Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape and domestic violence are criminal offenses. Penalties for domestic violence depend on the level of injury to the victim, ranging from required public service to life imprisonment. In the first eight months of the year, authorities received 74 reports of rape, compared with 122 during the same period in 2015. Convicted rapists generally received prison sentences of three to five years. NGOs reported that sexual violence against women, including from intimate partners, remained a problem. No law specifically criminalizes spousal rape, and no data on spousal rape was available.
The penalties for domestic violence depend on the level of injury inflicted on the victim. The law permits rapid government action in domestic violence cases. For example, police and other law enforcement officials may, with court approval, require perpetrators to live apart from their victims, avoid all contact with them, and surrender any weapons they may possess.
Domestic violence remained a pervasive problem. The NGO Human Rights Monitoring Group contended that one in three women suffered from physical, psychological, or sexual abuse. In the first eight months of the year, police received 33,453 domestic violence calls and started 6,718 pretrial investigations, including 24 for murder.
Municipal governments and NGOs funded and operated 20 specialized regional help centers for victims of domestic violence. The national government fully funded two others. One of the latter, the Shelter for Children and Mothers, located in Vilnius, assisted more than 100 victims of domestic violence and human trafficking during the year.
During the year the Ministry of Social Security and Labor increased assistance for victims of domestic violence, allocating 670,000 euros ($737,000), compared with 266,000 euros ($292,600) in 2015. The ministry selected six NGOs to provide specialized assistance to victims of domestic violence. These organizations assisted more than 8,000 such victims in 2015.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but women who experienced it remained reluctant to approach police or other institutions because of lack of confidence that authorities would respond and because of the perceived stigma associated with making such matters public. In the first eight months of the year, the equal opportunities ombudsman received no complaints of sexual harassment. On June 7, parliament passed an amendment to the Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men banning gender-based harassment. Under this law employers are responsible for ensuring that employees are not subjected to gender-based harassment and sexual harassment at work.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the basic right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion and violence.
Discrimination: Men and women have the same legal status and rights. Women nevertheless continued to face discrimination. The law requires equal pay for equal work, but women often earned less than their male counterparts.
Birth Registration: Citizenship can be acquired either by birth in the country or from one’s parents. The government registered all births promptly.
Child Abuse: NGOs noted that, despite a multi-year effort to combat violence against children, many problems continued. In 2015 according to the latest information from the Department of Statistics, 19,043 children lived in 9,757 “at-risk” families, including those experiencing substance abuse, unemployment, and other socioeconomic problems. Media frequently reported instances of cruelty to children, including sexual abuse, intentional starvation, and beating. The Department of Statistics registered 1,669 reports of violence against children in 2015. The children’s rights ombudsman reported receiving 154 complaints in the first eight months of the year.
The ombudsman for children’s rights reported that government efforts to combat child abuse and aid abused children were ineffective. In the first eight months of the year, Child Line (a hotline for children and youth) received 421,697 telephone calls from children but, because of limited human and financial resources, it could respond only to 192 calls. Child Line also answered 883 letters from children, whose concerns ranged from relations with their parents and friends to family violence and sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse of children remained a problem despite prison sentences of up to 13 years for the crime. In the first eight months of the year, the Ministry of Interior recorded 33 cases of child rape and 98 cases involving other forms of child sexual abuse. The government operated a children’s support center to provide special care for children who suffered from violence, including sexual violence. On June 3, the minister of social security and labor opened a center in Vilnius to provide legal, psychological, and medical assistance to sexually abused children and their families.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriages for girls and boys is 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Individuals involving a child in pornographic events or using a child in the production of pornographic material are subject to imprisonment for up to five years. During the same period, the Office of the Ombudsman for Children’s Rights reported that it received one complaint and initiated one investigation of sexual exploitation of children. No information was available about the number of persons convicted of sexually exploiting children. According to the Ministry of Interior, officials opened five criminal cases involving child pornography during the first eight months of the year. The age of consent is 16.
Displaced Children: Street children were widely scattered among the country’s cities. Most were runaways or from dysfunctional families. According to the Missing Persons Families Support Center, 3,241 persons, including 2,048 children, were reported missing in 2015.
A number of free, government-sponsored programs assisted displaced children. Government bodies and numerous NGOs administered 60 agencies protecting children’s rights to aid vulnerable children.
Institutionalized Children: In 2015, 3,868 orphans and other children in need of care resided in the country’s 95 orphanages, including 17 operated by NGOs and 52 large-family foster homes. There were five boarding schools for children with disabilities. As of September 1, the children’s rights ombudsman received three complaints and started one investigation regarding children’s rights violations in these institutions. Under the law children under the age of three are sent to guardianship institutions only in exceptional cases when they need specialized health care, nursing, or when the family or municipality cannot provide a child with proper care. To speed up the adoption process, the law also limits a child’s stay in an orphanage to 12 months as opposed to the longstanding pattern of temporary care in orphanages lasting five years or longer, representing one of the main obstacles to children’s adoption by new families.
NGOs, child welfare experts, and psychologists contended that the country’s orphanages were detrimental to child development, leading to a wide range of social problems, such as delinquency, social exclusion, and vulnerability to trafficking and prostitution. In March 2015 prosecutors announced an investigation into allegations that the director of the Viesvile Orphanage sexually exploited boys in his care. These allegations followed a January announcement that prosecutors were investigating the Sveksna School–a residential institution for children with special needs–for hosting a prostitution ring in which 15- to 17-year-old residents prostituted younger female residents. The director was dismissed during the pretrial investigation, which continued at year’s end.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The Jewish community consisted of approximately 4,000 persons. There were reports of anti-Semitic acts and vandalism throughout the year. For example, on April 28, a window of the Lithuanian Jewish community center was broken. On May 2, police opened a pretrial investigation into the incident.
Anti-Semitic expression was especially evident on the internet.
Police had instructions to take preemptive measures against illegal activities, giving special attention to maintaining order on specific historical dates and certain religious or cultural holidays.
On February 16, the Lithuanian Nationalist Union held its annual march in Kaunas. Media estimated that 250-300 participants marched, fewer than in 2015. Police were present to monitor the event, and there were no reports of violence. As in past years, participants chanted the slogan “Lithuania for Lithuanians.” Some groups, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, observed the march and reported the presence of Nazi-like symbols.
On May 5, the March of the Living took place at the Paneriai Memorial in Vilnius. The march retraced the route of residents of the Vilnius ghetto to the massacre awaiting them in the Paneriai Forest.
On June 6, President Dalia Grybauskaite signed into law amendments to the country’s citizenship law to ensure Jews of Lithuanian descent and others were able to obtain citizenship. The law reduces bureaucratic obstacles by making it easier for applicants to prove their departure from the country prior to the Second World War.
On August 5, Minister of Culture Sarunas Birutis signed a decree designating the Jewish cemetery in Snipiskes, Vilnius, as a cultural object protected by the state.
In August and September, senior officials and thousands of citizens took part in ceremonies throughout the country to honor the memory of Lithuanian Jews massacred during the Holocaust, marking the 75th anniversary of the event. On August 29, President Dalia Grybauskaite led a remembrance ceremony at a mass murder site in the town of Moletai. In September the Lithuanian Human Rights Center installed memorials known as “stumbling stones” in the memory of 20 Holocaust victims in Vilnius, Kaunas, Siauliai, and Panevezys. On September 23, a monument to the massacred children of the Vilnius ghetto was unveiled in the Brothers Garden of the city’s only Jewish school, the Sholom Aleichem Gymnasium. The same day Vice-Speaker of the Parliament Gediminas Kirkilas, Chancellor of the Government Alminas Maciulis and Minister of Defense Juozas Olekas participated in the annual commemoration ceremony at the Paneriai memorial site.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, although it does not specify the type of disabilities. It prohibits discrimination in housing, transport, telecommunications, judiciary, and cultural and leisure activities. There was no proactive enforcement of these requirements. By September 19, the equal opportunities ombudsman had investigated 27 cases of alleged discrimination based on disability (see section 7.d.).
The law mandates that buildings be accessible to persons with disabilities. According to the most recently available data from the Department of Statistics in 2012, the latest data available, nearly 52 percent of housing complied with this requirement.
In 2012 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the system for protecting persons with disabilities had serious practical and legal shortcomings. On March 27, parliament amended the civil code and the code of civil procedure to afford persons with mental disabilities greater rights during competency hearings.
Observers criticized the government for its approach to disability rights, including inaccessibility, forced hospitalization, human rights violations in closed institutions and psychiatric wards, restrictions on the right to vote and an inadequate mental health system, which remained among the least reformed areas in the health sector.
The government continued implementation of the National Strategy for Social Integration of People with Disabilities for 2013-19. During the year the Department for the Affairs of the Disabled obligated 13 million euros ($14.3 million) as part of this program.
The law prohibits discrimination against ethnic or national minorities, but intolerance and societal discrimination persisted. According to 2011 data from the Department of Statistics (the most recent available), approximately 14 percent of the population were members of minority ethnic groups, including Russians, Poles, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Tatars, Karaites, and Jews.
In the first eight months of the year, the Ministry of Interior reported 24 cases of alleged discrimination and incitement of racial, ethnic, religious, or other hatred, compared with 113 cases in 2015. Most of the instances investigated involved the internet. According to a former Vilnius County prosecutor, judges and other law enforcement officials seldom prosecuted these crimes, giving priority to “real-life” crimes with identifiable victims.
The country’s national day, February 16, when the state of Lithuania was restored in 1918, and March 11, the date the country declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1990, continued to be occasions for nationalist manifestations. Marchers chanted the slogan “Lithuania for Lithuanians” on both occasions.
The small Romani community (approximately 3,000 persons) continued to experience discrimination in access to education, housing, health care, employment, and relations with police, although there were no official charges of police abuse. Extreme poverty, illiteracy, and perceived high criminality helped form the negative attitudes of mainstream society that resulted in the social exclusion of Roma. In addition 40 percent of Roma did not know the Lithuanian language. Most adult Roma had identification papers, but a few, although born in the country, were effectively stateless.
In April the Vilnius City Council began a Romani integration plan to move residents from their settlement to state housing in other parts of the city. In the first nine months of the year, the municipality moved six families; however, it could not find housing for three families whose residences were destroyed after being condemned by court order.
The government participated in two Romani commemoration events. On August 2, government representatives laid flowers at the Paneriai Memorial in Vilnius on International Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day. In September the Lithuanian Human Rights Center installed memorials known as “stumbling stones” in the memory of 20 Holocaust victims, including Roma, in Vilnius, Kaunas, Siauliai, and Panevezys.
Representatives of the Polish minority continued raising concerns about education for ethnic minorities in the country. They also complained about a legal requirement that all students, whether native Lithuanian speakers or not, complete a single, uniform Lithuanian language examination at the end of their studies. Restrictions on the use of Polish in street signs and on official documents, particularly passports, remained contentious. Authorities did not take any measures during the year to respond to these concerns. In two court cases on April 6 and June 22, however, Vilnius courts ordered the last names in the birth certificates of two Lithuanian citizens be spelled with the non-Lithuanian letter “W.”
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The antidiscrimination laws apply to LGBTI persons. Society’s attitude toward LGBTI persons remained largely negative. The few NGOs focusing on LGBTI problems did not face legal impediments. The Lithuanian Gay League (LGL) and Tolerant Youth Association (TYA) continued to promote an inclusive social environment for LGBTI persons.
The latest LGL research found that 54 percent of LGBTI persons surveyed experienced or witnessed instances of hate crimes or hate speech on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. Only 13 percent of respondents reported the incidents to law enforcement officials. For instance, in October 2015 the chair of the TYA, Arturas Rudomanskis, submitted a complaint to police, asking them to investigate text messages he received, including death threats. Vilnius County Police refused to initiate an investigation, noting there was not enough evidence that the threats could be carried out. The prosecutor’s office, district court, and appeal court all denied Rudomanskis’ subsequent appeal regarding the initiation of such an investigation. As of September his complaint was registered with the European Court of Human Rights.
An antipropaganda law enacted in 2009 served as a rationale for limiting LGBTI awareness-raising efforts (see section 2.a.). In July 2015 the European Commission’s Directorate General for Communication Networks, Content, and Technology began a formal investigation of a 2014 ruling by the Office of the Inspector of Journalistic Ethics that blocked television broadcast during regular broadcast hours of an LGBTI awareness video produced by the LGL. The office cited the law on protection of minors in blocking the broadcast.
On June 1, the court rejected a Belarusian man’s appeal for family reunification with his Lithuanian male spouse. The Migration Department had refused to issue him a residence permit, despite the fact that the law does not specify that reunification based on marriage must be between members of the opposite sex.
On June 18, approximately 2,000 people participated in the Baltic Pride march in Vilnius. Compared with the last march in 2013, municipal authorities showed more responsiveness in providing permits for the event, and there were fewer protesters or attempted disruptions.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
The NGO community reported that individuals with HIV/AIDS were often subject to discrimination, including in employment, and treated with fear and aversion.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
In the first eight months of the year, the equal opportunities ombudsman investigated 17 cases of age discrimination, including in employment, insurance, loans, and leases. The ombudsman found discrimination in a majority of these cases and made recommendations to the offending institutions.