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24th January 2024
Discrimination Report Reveals Disturbing Trends in Lithuania: Heightened Prejudice Against LGBTI Individuals and Roma Community

Lithuanian residents identify sexual orientation, age, and belonging to the Roma nationality as the primary sources of widespread discrimination in the country, as indicated by the most recent survey conducted under the European Union research program “Eurobarometer.” The last instance of EU residents responding to identical questions occurred in 2019. The Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson has reviewed the latest survey results in Lithuania and analyzed the shifts in attitudes that have transpired over the past four years.

Enhanced Awareness of Discrimination Prevalence

A majority of Lithuanian residents acknowledge the widespread occurrence of discrimination based on sexual orientation, age, and Roma nationality, while instances related to religion and beliefs are less frequently perceived.

Notably, shifts in public perception have unfolded since 2019, revealing an amplified awareness of discrimination against specific groups in society. Over the past years, there has been a notable surge in the proportion of individuals recognizing discrimination linked to ethnic origin (increasing from 18% to 27%), being transgender (rising from 36% to 46%), and being intersex (growing from 28% to 40%). Miglė Kolinytė, an adviser at the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson, interprets these escalating figures as positive indicators. She emphasizes that the rising numbers reflect an increasing recognition and understanding of discrimination, demonstrating awareness of its existence and the societal groups most frequently affected.

M. Kolinytė suggests that societal changes, such as the influx of people from Ukraine due to the war and an overall rise in migration, contribute to a heightened awareness of discrimination. Media stories from migrant detention centers and challenges faced by newcomers in Lithuania have played a role in fostering increased recognition of discrimination, particularly on the grounds of ethnic origin. The evolving social landscape appears to be positively influencing public consciousness regarding discriminatory practices.

Roma and LGBTI+ people receive the most negative attitudes

The Eurobarometer survey not only measures people’s awareness of discrimination but also reveals their opinions. When asked about their preferences for the highest political post in Lithuania, a majority expressed dissatisfaction at the prospect of a transgender person (49%), a lesbian, gay, or bisexual individual (45%), or a person of Roma nationality holding the position. Respondents indicated the least discontent if the president were to be a woman, a young person, or a person with a disability.

The findings also underscore the significant role attitudes continue to play in the realm of employment. A notable 61 percent of respondents believe that age, whether too young or too old, could be considered a disadvantage for a job candidate. Additionally, 43 percent agree that a candidate’s disability might also be viewed as a drawback, and 42 percent express a similar opinion regarding being of Roma descent. Negative attitudes towards colleagues of specific identities are prevalent, with almost a third of the respondents expressing dissatisfaction at the prospect of working with an individual from the LGBTI+ community on a daily basis. Similarly, a quarter of respondents would not like to work alongside a Roma colleague.

A Dash of Positive Transformation

While Lithuanian attitudes are often ranked lower compared to other EU countries, it’s crucial to recognize the gradual positive changes taking place. In some instances, the reluctance to work with colleagues from specific backgrounds has significantly decreased. For example, in 2019, 21 percent of the population expressed discomfort working with a black colleague, and this figure has now dropped to 12 percent.

Though some changes may seem modest, they signify an improving landscape. Over the past four years, there has been a slight rise in the number of people supporting the inclusion of a third gender marker in official documents for those who don’t identify as male or female. In 2019, 26 percent of the population agreed with this, and by 2023, that number increased to 35 percent.

Interestingly, despite prevalent negative attitudes towards Roma individuals, opinions shift when it comes to children. A significant 84 percent of respondents express satisfaction if their children have Roma classmates, and 78 percent believe that Roma culture and history should be part of the curriculum.

Despite active public debates, over half of the population agrees that educational materials should cover the existence of multiple gender identities, including being transgender. Similarly, an equal number of respondents support the inclusion of information about various sexual orientations in lessons,” notes M. Kolinytė.

Insufficient Discrimination Prevention Measures in Lithuania

Despite an increasing number of residents contacting The Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson each year, the survey indicates a slight decrease over four years in the reporting of discrimination to the police, equal opportunities organizations, or the court. Notably, there’s been a significant shift in how people handle discrimination experiences, with more individuals preferring to confide in friends or family members. In 2019, 26 percent of the Lithuanian population opted for this approach, and by 2023, the figure increased to 40 percent.

Only 27 percent of residents believe that current efforts to combat all forms of discrimination in Lithuania are effective. This marks a modest 3 percent increase from 2019. Meanwhile, 40 percent of the population thinks these efforts are moderately effective.

M. Kolinytė notes a predominantly reactive approach to discrimination prevention in Lithuania, highlighting that actions are often taken post-discrimination rather than proactively preventing it. She underscores the significance of the fact that, despite the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson operating since 1999, it’s only in the last two years that targeted funding from the state budget has been allocated to prevention activities.

Both personal experiences and surveys like this one serve as indicators for strategic focus. The Equality Ombudsman’s calendar for the year incorporates research and communication on transgender rights and Roma discrimination, with ongoing analysis of issues related to discrimination against older people.