Annual Review 2011
Bias motivated speech
- During municipal elections in February, the political party Young Lithuania unveiled a slogan For A Lithuania Without Blue, Black, Red, and Gypsies From the Encampment. Young Lithuania explained the slogan saying, “for a Lithuania […] without blue […] the ideology of sexual perversion that is being imposed on us from abroad. Without black money and liberalist and tolerant traditions, and without red […] communist yeast that is still torturing our society.” A number of Lithuanian human rights organisations, including the Lithuanian Gay League (LGL), complained to the Prosecutor General on the grounds that the party’s homophobic and racist speech violated the country’s law regulating political parties and campaigning; however, no violation was found.
- Ričardas Čekutis, chairperson of Lithuanian National Centre (LNC) and organiser of a nationalist march in central Vilnius, stated that he would not allow the running of a “parade by perverts, as the biggest parade in the country.” He said it would not take place as long as he and his supporters were alive. Baltic Pride is due to take place in Vilnius, for the second time, in 2013. The fi rst LGBT Pride Parade in Lithuania took place in May 2010. Ričardas Čekutis was promoted by the Young Lithuania Party as a candidate for Vilnius City Council and built his reputation under their slogan For A Lithuania Without Blue, Black, Red, and Gypsies From the Encampment; he has also stated that he agrees with the view that the Holocaust never happened.
- While online hate speech is criminalised by Lithuanian law, much of it has gone unpunished because of the supposed resources that it would take to investigate and prosecute these cases. In 2011, the Tolerant Youth Association (TJA), which had previously been individually reporting cases to prosecutors, created an autonomous system allowing people to fi le complaints against online perpetrators of hate speech directly to the Prosecutor’s Office. Reporting and prosecutions are increasing, and examples include a man who was fi ned nearly €400 by the District Court of Anykščiai for urging that “all gays be slain” in an online response to an article about the first LGBT Pride Parade in Lithuania. According to TJA, 70% of the online hate speech cases that reach court are related to homophobic hatred and the rest are split equally between anti-Semitic and xenophobic abuse.
The Equal Opportunities Ombudsman suggested that the army’s Code of Conduct should be amended to include sexual orientation among the list of grounds on which discrimination is prohibited. The suggestion followed a complaint by a woman who wished to join the army reserve but found no prohibition of sexual orientation discrimination in the army’s Code of Conduct. The Equal Opportunities Ombudsman found there was no breach due to the absence of such a reference but suggested the harmonisation of the Code of Conduct with the grounds for discrimination found in the Constitution and equal opportunities laws, hence also sexual orientation.
Equality and non-discrimination
In 2011, Lithuania was reviewed during the UN Universal Periodic Review process and the fi nal report of the review will be adopted in 2012. It received recommendations to refrain from legislative initiatives criminalising homosexual relations between consenting adults; to develop public awareness raising campaigns to combat manifestations of discrimination against LGBT people; to ensure the full respect for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly for all, including LGBT people; to take the 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; and to take all necessary measures to prevent and prosecute all forms of violence and harassment related to sexual orientation and gender identity. Lithuania also received specific recommendations to review the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information.
- In September, Lithuania’s Constitutional Court declared that the State Family Policy, which defined families as strictly based on marriage, was unconstitutional. Article 38 of the Lithuanian Constitution states that family is the substance of society and the State, but there is no direct reference stating that family is created only through marriage.
- In December, the Lithuanian Parliament accepted a draft amendment to the Constitution, by 62 votes to 8, which defined family in a narrowly stating that “the family is created by a free marriage agreement between a man and a woman.” The proposal will be considered by the Committee on Legal Affairs, and is due to come before Parliament again in the spring of 2012. The Parliament refused to allow the Human Rights Committee to analyse the proposal.
- In December, the Committee for Legal Affairs of the Parliament considered that a draft civil partnership law, which would provide for a variety of protections similar to those for married couples, could conflict with the Constitution if it includes same-sex couples, as the law equates partnerships to family, and family relationships can only be created between a man and a woman. The Parliament can either accept the Committee’s view and reject the bill or proceed to consider it. The bill was still in the Parliamentary process at the end of 2011.
Freedom of expression
- In February, Lithuanian lawmakers gave preliminary approval to a law that would ban “homosexual propaganda,” but rewrote sections of the law in the wake of an overwhelmingly negative response from the international community. The European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the Lithuanian law, saying that it was inconsistent with human rights, and various NGOs also intervened. The language outlawing “public promotion of homosexuality” was removed, but the current version of the law restricts children’s access to information of a sexual nature. The initial law was passed in response to a children’s book called A King and A King, which was intended to promote the tolerance towards same-sex relationships among children. The proposal was still making its way through Parliament at the end of 2011.
- In March, journalist Rasa Navickaité received an EU Journalists Award 2010 for her article Different, but Happy dealing with the experiences of rainbow families in Lithuania. The jury considered that the story presented a positive story of rainbow families but also addressed the difficulties they can face.
- In June, the Lithuanian Parliament amended Article 39 of the Law on Provision of Information to ensure that advertising and audiovisual commercial communication must not discriminate on a variety of grounds, including sexual orientation. Inclusion of sexual orientation as a ground of discrimination followed a heated debate which included claims by opponents of the amendment that a ban on discrimination would lead to the “promotion of homosexuality and sexual perversion,” and an objection to giving equal standing to sexual orientation and faith.
- An LGBT film festival, Kitoks Kinas, was held in Vilnius and Kaunas in August and September. This was the first festival of its kind in Lithuania. It involved screenings of more than a dozen films and a photo exhibition on diverse families. It was organised by the Equal Rights and Social Development Centre and LGL.
- In March, a group of Parliamentarians, led by the Chairman of the Committee on Health Affairs, proposed a bill outlawing gender reassignment surgery in the country. The European Court of Human Rights already ruled against Lithuania’s legislation on the subject in 2007 in the case of L v. Lithuania (Application no. 27527/03), stating that the absence of specific provisions regulating gender reassignment which is provided for in the Civil Code violated trans people’s rights. Supporters of the bill claim that regulations that completely ban the procedure would be compatible with the ECHR decision but LGBT human rights defenders in the country say that on the contrary such a ban directly violates human rights provisions. The proposal was still in the Parliamentary process at the end of 2011.
- As part of LGL’s Empowering LBT Women project, postcards with the slogan Let’s speak were written and sent to Members of Parliament, Let’s speak posters were displayed, and a brochure on 10 things about LBT women health was distributed. The campaign aims to promote dialogue and improve visibility of LBT women.
Participation in public/political life
The Lithuanian Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee issued an invitation to local NGOs to participate in a roundtable discussion of Belarusian democratic opposition and human rights networks. When the LGL responded to the invitation, they were told there was no room for an LGBT organisation.