Year in Review: HRMI Makes Strides to Combat Discrimination, Violence Against Women

In 2019, HRMI focused on the protection of fundamental human rights in Lithuania, the prevention of domestic violence, victims' rights, prohibition of discrimination at work, and mental health.

Study: Lithuanian women deem social campaigns on domestic violence “necessary”

Three social campaigns were implemented through the project " Stop Violence Against Women: From (A)wareness to (Z)ero Victim Blaming" (launched in 2017 by the HRMI and partners): "From Women to Women", "Support Them", and "This Is Also Violence". An online forum for female victims of violence to consult each other was set up. Public opinion polls were conducted in 2017 and 2019. The project saw the creation of e-learning materials for professionals and the wider public, seeking to offer a deeper look into violence against women by their close partners.

According to a recent survey, Lithuanian women think that such social campaigns on domestic violence are necessary. They were rated 8 out of 10 for importance.

project team. Martynas Ambrazas picture.

“We are honestly happy to have had the opportunity to contribute to this meaningful project. Our study on the experiences of female victims of violence, discussions with communities in 10 regions of Lithuania together with the authors of “Birutė Bebaimė” (“Birutė Fearless“, a comic about violence prevention), as well as the implementation of an online course and social campaigns – I believe this not only contributed to the awareness of this extremely painful and, unfortunately, widespread problem, but also gave us hope that the situation could change for the better, even if very slowly,” said Ugnė Grigaitė, a project manager at the HRMI.

Equal Opportunities Wings celebrate equal opportunity achievements

Together with its partners, HRMI worked relentlessly to reduce discrimination at work. Equality Plans, a platform for providing relevant information for employers and employees, was created in partnership with the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson. The Equal Opportunities Wings campaign was launched, which allows companies to collect “wings” for actively implementing equal opportunity, inclusion, and diversity principles in their operations.

Start of effective responses to hate crime and hate speech

In 2019, experts from HRMI, together with the Lithuanian Human Rights Center, the European Center for Human Rights and the Lithuanian Police School launched a project to promote effective responses to hate crime and hate speech. It aims to make Lithuanian law enforcement more able to prevent hate crime, to bring hate crimes out into the open, to increase the trust victims and vulnerable communities have in law enforcement officials, and to motivate the public to recognize and respond to hate crimes.

To achieve these goals, we welcome the support of the Ministry of the Interior in setting up an inter-agency working group to strengthen cooperation between state institutions, non-governmental organizations, and victims when it comes to hate crime and hate speech. We hope that the working group can start its efforts in early 2020.

We have continued our joint project with partners in Estonia, Latvia, and the Lithuanian Forum of the Disabled, aiming to improve cooperation between NGOs and police officers to prevent hate crime in the Baltic States. As hate crimes against the disabled have not been studied in-depth, we have provided training for non-governmental organizations and police officers led by a UK expert, Dr. Angharad Beckett. 32 persons attended the training, including persons with disabilities and representatives of non-governmental organizations, as well as police officers from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

Winning an important self-expression case in UNHRC

In the case of Kusaitė v Lithuania, the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that Lithuania had violated the freedom of expression enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. E. Kusaitė was prosecuted for insulting public servants, namely, the prosecutors of the Prosecutor General's Office of the Republic of Lithuania. In the Committee's view, the court did not give due regard to the fact that the applicant's exclamation was a spontaneous reaction to the announcement that she would be detained. Furthermore, Kusaitė's criminal case attracted considerable public interest and may have had political implications, which should have broadened the limits of permissible criticism. The Committee also reiterated its position that states should consider decriminalizing defamation and reserve the heavy hand of the criminal law only for the most severe cases.

You can read the committee’s full opinion here.

Study on mental health in Eurasia

A project was launched last year to promote integrating a human rights-based approach and related principles into mental health policy and developing a wider range of services in Lithuania as well as Eastern Europe and Eurasia as a whole.

Last fall, HRMI’s experts visited Georgia to observe community-based services for people with mental health problems. The delegation visited the Gldani Psychiatric Hospital in Tbilisi and the Ministry of Social Affairs, Labour, Health and Displaced Persons in Georgia to discuss the specifics of deinstitutionalization and the development of community-based services. Over the course of nine days, the experts conducted 15 individual and six group interviews with 31 individuals. They also visited various institutions and NGOs in three regions.

The long-term goal of the project is to promote moving resources in the mental health system towards human rights based policies and developing a broader, more diverse range of services for people with mental health, intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities.

HRMI visiting Sakartvelo. Personal archive photo.

Traditional authentic review “Human Rights in Lithuania 2018-2019” to be published

Violations of the rights of persons with disabilities, violations of freedom of expression or belief and the right to private family life, discrimination based on age, sexual orientation, gender, disability, religion and more, hate crimes, violations of the rights of victims or suspects, domestic violence, human trafficking and violations of migrants' rights – all this and more can be found in the only review of its kind, “Human Rights in Lithuania 2018-2019”.

In the book, independent experts will provide the public, state institutions, non-governmental organizations, lawyers, academics and the media with systematic, comprehensive, and relevant information on the human rights situation in Lithuania, evaluating any changes. In addition to the usual topics, the newest Review will also explore the human rights-based approach to mental health policy in Lithuania.

Active participation in addressing issues important to the state and society coming in 2020

This year, the Institute's experts will not only continue to work on existing problems, but will also start new projects. “HRMI constantly monitors human rights-related processes in Lithuania, evaluating them, exploring joint opportunities with other organizations and making suggestions on how to protect each individual’s rights. In particular, HRMI is focusing on the following issues: all forms of discrimination, violations of freedom of expression, hate crimes, violation of the rights of victims or suspects, violence and prevention thereof, human rights and mental health. HRMI experts are ready to tackle these and other issues that are important to the development of the state and society in 2020,” said HRMI’s Director Dainius Pūras.

head of HRMI Dainius Pūras