Transgender Youth in Lithuania Face Overwhelming Challenges in Education and Employment

Credits: LGL

Reading time: 3min

The absence of legal gender recognition and healthcare 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 healthcare and confronted with prevailing transphobic attitudes in Lithuanian society, transgender individuals face a high degree of social marginalisation 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 minimum 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 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 judgement 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 organisations, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe applied the enhanced supervision procedure in September 2014, with a view to implementing the judgement. Although 19 years have passed since the introduction of the rightto gender reassignment in the Civil Code, 12 years since the adoption of the ECtHR judgement and 4 years since the application of the enhanced supervision procedure, the Lithuanian authorities have still not adopted any legal measures to facilitate gender reassignment procedures.

As transgender persons are not able to receive necessary medical services within the framework of the Lithuanian public healthcare system (i.e. healthcare providers simply refuse to provide services and (or) they are not covered by the national healthcare 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, when the national courts started granting legal gender recognition without the requirement for mandatory gender-affirming surgery, which implies sterilisation.

Possibility to Change Personal Documents for Transgender Applicants by Court Procedure

After these positive developments, with legal help from the National LGBT rights organisation LGL personal identity documents were changed for around 20 transgender individuals without the requirement for gender-affirming surgery (implying sterilisation). Based on the courts’ jurisprudence, currently the material conditions for obtaining legal gender recognition in Lithuania are the requirement for a 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 should be emphasised that, at the moment, legal gender recognition in Lithuania can be sanctioned only by a court decision. No administrative procedure is yet available. Furthermore, the requirement for psychiatric diagnosis goes against the self-determination model and has pathologising implications for the legal gender recognition procedure. Presently, legal gender recognition is not available for non-binary trans people in Lithuania.

Barriers in Education

The lack 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. Firstly, the negative phenomenon of unsupervised hormone treatment is widespread among members of the local trans-gender community. Secondly, transgender people undergoing gender affirming treatment abroad do not have the possibility to change their identity documents through quick, accessible and transparent administrative procedures, 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. Whenever they are requested to show their identity documents, they are immediately outed as a transgender person.

As a Law on Recognition of Gender Identity has not yet been adopted, the procedures for ensuring the 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 judgement on legal gender recognition. This practice is highly problematic, because it does not ensure adequate protection of a person’s private life. In other words, transgender persons are forced to disclose their transgender identity to multiple actors even after they have successfully obtained legal gender recognition. Despite the lack of privacy protection, in the majority of instances transgender persons are able to obtain updated documents from state and non-state actors. Until now, some transgender individuals have faced challenges only in updating their higher education certificates.

According to the order by the Minister of Education and Science, a “duplicate” of a higher education certificate can be issued only following the loss or destruction of the original certificate. In March 2018, a transgender woman applied to the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences to update her higher education diploma on the grounds of having successfully obtained legal gender recognition. The University instructed the applicant to place an announcement in a national newspaper concerning the “loss” of her original diploma in order to denounce its validity. As a result, in violation of her privacy, the applicant was forced to publicly announce that her diploma, under her male name, was no longer valid.

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 Organisation LGL conducted research on the situation of transgender persons in the Lithuanian labour market. Interviews with the members of the local transgender community 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. Moreover, factually there is 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 inthe Lithuanian legal system.

Study by the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson

In 2019, the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson carried out a surveyof 1,000 Lithuanian residents from 24 cities and 33 towns on attitudes towards transgender people in Lithuania. When summarising 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 is reflected in 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 same 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.

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

Transgender persons experience particular problems related to the processing 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,” one of the interviewees said.

In this way, confidential information on the identity of the transgender person becomes available to any employee, trainee or even visitor to 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 the 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, utilising progressive methods and interactive practices in its implementation. Over the duration of the project, IT courses will be held for people aged between 18 and 30 who belong to marginalised 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 complete the course will be able to find employment in the IT sector.

Eglė Kuktoraitė
LGL communication officer


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