Lithuanians: Open Dialogue May Help Change Distorted Views on Gender Roles

In Lithuania, it is still acceptable to think that a wife has a duty to obey her husband. According to an equal opportunities expert, the public has a distorted view on gender roles, which increases the risk of violence.

“Traditional” views on relationships between women and men dominant

The Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman recently commissioned an opinion poll on the perception domestic violence and its causes. According to the findings, the public still holds predominantly “traditional” views on the role of women in families. That is, that they must take care of men’s needs. More than half (58%) of Lithuanians believe that it is a wife's duty to take care of her husband's household. Just over 40% thought that wives were obliged to have sex with their husbands, with women being more likely to disagree with this statement (51%).

“With results like these, it is not difficult to see why so many women in Lithuania suffer violence at the hands of their husbands. If it is believed that women have a duty to take care of their husbands’ household and sexual needs, then, if they don’t do it, their husbands may take action or even resort to violence to force wives to "perform their duties", be obedient, and meet expectations,” claimed M. Jurkutė, who currently heads a project about domestic violence against women.

Are the grounds for justifying violence against women laid at childhood?

The findings show that the public understands that even seemingly “innocent” behaviour can breed disrespect. Six in ten people agree that jokes about women (such as blondes) encourage disrespect, with women being more likely to agree than men (72% compared to 58%). But there is no consensus on how to view boys who pull girls by the hair, lift their skirts, or engage in similar behaviour. View on this are split quite evenly, with 45% thinking that this is only an “innocent display of attention”, with another 45% thinking the opposite.

There is also no consensus on whether men are aggressive by nature; 37% think so, while 53% disagree.

“When we try to pin the root of violence in biology, we can forget that we also need proper education in this area. If we cannot agree on whether it is appropriate for boys to pull girls by the hair or lift their skirts, how can we expect them to properly communicate and build relationships with women when they grow up? The findings make me wonder whether parents and teachers really do their homework in teaching children about respecting the opposite sex." noted Jurkutė.

Still too little information on help available to victims of violence

The survey also showed that people are unsure if victims are getting the help they need. More than 30% of respondents did not know whether female victims get such help, and much more (47%) did not know whether such assistance is available to male victims.

“The results are not surprising, given how difficult it is to find information on institutions working with victims. Bit by bit, we are beginning to realise that assistance is provided by specialised help centres throughout Lithuania. These centres actively promote their activities and advertise their contact details. If victims need shelter urgently because it’s unsafe to remain at home, they can go to crisis centres. However, it is much more difficult to find information on accommodation in crisis centres, especially in smaller towns. We live in the digital age, but many institutions do not have websites or social media profiles.”noted the office's designated expert.

And while each year we are getting more and more information about female of victims domestic violence (as evidenced by the increasing number of social campaigns and reported incidents), the public still knows little to nothing about male victims of domestic violence. The majority of male (61%) and female (71.5%) respondents thought that men should openly talk about violence in the family.