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 100 reports of rape, compared with 74 during the same period in 2016. 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 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. In the first eight months of the year, police received 23,026 domestic violence calls and started 6,150 pretrial investigations, 30 of which were for killings, including of three infants.
The country has a 24/7 national hotline and 29 crisis centers for victims of domestic violence. On April 18, the Ministry of Social Security and Labor approved an Action Plan for Domestic Violence Prevention and Assistance to Victims for 2017-2020 and allocated 928,750 euros ($1.1 million) for the year.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but observers claimed that such cases were rarely investigated. On May 11, parliament amended the Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men to strengthen protection from harassment, including sexual harassment, for a person seeking employment.
As of September 28, the equal opportunities ombudsman received one complaint of sexual harassment, by an actress against a theater director, and determined it to be well founded, despite initial inaction by police. After the media reported the ombudsman’s finding in May, the Ministry of Culture fired the theater director.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
Discrimination: Men and women have the same legal status and rights. Women nevertheless continued to face discrimination.
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: Child abuse continued to be a significant problem. The Department of Statistics stated that 2,474 children allegedly suffered violence in 2016. The children’s rights ombudsman reported receiving 201 complaints in the first eight months of the year.
On January 24, a four-year-old boy was beaten to death by his mother and her partner in the town of Kedainiai. Following the incident, on February 14 parliament met in a special session devoted to the protection of children’s rights. During the session it banned all forms of violence against children, including corporal punishment.
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 235,471 telephone calls from children but, because of limited human and financial resources, could respond to only 121,259 calls. Child Line also answered 838 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 the Interior recorded 47 cases of child rape and 135 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. It also operated 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. The Office of the Ombudsman for Children’s Rights reported receiving four complaints of alleged sexual exploitation of children. According to the Ministry of the 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 Statistics Department, 2,209 children were missing in 2016.
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: As of January 1, temporary guardianship of a child (foster care) may not last longer than 12 months, and guardianship of a child under three years of age may take place in a child care institution only in exceptional cases and for no longer than three months.
In 2016 approximately 3,000 orphans and other children in need of care resided in the country’s 95 orphanages, including 17 operated by NGOs and 54 large-family foster homes. There were five boarding schools for children with disabilities. As of September 1, the children’s rights ombudsman received seven complaints and started three investigations 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 and led to a wide range of social problems, such as delinquency, social exclusion, and vulnerability to trafficking and prostitution. During the year courts issued decisions on abuse allegations in two institutions. The court sentenced the former director of the Viesvile orphanage to three years and 10 months, with a postponement for three years for sexually exploiting boys in his care. The court sentenced four men from the Sveksna residential institution to from two to 4.5 years in prison for sex with minors.
The Ministry of Social Security and Labor began the reorganization of institutional care, financed with 77.4 million euros ($92.3 million) until 2020. As part of this process, the ministry reorganized or closed childcare homes in eight municipalities and provided funding to increase the number of foster parents and improve services to children and families.
International Child Abductions: The country is 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 3,000 persons. There were reports of anti-Semitic expression, especially 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 150 participants marched, fewer than in 2016. 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.”
Following a year of more open public conversations about the country’s participation in the Holocaust, the annual Lithuanian Shrovetide festival or Carnival, “Uzgavenes,” received more media scrutiny than in prior years regarding the tradition of including anti-Semitic and anti-Roma stereotypes among various masked characters depicted during the celebration. For instance, organizers of an Uzgavenes event in Naisiai village published on social media illustrations reminiscent of anti-Semitic propaganda used by the Nazis. On February 24, the media reported that the chairman of the Parliamentary Culture Committee shared the post, drawing strong public rebukes from the Jewish community.
In January actress Asta Baukute gave a Nazi salute during a song contest, sparking concerns. The Jewish community criticized Baukute’s actions as inappropriate, and the Lithuanian National Radio and Television LRT subsequently cancelled the show.
The law enables Jews of Lithuanian descent and others to obtain citizenship. The law reduces bureaucratic obstacles by making it easier for applicants to prove their departure from the country prior to World War II.
On September 11, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis highlighted to American Jewish Congress International Relations director Rabbi Andy Baker his government’s support for Holocaust education and the need to preserve Jewish heritage.
Throughout the year, Lithuanian officials and citizens took part in ceremonies around the country to honor the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. On April 26, 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 site of their massacre in the Paneriai Forest. In September the International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in cooperation with tolerance education centers organized commemoration marches to mark the National Holocaust Remembrance day in Paneriai and 120 other places in the country. Prime Minister Skvernelis participated in both the April and September marches at Paneriai, together with other senior officials. During the September march, the prime minister stressed the need for increased Holocaust awareness in all areas of the country. On September 27, President Dalia Grybauskaite awarded Life Saving Crosses to 43 Lithuanians who rescued Jews during the Holocaust.
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. There was no proactive enforcement of these requirements. By September 28, the equal opportunities ombudsman investigated 31 cases of alleged discrimination based on disability (see section 7.d.).
Although the law mandates that buildings be accessible to persons with disabilities, according to the Lithuanian Disability Forum, approximately 50 percent of public buildings were not accessible for persons with disabilities.
On January 3, the equal opportunity ombudsperson found that 65 percent of voting stations were not accessible for persons with disabilities.
According to the Council of Europe, there were an estimated 15,000 persons under 18 with disabilities in the country. The law requires that all schools that provide compulsory and universally accessible education make available education to students with disabilities. The country has a tradition of separate schools for children with various disabilities, and the majority of children attended separate schools segregated from the mainstream educational facilities and system. According to the Lithuanian Disability Forum, only 16.5 percent of 109 schools inspected in the 2011-2015 period were accessible to persons with disabilities, with 31.2 percent having limited accessibility and 52.3 percent being completely inaccessible. The inspection also found only 40 percent of the buildings of establishments of higher education adapted to the needs of students with reduced mobility.
The law prohibits persons with disabilities who have been deprived of their legal capacity from voting or standing for election.
On January 1, amendments to the civil code and the code of civil procedure to afford persons with mental disabilities greater rights during competency hearings and to address shortcomings found by the ECHR in a 2012 decision came into effect. The government continued implementation of the National Strategy for Social Integration of Persons with Disabilities for 2013-19. During the year the Department for the Affairs of the Disabled obligated 16 million euros ($19 million) as part of this strategy, which provided support to social care institutions for persons with disabilities and funding for civil society organizations to improve services for persons with disabilities.
The law prohibits discrimination against ethnic or national minorities, but intolerance and societal discrimination persisted. According to the 2011 census, approximately 14 percent of the population were members of minority ethnic groups, including Russians, Poles, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Tatars, Karaites, and Jews.
According to a former Vilnius County prosecutor, judges and other law enforcement officials seldom prosecuted discrimination and incitement of racial, ethnic, religious, or other hatred on the internet, giving priority to “real-life” crimes with identifiable victims.
In April 2016 the Vilnius City Council began a Romani integration plan to move residents from their settlement to government housing in other parts of the city. As of October 11, it moved nine families.
Representatives of the Polish minority, approximately 200,000 persons according to the 2011 census, continued to raise 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.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The antidiscrimination laws apply to LGBTI persons, however societal attitudes toward LGBTI persons remained largely negative.
On June 16, the ECHR informed the government that it would consider a petition by Pijus Beizaras and Mangirdas Levickas regarding authorities’ refusal to investigate instances of homophobic hate speech online. The complainants claimed that the prosecutor’s office and the national courts unlawfully refused to open a pretrial investigation regarding homophobic online comments in response to a 2014 picture on a personal Facebook profile. The picture engendered more than 800 comments on the social network, with the majority of comments inciting violence against the two men pictured and the LGBTI community in general.
The law permits individuals to go through gender reassignment procedure, but civil authorities refused to register gender reassignment, since there was no corresponding legislation to enable gender reassignment procedures. On April 7 and May 2, the Vilnius City District Court ordered the Vilnius Civil Registry to change the personal identification documents of two transgender men.
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.