania mentioned the trend toward prosecuting hate crimes more intensively and gave the example of a recent case related to commentaries on the internet about sexual minorities.

Lithuania underlined that a major conceptual challenge was to ensure that all human rights were protected and not only the most popular of them. For example, the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information was just one example of how to reconcile competing claims relating to the protection of human rights. Lithuania was open to critical remarks with regard to the choices it made to address difficult questions.

Lithuania stated that the implementation of human rights was primarily the task of specialized ministries. However, the possibilities for civil society to get involved in law and policy making significantly increased recently with the inclusion of the principle of transparency in the legislative process. Overall, Lithuania thought that it would be a fair assessment to say that it achieved significant progress in ensuring human rights, notably in civil and political rights, which were adequately guaranteed.

On freedom of peaceful assembly, Lithuania indicated that it was guaranteed by law and the only restriction was related to the necessity of ensuring public safety. Lithuanian courts ensured that public safety was not used as a mean of unreasonable restriction of that freedom. Lithuania provided examples to back its statement, namely the 2010 Baltic gay parade, which took place in Vilnius, and a protest action by trade unions which took place in front of the Parliament.

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