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4th April 2024
Another Call from Europe: Ensuring the Rights of Transgender People

According to the European Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), as many as 65% of transgender people in Lithuania felt discriminated against in at least one area of life within a year, whether it was at a university, a healthcare institution, a café or a bar, etc.
This is also confirmed by interviews with transgender people conducted by the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson*. The accounts reveal that discriminatory experiences based on gender identity or gender expression are common.
The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, has released a new document outlining the challenges faced by transgender and non-binary individuals in Europe, along with recommendations for Council of Europe member states.

What is the first step Lithuania needs to take?

The Council of Europe makes 15 key recommendations on how to better guarantee the rights of transgender individuals. These include legislative changes, ensuring access to necessary healthcare services, and gathering statistics on transgender individuals.
Senior Adviser Ieva Laugalytė, from the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson, says Lithuania needs to take the first steps and start with the basics:
“Among other valuable insights, the recommendations call for national legislation to recognize gender identity and expression as grounds for non-discrimination. In our context, this should include changes to the Law on Equal Treatment. Incorporating gender identity into the law would eliminate legal ambiguity, enabling us to address instances of discrimination against transgender individuals and investigate complaints. It would also signal to transgender individuals that the state acknowledges the existence of discrimination based on gender identity and assures them of receiving justice when confronted with it.”

A Continuing Reminder to Lithuania

According to the Office representative, Lithuania often receives recommendations of this kind, but fails to implement them.

“Lithuania is constantly reminded by international human rights mechanisms to ensure equality and protection for transgender individuals against discrimination. For instance, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women specifically recommended that Lithuania ‘legally recognize by law that discrimination against women on the grounds of gender reassignment constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex’. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights urged Lithuania to ‘adopt legislative measures to legally recognize gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination’. It is regrettable that we have yet to guarantee the principle of equal rights enshrined in the Constitution,” says Ieva Laugalytė.

The Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson consistently recommends in its annual activity reports the inclusion of gender identity as a basis for non-discrimination in the Law on Equal Treatment. Unfortunately, these recommendations have not been heeded so far.

*The qualitative study is a part of the project Centering the Voices of Transgender People, carried out together with the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud in Norway

The project is funded by EEA and Norway Grants.