Transgender Youth in Lithuania Face Overwhelming Challenges in Education and Employment | NLIF

Transgender Youth in Lithuania Face Overwhelming Challenges in Education and Employment

Absence of legal gender recognition and health care in Lithuania places transgender young people at serious risk when it comes to education and employment. Unable to change their gender in their legal documents, access health care and confronted with prevailing transphobic attitudes in the Lithuanian society, transgender individuals face a high degree of social marginalization and are often unemployed.

Legal challenges

The legal situation of transgender people in Lithuania could be described as critical. The legal categories of “gender identity” and “gender expression” do not exist in the Lithuanian legal system. As a result, the Law on Equal Opportunities does not in fact prohibit discrimination of transgender individuals, while the Criminal Code does not qualify transphobic violence and incitement to hatred as hate crimes and/or hate speech. It can be concluded that transgender individuals are the most vulnerable subgroup under the LGBT umbrella in Lithuania, because they cannot access the minimal legal guarantees available to other members of the community.

Lithuania has no administrative procedure for legal gender recognition and gender affirming healthcare. Despite the fact that the Article 2.27 of the Civil Code establishes that “[a]n unmarried natural person of full age enjoys the right to the change of designation of sex in cases when it is feasible from the medical point of view”, the enabling legislation has never been adopted. In 2007 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered a judgment in the case L. v. Lithuania, indicating that the existing legal vacuum constitutes a violation of the right to private life. Based on observations by civil society organizations, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe applied the enhanced supervision procedure in September, 2014 with the view of implementing the judgment. Despite the fact that 19 years have passed since the introduction of the right to gender reassignment in the Civil Code, 12 years since the adoption of the ECtHR judgment, and 4 years since the application of the enhanced supervision procedure, the Lithuanian authorities still have not adopted any legal measures with the view of facilitating gender reassignment procedures.

As transgender persons are not able to receive necessary medical services within the framework of the Lithuanian public health-care system (i.e. healthcare providers simply refuse to provide services and (or) it is not covered by the national health care insurance scheme), they are forced to seek these services from private providers or abroad. It can be concluded that not only were transgender individuals forced outside the country to undergo treatment they seek, but they also had to go through a litigation procedure in order to obtain corresponding identity documents upon their return. This critical situation has dramatically improved since April, 2017, as the national courts started granting legal gender recognition without the requirement for mandatory gender affirming surgery implying sterilization.

Possibility to Change Personal Documents for Transgender Applicants by Court Procedure

After these positive developments, personal identity documents with legal help from the National LGBT rights organization LGL were changed for around 20 transgender individuals without the requirement for gender affirming surgery (implying sterilization). Based on the courts’ jurisprudence, the material conditions for obtaining legal gender recognition in Lithuania at the moment are the requirement for psychiatric diagnosis of “gender dysphoria” (ICD-10 code F64.0) and self-identification by a transgender person as belonging to the opposite gender. Nevertheless, it has to be emphasized that at the moment legal gender recognition in Lithuania could be sanctioned only by the court’s decision. No administrative procedure is still available. Furthermore, the requirement for psychiatric diagnosis goes against the self-de-termination model and bears pathologizing implications upon legal gender recognition procedure. At the moment legal gender recognition is not available for non-binary trans people in Lithuania.

Barriers in Education

The absence of administrative procedure for legal gender recognition and medical gender reassignment has very direct negative consequences on the daily lives of transgender persons in Lithuania. First of all, the negative phenomenon of unsupervised hormone treatment is widespread among the members of the local trans-gender community. Secondly, transgender people, who are undergoing gender affirming treatment abroad, do not have the possibility of changing their identity documents through quick, accessible and transparent administrative procedure, because legal gender recognition still has to be sanctioned by the Lithuanian courts. Thirdly, transgender people who already live according to their true gender, but do not have the necessary resources to obtain legal gender recognition through the judicial procedure, are exposed to constant discrimination, harassment and violence. Every time they are requested to display their identity documents, they are immediately outed as a transgender person, because Lithuanian authorities do not provide for the opportunity of changing one’s identity documents through the quick, accessible and transparent administrative procedure.

As the Law on Recognition of Gender Identity has not been adopted yet, the procedures of ensuring corresponding changes after legal gender recognition in the key documents originated by state and non-state actors remain largely undefined and thus executed on an ad hoc basis. Transgender persons are usually requested to provide the executing authority with the corresponding court judgment on legal gender recognition. This practice is highly problematic, because it does not provide for the adequate protection of a person’s private life. To put it other words, transgender persons are forced to disclose their transgender identity to multiple actors even after the successfully obtained legal gender recognition. Despite the lack of privacy protection, on the majority of instances transgender per-sons are able to obtain the updated documents from state and non-state actors. Up to the present date some transgender individuals faced some challenges only in updating their certificates of higher education.

According to the order by the Minister of Education and Science, the “duplicate” of a higher education certificate can be issued only upon a loss or a destruction of the original certificate. In March, 2018 a transgender woman applied before the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences with a request to update her higher education diploma on the grounds of the successfully obtained legal gender recognition. The University instructed the applicant to submit an advertisement to the newspaper of the national relevance about the “loss” of her original diploma to denounce its validity. As a result, the applicant, in violation of her privacy, was forced to announce publicly that her diploma under the male name is not valid anymore.

No Protection from Discrimination in Employment

The Law on Equal Opportunities prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the field of employment and occupation. However, the law does not cover the grounds of gender identity and (or) gender expression.

In 2016 the National LGBT Rights Organization LGL conducted a research on the situation of transgender persons in the Lithuanian labor market. Interviews with the members of the local transgender community have revealed that these individuals face multiple instances of discrimination at work. However, discriminatory incidents are not being reported to the public authorities, because there is a lack of trust among the local transgender community in public institutions. In addition, there is factually no legal basis for reporting as transgender identity is not covered by the national non-discrimination legislation. As a result, policy and decision makers first and foremost should include the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and (or) gender expression in the Lithuanian legal system.

Study by the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson

In 2019, the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson carried out a survey of 1,000 Lithuanian residents from 24 cities and 33 towns on attitudes towards transgender people in Lithuania. When summarizing the survey, researchers concluded that respondents often cannot identify their attitudes towards transgender people on various issues. According to the authors, “the respondents don’t have negative attitudes towards transgender persons, they don’t have clear opinion, that’s why the future shifts of public opinion about transgender persons in Lithuanian society will depend a lot on how this topic will be reflected in the public discourse”.

Around 36% of survey respondents wouldn’t agree to work with a transgender person and almost half wouldn’t want to live in the neighbourhood. It should be noted that more than half of the Lithuanian population doesn’t know or isn’t sure what the term “transgender person” means.

The interviews with transgender persons who completed the procedure of legal gender recognition and experts working in the field of transgender rights protection revealed the lack of legal regulation and lack of proper implementation of existing legislation.

Transgender persons experience particular problems related with handling of their personal data when receiving health services, in the sphere of employment or adjusting gender in the documents confirming acquired competences.

“Even if the documents were changed, my health card in the clinic wouldn’t be replaced with a new one. They would stick a sheet of paper with my new name and surname on top, but all the consent for treatment is in my previous name. They refuse to change this,” says one of the interviewees.

In this way, confidential information about the identity of the transgender person becomes available to any employee, trainee or other visitor of the clinic. For example, when a patient arrives to register for an appointment with a doctor and is asked at the reception to explain why the entries do not match, information about patient being transgender is revealed.

Direction Employment Project: IT Classes for Long-Term Unemployed Transgender Youth in Lithuania

The project “Direction Employment”, supported by the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment, will seek to create a new educational model to combat unemployment among youth, utilizing progressive methods and interactive practices in its implementation. Over the duration of the project, IT courses will be held for people between the ages of 18 and 30 who belong to marginalized social groups, helping youth overcome long-term unemployment.

This opportunity is particularly important for young transgender individuals, who face complex obstacles in education and employment. It is expected that most young transgender individuals who will complete the course, will be able to find employment in IT sector.