10 07 2014
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the fifth periodic report of Lithuania on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Introducing the report, Gintaras Klimavicius, Vice-Minister, Ministry of Social Security and Labour, said that Lithuania had been a full member of the European Union since 2004 and its legislation had been harmonized with the European Union’s progressive gender equality law. The Third National Programme on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men 2010-2014 ensured the dynamic promotion of gender equality in all areas; long-term attention to women’s issues and work on eliminating inequalities had led to a high percentage of well-educated women, a small gap between employment rates of women and men, a significant decrease in the pay gap and almost 40 per cent representation of women managers in the public sector.
Committee Members commended Lithuania for passing a number of important legislative initiatives to ensure gender equality and address violence against women, including domestic violence, but expressed concern that the de facto equality between women and men had still not been achieved. Despite the efforts undertaken by the Government, trafficking in persons remained a concern and Lithuania continued to be a country of origin, transit and destination. Other issues raised during the discussion included statelessness and nationality, the situation of rural women and the participation of Roma in decision-making.
The delegation of Lithuania included representatives of the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, Education Development Centre, the Statistics Department, and the Permanent Mission of Lithuania to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
Mr. Klimavicius, in his concluding remarks said that Lithuania was actively taking steps to implement the provisions of the Convention and it was striving for substantial and de facto equality between women and men. Further efforts were needed to implement certain provisions of the Convention and the Committee’s concluding observations.
Violeta Neubauer, Committee Vice-Chairperson, in her concluding remarks, commended Lithuania for its efforts and encouraged it to take steps to address the concluding observations for a more comprehensive implementation of the Convention throughout its entire territory.
07 07 2014
This week the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) runs it’s 58th session where the report of the Republic of Lithuania is addressed. Thanks to the support from EEA Grants (NGO Programme in Lithuania) two representatives of the Center for Equality Advancement – Director Virginija Aleksejūnė and Legal Expert Laima Vaigė – are also taking part in the session.
Lithuania has put efforts to implement the Concluding observations of the CEDAW Committee adopted in 2008. However, some concerns remain. In particular, we would like to highlight de-gendering policies, temporary special measures, violence against women, reproductive health issues, and awareness of the CEDAW.
We consider it a dangerous trend that gender equality is seen as an issue from the past rather than pressing actuality. While the society grows more gendered, the laws and programs are developing to the opposite direction, and the gender dimension is often lost.
For instance, the newly adopted National program on Domestic violence (28 May 2014) does not mention gender-based violence, does not foresee the need to address patriarchal stereotypes prevalent in the country, which often are the cause of such violence. Women rights organisations fear that the draft Action plan under this Program undermines the role of the NGOs. Moreover, in 2014 the Ministry of Social Security and Labour initiated discussions on termination of the National Program of Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, notwithstanding the evidence-based research about the absence of systematic gender mainstreaming strategy in state institutions.
Thus, we would like to ask what steps are foreseen to ensure gender equality in Lithuania, at the regulatory, institutional and policy levels, and whether it will be reflected in the budget.
Temporary special measures
Up till now Lithuania has ignored the recommendation of CEDAW Committee to adopt laws on temporary special measures or quotas to ensure gender balance in political and public life. Despite recommendation for simplification, the procedure of adopting temporary special measures remains complicated – each measure has to be entrenched by special law. Thus, we suggest asking about the intentions to adopt temporary special measures in Lithuania, and/or simplifying the procedure of their adoption.
Violence against women
By adopting the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence, Lithuania brought major positive changes in the area of combating gender-based violence. However, the first years of its implementation revealed a number of issues related to both legal loopholes in the Law and weaknesses in the application of the Law. The main concerns include: gender-blindness of the law and subsequent regulations (no recognition of gender dimension); absence of the effective monitoring mechanisms of protection orders; insufficient financial support for victim help centers and NGOs; lack of commitment for prevention of domestic violence; excessive application of reconciliation procedures; inadequate attention to police and judicial trainings, and lack of involvement of the health care sector.
Sexual violence against women remains an alarming issue which Lithuania has failed to address duly. The European Women’s Lobby’s in 2013 identified Lithuania as one of six European countries with legislation far below the minimum standards as set forth in the Council of Europe Convention on combating and preventing violence against women and domestic violence. No strong condemnation of marital rape, lack of its explicit criminalization, and lack of statistical data were seen as the main issues of concern.
Thus, we suggest to ask whether the state intends to introduce the concept of gender-based violence in the national legislation or subsequent regulations, and what are the steps foreseen for improving the protection of gender-based violence victims, including those who suffered sexual violence.
Reproductive health concerns
The state continues to consider legislative initiatives restricting access to safe and legal abortions. In 2013 a new draft law on restricting abortions has been debated in the Parliament. Furthermore, no reproductive health legislation has been adopted to this date, although many drafts have been considered.
The access to modern contraception in Lithuania is one of the lowest in Europe. Meanwhile, the guidelines for sexual education at schools grounds sexuality on chastity (purity), focuses on dangers of contraception, argues against abortions, and claims that homosexuality can be cured. Sexual education is largely limited to promotion of abstinence, which is left for the girls to ensure before marriage.
Various studies show the continuing presence of rooted stereotypes and discrimination associated with gender in secondary schools and high-schools.
Thus we suggest asking whether the state intends to adopt a law on reproductive health issues and what steps are intended for improving the access to contraception and non-bias sexual education.
Awareness of the CEDAW
Finally, we would like to raise the issue of public awareness of the CEDAW as one of the fundamental human rights instruments, and of the Committee’s General recommendations and concluding observations. Unfortunately, it remains very low, there has been no national case-law referring to the Convention or the Committee’s General recommendations so far.
We suggest inquiring on the possible reasons for the lack of awareness of the CEDAW.
Our complete shadow report and some useful links can be found below.
19 06 2014
In April, Lindis Sloan and Mari Helenedatter Aarbakke at KUN attended a forum in Lithuania where human rights and gender equality NGOs from the Baltic Sea Region approached each other, most of us for the very first time. Many participants pointed to the paradox that they have so few contacts in neighboring countries with a similar problematic and cultural framework. Strangely it had seemed more logical to attend gender equality conferences in Spain or France, then to look to one’s closest neighbors for network and shared experience.
The forum was part of the project “Global Rights, Local Actions: Women’s Voice for Progress” that is lead by GAP Center for Equality Advancement in Lithuania, partnered by KUN Center for Gender Equality, and funded by the EEA grants. The main goal of the forum was to establish common ground between NGOs of the Baltic Sea Region, and to gain new knowledge through each other and through the partnership with Norway.
It quickly became evident that the situation regarding gender equality is similar across all our borders. Legislation and numbers may vary, but the tendencies are the same everywhere both with regards to gender-based violence, representation and imbalance between work and family life.
One of our main concerns and topics for discussion was the strength of the conservative wave on abortion and women’s rights that is currently moving through Europe. A conservative group in Lithuania with both political and religious influence is trying to end free access to abortion for Lithuanian women. They say they are doing this to uphold the wishes of the late pope John Paul II, thus making it unnecessary to meet resistance with any real arguments. In Lithuania there has been free access to abortion since 1950s.
Similar processes have been happening in many European countries, the discourse is becoming more conservative, including the Scandinavian countries. During the Nordic Forum in Malmø last week, many of the main speakers addressed the fact that fascistic ideology once more is on the rise all over Europe, gaining democratic support in elections both at national and EU levels. This ideology also echoes through the work of the numerous “haters” on the web who abuse and threaten women and minorities of all kinds. No government has so far taken active measures against this new democratic threat online, giving it the opportunity to grow large and strong without any real objection. Our silence and ignorance is its greatest ally.
25 02 2014
Public figures and human rights activists held a protest action against the Parliament’s plans to ban the right of women to terminate unwanted pregnancies. During the photo session in front of the Parliament activists holding signs with various phrases called the proposed ban on abortions a hypocrisy and draw attention to the consequences of this initiative − spread of illegal abortions, threat to women’s health and lives, deny of women’s right to private and family life.
More in Lithuanian.