Violence Against Women in Lithuania
Lithuania
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Population of women: 1,714,100/2 979 310
Life expectancy of women (at birth): 79.1
School life expectancy for women: 17
Women's adult literacy: 100%
Unemployment of women: 10.4%
Women engaged in economic activity: 69.7%
Source:  The Lithuanian Department of Statistics, updated January 2013 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Last updated: March, 2013
 

In 2011 an important development to combat violence against women in Lithuania occurred with the passage of the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence. Adopted in May 2011 and entered into force in December 2011, this law was the first of its kind in Lithuania, which up until that point was one of only two European Union (EU) countries that did not have a domestic violence law. The law, which is discussed further in the “Domestic Violence” section, aims to define all forms of domestic violence more clearly and make it easier to prosecute perpetrators as well as provide support to victims and preventative measures. Another positive development was the election of Lithuania’s first female president in 2009. Dalia Grybauskaite, formerly the EU budget commissioner, ran as an independent. At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012, Grybauskaite called for a global web-map to evaluate the state of human rights and particularly gender equality. She acknowledged the failure to implement many government plans related to women’s rights effectively and the important role of non-governmental organizations in advancing women’s issues[1].

 
Gender Equality
 
After becoming an EU member in 2004, Lithuania implemented some policy initiatives aimed at gender equality and improving the lives of women with varying degrees of success. One of the first such initiatives was the 2004-2006 EQUAL Program, which aimed to combat inequality and discrimination in the labor market. The government identified eleven target groups to receive support through the program, including people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, victims of trafficking, women, and the long-term unemployed.
 
Between 2003 and 2010, a number of policy documents were adopted, including several National Programs[2] on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, a National Action Plan on Employment, the 2004-2006 EU Structural Support Single Programming Document, the 2004-2006 Equal Community Initiative Program for Lithuania, and the 2005-2008 National Lisbon Strategy Implementation Program. The programs outlined in these documents were implemented following the EU’s recommendation that Lithuania fulfill commitments made during the EU accession process to reduce unemployment and poverty and introduce initiatives to help the unemployed. The next big push toward equality centered around the EU’s Year of Equal Opportunities in 2007, which included tolerance and anti-discrimination awareness-raising campaigns.[3]
 
Having passed a Law of Equal Opportunities for Women and Men in 1998 that first imposed obligations of gender equality on state institutions and municipalities, the government sought to improve implementation of this law during subsequent years. Parliament amended the law several times over the years, most recently in March 2012.[4] Today, the Law disallows any form of discrimination based on sex and stipulates legal requirements for equal opportunities for women and men in terms of employment, education and science, consumers’ protection, and social security.[5] It outlines the ways that each of these sectors must implement equal rights and the process for bringing an equal rights violation complaint to the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson.[6]
 
The latest policy initiative directed at gender equality is the National Equal Opportunities Program 2010-2014. Its objectives include: creating opportunities for older women to reenter the workforce; engaging more women, particularly in rural areas, in economic activity; reducing the disparity in pay between men and women; encouraging a more equal division of family/work responsibilities between men and women in the home; and including more women’s voices in policymaking.[7] Professor Audrius Bitinas, vice-minister of the Ministry of Social Security and Labor and Chairman of the Commission of Equal Opportunities for Women, presented the 2010-2014 Program at the European Information Office of the Seimas in May 2012. The overarching goal of the Program is to carry out the current Law on Equal Opportunities “in a consistent, complex, and methodical manner.” The Information Portal and Electronic Network for Women were improved as part of the program, and the European Institute for Gender Equality launched a Lithuanian version of its website.[8]
 
Domestic violence
 
In a breakthrough for domestic violence legislation, Lithuania passed its first Law on Protection Against Domestic Violence in May 2011. Previously, domestic violence was prosecuted under general assault laws.[9] The new law requires police to investigate reports of domestic violence even if the victim does not press charges. The law involves a multifaceted approach:[10]
  • It defines all forms of domestic violence;
  • It identifies the perpetrator and circle of victims that he/she affects;
  • It allows prosecutors to lay criminal charges under the law in the case of family violence;
  • It provides services for victims’ safety and recovery, for children, and for rehabilitation of offenders;
  • It develops a database on domestic violence to analyze and research its effects on society; and
  • It employs the media to combat domestic violence.
NGOs, such as The Women Against Violence in Europe (WAVE) network and the Vilnius Women’s House, worked closely with legislators to prepare the law in accordance with the Austrian model.[11] Goals that the WAVE network particularly supported include the law’s provision for excluding the offender from the victim’s home and surroundings as imposed by a court order and the establishment of support centers for victims that will be run by NGOs and funded by the government.[12] In the four months after the law took effect in December, 2011, Lithuanian police received over 10,000 reports of domestic violence and initiated 3,300 investigations.[13] From the law’s entry into force on December 15, 2011 to the end of the year, police fielded about 3,000 calls reporting domestic violence and launched 935 investigations.[14] This indicates a marked impact, considering that police conducted only 471 investigations based on 25,673 reports in the first half of 2011.[15]
 
Although gender-based violence has been recognized as a serious issue for many years, the Lithuanian government paid little attention to this issue until 2006. Surveys indicate that 56 percent of divorced women and 15 percent of married women have suffered from domestic violence.[16] Women’s NGOs have been active in the field of domestic violence, providing shelters and psychological support for victims as well as promoting legal advocacy and contributing to legislative efforts. Many women’s NGOs received support from international donors, such as Open Society Fund-Lithuania; the United Nations Development Program; and the embassies of the US, UK, Netherlands, and Nordic countries.
 
NGOs had been advocating for the adoption of a national action plan to reduce domestic violence, and on December 22, 2006, the Lithuanian government adopted the National Strategy for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 2007-2009.[17] Enacted in accordance with the Council of Europe Campaign to Combat Violence against Women, the strategy’s goals are defined through 2015, but will be implemented through three action plans every three years.[18] The first action plan ran from 2007-2009 and the second is ongoing from 2010-2012. The objectives of the program are to introduce complex measures to reduce violence against women in Lithuania.[19] This strategy identifies three main priorities to contribute effectively to combating violence against women. First, it seeks to improve the legal framework surrounding domestic violence. Second, it introduces complex measures to support victims of domestic violence. Finally, it creates programs to help perpetrators change their aggressive behavior and to raise public awareness about the issue.[20]
 
On March 26, 2013, the Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights unanimously held that Lithuania violated Article 3 (prohibition of torture and of inhumane or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights. A Lithuanian national who was a victim of domestic violence brought the case based on the authorities’ failure to investigate her allegations of ill-treatment and to bring her partner to account.
 
The victim began to seek help immediately after the violence occurred in 2001; however, authorities failed to investigate the case and delayed the process for many years until the case was refused in 2007, without examination, as the prosecution had become time-barred. Therefore, the Court held that the authorities had not provided the victim with adequate protection against acts of domestic violence and that this constitutes a violation of Article 3 of the Convention.
 
The Judgment may be found here.
 
Sexual Assault
 
In response to the CEDAW committee’s concluding comments, the Lithuanian government in 2003 changed the Criminal Code to define rape “without any reservations as sexual intercourse against a person’s will.”[21] Article 149 of the current version of the Criminal Code stipulates that “a person who has sexual intercourse with a person against his will by using physical violence or threatening the immediate use thereof or by otherwise depriving of a possibility of resistance or by taking advantage of the helpless state of the victim” is guilty of rape.[22] Gang rape, the rape of a minor, and the rape of a young child are also included. The Code requires terms of imprisonment up to 15 years.[23]
 
Existing rape statistics are very poor and do not include data about marital rape. In the National Strategy on Reduction of Violence Against Women 2007-2009 the government identified the invisibility of marital rape in Lithuania as a result of deeply-rooted traditions regarding women’s domestic obligations. While the Criminal Code does not explicitly mention “marital” or “spousal” rape in Article 149, it does not exclude marital rape, nor does it allow marriage as a defense for rape. The definition of committing sexual assault, as “a person who, against a person’s will, satisfies his sexual desires through anal, oral, or interfemoral intercourse by using physical violence or by threatening the immediate use thereof or by otherwise depriving the victim of a possibility of resistance or by taking advantage of the helpless state of the victim,” could clearly be construed to include rape within a marriage.[24] The 2010 and 2011 U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Reports consider spousal rape criminalized under Lithuanian law. There were 208 rapes reported in 2010, up from 144 the previous year,[25] and 191 rapes reported in 2011.[26]
 
Sexual harassment
 
Sexual harassment is defined in the Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, as well as the Criminal Code. This law defines the concept of sexual harassment in the workplace and stipulates liability for harassment.
 
According to Dr. Daiva Petrylaite of Vilnius University, the law did not cover other forms of sexual harassment—such as verbal abuse, psychological pressure or attempts to have sex with the victim—until amendments to the Law on Equal Opportunities of Women and Men redefined sexual harassment in 2005.[27] The Criminal Code used to describe sexual harassment as harassing a subordinate in the workplace through “vulgar or comparable actions” or by soliciting sexual contact.[28] Following Directive 2002/73/EC of the European Parliament, Lithuania amended the Law on Equal Opportunities and redefined sexual harassment in its Criminal Code.[29] The new definition of sexual harassment includes “any form of unwanted and insulting verbal, written, or physical conduct of a sexual nature with a person with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating, or offensive environment.”[30] Also according to the new version of the law, the burden of proof falls on the person accused of violating equal rights rather than on the accuser.[31]
 
The Equal Opportunities Ombudsman’s Office reported in 2010 that an estimated 20 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment.[32] The law allows anyone to submit a sexual harassment complaint to the Ombudsman’s Office as an equal rights violation. Nevertheless, the Office received only two complaints during 2010, an indication that women hesitate to report harassment to the authorities even if the burden of proof now falls on the accused.[33] 2011 was the first year in the Ombudsman’s Office history when no complaints regarding sexual harassment were received. However, the Office received some anonymous calls asking how to recognize sexual harassment and how to collect the evidence.[34]
 
Trafficking in human persons and prostitution
 
In 2002, Lithuania ratified the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and, in 2003, the UN Protocol on Prevention of Trafficking of Women and Children. Recalling the commitments made during the EU accession process, the Lithuanian government developed the Control and Prevention of Trafficking and Prostitution Program 2002-2004. This program and its subsequent versions, one extending from 2005-2008 and the current Program for Prevention and Control of Trafficking in Human Beings 2009-2012, have prompted positive evaluations from the U.S. government with regard to Lithuanian policy directed at trafficking. Approved by the Lithuanian government in 2009, the present program aims to eliminate human trafficking at state and local levels and prevent prostitution. With special focus on regional and international cooperation, the national interdepartmental Task Force against Trafficking in Human Beings is responsible for implementing the program’s activities, including projects for assistance to trafficking victims. The Ministry of Interior serves as the chair of the Task Force.[35]
 
Although the program brought awareness to the issue on a national level and helped frame trafficking and buying sex as human rights violations, NGOs criticized the implementation of the program, because limited funding compromised its efficacy. However, the program was able to effect a change in attitudes of the police towards human trafficking, and in 2006 a special police unit was established to combat trafficking.[36] Police data showed that the police conducted 21 criminal investigations on trafficking and identified 53 people who could be involved in trafficking in 2011.[37] Police also prosecuted 30 people for trafficking in 2011, compared with 11 investigations conducted in 2009 and 20 people prosecuted in 2008, indicating that the special police unit is achieving increased success.[38]
 
In its Concluding Observations in 2008, CEDAW called on the Lithuanian government to bolster its efforts to implement the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which includes a Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.[39] Because trafficking based on sexual exploitation, especially in Eastern Europe, generally involves transporting women to other countries in order to meet sex buyers’ demand, efforts to prevent trafficking require international cooperation. CEDAW emphasized that the Convention provisions should take precedence over national laws and identified the lack of familiarity of legal personnel with the Convention as an obstacle to incorporating it into the legal framework.[40] Recommendations to the state included holding legal literacy campaigns, especially for women in rural areas, and providing more financial backing to NGOs that work on women’s issues.[41]
 
In its Fifth Periodic Report to CEDAW released in 2011, the Lithuanian government announced that it had signed the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings 2005 on February 12, 2008. The Convention, which came into force November 1, 2012, applies to all trafficking of human beings, whether on a national or transnational level and whether as part of an organized crime ring or not.[42] The report also stated that Lithuania included trafficking in a newly worded version of the Law on Compensation of Damage Caused by Violent Offenses, which entered into force in 2009.[43] Through 15 different social assistance projects, 922 people, of which over 800 were “potential” victims of trafficking and the rest were actual victims, received psychological, medical, legal, social, or informational services during the reporting period.[44]
 
The 2012 U.S. Government Report on Trafficking in Persons classified Lithuania as a “Tier 1” country, meaning that it follows the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims’ Protection Act (TVPA). Lithuania is a “source, transit, and destination country” for sex trafficking and prosecutors estimate that at least 1,200 Lithuanian women fall victim to trafficking each year. Nevertheless, the government identified twice as many victims and made three times as many anti-trafficking investigations in 2011 than in the previous year. The Report recommended more support for trafficking victims, especially during trial, and significant efforts to raise public awareness both for potential victims and for the role of the sex buyer in trafficking. Further, the report found that, although it had increased from 2010, the state’s spending on trafficking victims was low considering the number of victims identified. While the report acknowledged the challenges that the government faces with regard to funding, it encouraged Lithuania to make spending on this program a priority. Overall, the report concluded that Lithuania “demonstrated improved efforts to assist victims of human trafficking during the reporting period.”[45]
 
Resources
 
Gender Equality
Republic of Lithuania, National Program on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men. 2010-2014, (in Lithuanian)
 
Executive Summary of the Community Initiative Equal in Lithuania 2004-2006
 
European Commission, “Exchange of good practices on gender equality comments paper- Lithuania,” May 2011,
 
Republic of Lithuania, Law on Equal Opportunities of Women and Men, 13 March 2012, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=421709&p_query=&p_tr2=2
 
Domestic Violence
 
Pilinkaite-Sotirovic, Vilana, Adopting a New Domestic Violence Law in Lithuania,The Advocates for Human Rights Stop Violence Against Women, Expert’s Corner, http://bit.ly/103kPtW.
 
Ellingen, Mary, Commentary to the Draft Law on the Amendment to Article 3.65, Part 2, Item 1, of the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania, The Advocates for Human Rights Stop Violence Against Women, Expert’s Corner, http://bit.ly/103kPtW.
 
Sexual Assault
Government of the Republic of Lithuania, Resolution No. 1497 on the Endorsement of the Report under the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 25 November 2004, http://bit.ly/YZ71hz.
 
Republic of Lithuania, Law on the Approval and Entry into Force of the Criminal Code, 11 February 2010, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_e?p_id=366707&p_query=&p_tr2=2.
 
http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=306081
 
Sexual Harassment
Petrylaite, Daiva. XX World Congress of Labor and Social Security Law, “Answers to Questionnaire ‘Sexual Harassment and Mobbing at the Workplace,’” 2011, http://bit.ly/Ytvyin.
 
Republic of Lithuania, Law on the Approval and Entry into Force of the Criminal Code, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_e?p_id=353941.
 
Trafficking in Human Persons and Prostitution
 
Trafficking in Persons Report 2012, U.S. Department of State, http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2012/192367.htm.
 
European Commission, “Together Against Trafficking in Human Beings- Lithuania,” 2012, http://bit.ly/10mlM0y
 
CEDAW, United Nations, Fifth periodic report of the States parties: Lithuania, 21 June 2011, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/CEDAW.C.LTU.5.pdf.
 
 
 
 
[1] Press Center of the President of the Republic of Lithuania, “The president suggests a global map of human rights,” 21 June 2012, http://www.president.lt/en/press_center/press_releases/the_president_suggests_a_global_map_of_human_rights.html.
 
[2] Republic of Lithuania, National Program for Equal Opportunities of Women and Men 2003-2004, (in lithuanian)
Republic of Lithuania, National Program for Equal Opportunities of Women and Men 2005-2009, (in lithuanian)
Republic of Lithuania, National Program for Equal Opportunities of Women and Men 2010-2014, (in lithuanian)
 
[3] Europa, “European Year of Equal Opportunities (2007) – Towards a Just Society,” 2009, http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/other/c10314_en.htm.
 
[4] Republic of Lithuania, Law on Equal Opportunities of Women and Men, 13 March 2012, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=421709&p_query=&p_tr2=2.
 
[5] European Commission, “Exchange of good practices on gender equality comments paper- Lithuania,” May 2011, http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/files/exchange_of_good_practice_be/lt_comments_paper_en.pdf.
 
[6] Republic of Lithuania, Law on Equal Opportunities of Women and Men, 13 March 2012, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=421709&p_query=&p_tr2=2.
 
[7] Official Gazette, The state of women and men equal opportunities program for the years 2010-2014, 15 May 2010, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=372298&p_query=&p_tr2=.
 
[8] The European Institute for Gender Equality, “The Seimas discussed relevant matters of equal opportunities for women and men,” 9 May 2012, http://www.eige.europa.eu/content/news-article/the-seimas-discussed-relevant-matters-of-equal-opportunities-for-women-and-men.
 
[9] Bennhold, Katrin. The New York Times, “U.N. Women’s Agency Publishes Sobering Report on Lack of Gender Equality,” 6 July 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/07/world/07iht-women07.html?_r=1.
 
[10] Republic of Lithuania, Law on protection against domestic violence, 26 May 2011.
 
[11] The Austrian model of intervention in domestic violence cases
 
[12] Women Against Violence Europe, “Lithuanian Parliament has passed The Protection From Violence Law 2011,” 2011, http://www.wave-network.org/start.asp?ID=23858&b=151.
 
[13] The Lithuania Tribune, “New domestic violence law starts to bite,” 25 April 2012, http://www.lithuaniatribune.com/2012/04/25/new-domestic-violence-laws-start-to-bite/.
 
[14] U.S. State Department, 2011 Human Rights report: Lithuania, 2012, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm - wrapper.
 
[15] U.S. State Department, 2011 Human Rights report: Lithuania, 2012, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm - wrapper.
 
[16] U.S. State Department, 2010 Human Rights report: Lithuania, 8 April 2011, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/eur/154435.htm.
 
[17] CEDAW, United Nations, Information provided in follow-up to the concluding observations of the Committee- Lithuania, 2 November 2010, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/CEDAW.C.LTU.CO.4.Add.1.pdf.
 
[18] Council of Europe, “Lithuanian Final Report on National Campaign action carried out within the framework of the Council of Europe Campaign to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence,” http://bit.ly/14L1Skz.
 
[19] CEDAW, United Nations, Information provided in follow-up to the concluding observations of the Committee- Lithuania, 2 November 2010, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/CEDAW.C.LTU.CO.4.Add.1.pdf.
 
[20] Id.
 
[21] Government of the Republic of Lithuania, Resolution No. 1497 on the Endorsement of the Report under the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 25 November 2004, http://bit.ly/XVqzDa.
 
[22] Republic of Lithuania, Law on the Approval and Entry into Force of the Criminal Code, 11 February 2010, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_e?p_id=366707&p_query=&p_tr2=2.
 
[23] Id.
 
[24] Id.
 
[25] U.S. State Department, 2010 Human Rights report: Lithuania, 8 April 2011, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/eur/154435.htm.
 
[26] U.S. State Department, 2011 Human Rights report: Lithuania, 2012, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?dlid=186374.
 
[27] Petrylaite, Daiva. XX World Congress of Labor and Social Security Law, “Answers to Questionnaire ‘Sexual Harassment and Mobbing at the Workplace,’” 2011, http://bit.ly/Ytvyin.
 
[28] Republic of Lithuania, Law on the Approval and Entry into Force of the Criminal Code, 9 July 2009, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_e?p_id=353941.
 
[29] Petrylaite, Daiva. XX World Congress of Labor and Social Security Law, “Answers to Questionnaire ‘Sexual Harassment and Mobbing at the Workplace,’” 2011, http://bit.ly/Ytvyin.
 
[30] Republic of Lithuania, Law on Equal Opportunities of Women and Men, 13 March 2012, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=421709&p_query=&p_tr2=2.
 
[31] Id.
 
[32] U.S. State Department, 2010 Human Rights report: Lithuania, 8 April 2011, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/eur/154435.htm
 
[33] Id.
 
[34] The Equal Opportunities Ombudsman’s Office Report 2011,
 
[35] European Crime Prevention Network, “Crime Prevention Policies- Prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation”, http://www.eucpn.org/policies/results.asp?category=1&country=15.
 
[36] Government of Lithuania, Resolution on Trafficking Prevention and Control 2005-2008 Program, 2005, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter2/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=256148.
[37] European Commission, “Together Against Trafficking in Human Beings- Lithuania,” 2012, http://bit.ly/10mlM0y.
 
[38] Id.
 
[39] CEDAW, United Nations, Draft concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Lithuania, 8 July 2008, http://www.bayefsky.com/pdf/lithuania_t4_cedaw_41_draft.pdf.
 
[40] Id.
 
[41] Id.
 
[42] CEDAW, United Nations, Fifth periodic report of the States parties: Lithuania, 21 June 2011, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/CEDAW.C.LTU.5.pdf.
 
[43] Id.
 
[44] Id.
 
[45] U.S. State Department, Trafficking in Persons Report 2012, 19 June 2012, http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2012/index.htm.