Racist attacks and discrimination persisted against non-European migrants and the Roma minority. There still was no specific law addressing domestic violence against women. The authorities failed to respect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and to condemn acts that restricted, and in some cases denied, their right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.
Racism and discrimination – migrants and Roma
In February the UN Special Rapporteur on racism, reporting on a visit in September 2007, expressed concern about the situation of minorities in Lithuania, noting the profound discrimination faced by Roma in the fields of employment and housing.
"The Special Rapporteur expressed concern about the increase in racially motivated attacks..."
Unemployment rates among Roma remained several times higher than among ethnic Lithuanians, and living conditions in Roma settlements were sometimes below minimum standards, lacking electricity and heating as well as drinking water and sanitation facilities.
The Special Rapporteur expressed concern about the increase in racially motivated attacks against migrants, especially of non-European descent, and in hate speech. Despite a clear constitutional prohibition on incitement to racial hatred, in practice very few cases were brought to justice.
The Special Rapporteur urged the Lithuanian authorities to recognize in the criminal code racism as an aggravating factor.
Violence against women and girls
In its concluding observations, published in July, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) expressed concern at the lack of a specific law on domestic violence, especially considering the high level of violence against women. CEDAW noted that the lack of legislation on this issue may lead “to such violence being considered a private matter, in which the consequences of the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator are not fully understood by police and health officers, the relevant authorities and society at large.” CEDAW observed that the authorities contributed to the perpetuation of patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibility of women and men through the State Family Policy Concept adopted in June.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
Municipal authorities in Lithuania issued derogatory statements against LGBT people. An EU initiative, the “For Diversity, Against Discrimination” touring truck, aimed at raising awareness about EU legislation prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of gender, disability, age, religion and belief, race and ethnicity, and sexual orientation, was banned in August for the second consecutive year by the city authorities in Vilnius. The Mayor refused permission for the truck to enter the city centre for the event on 20 August, claiming that participation of LGBT activists would be “propaganda of homosexuality”. The Mayor of Kaunas also banned the EU initiative, saying that “[the] homosexual festival may cause many negative emotions”.