Values and rights, rule of law, security
#TheFutureIsYours Looking after citizens’ freedoms
Equality in the European Union: how to eradicate discrimination? (organised by MEP Juozas Olekas and Steponas Kairis Foundation)
In one of the eight parts of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, ‘LYGY’ explicitly prohibits all forms of discrimination against people, in particular sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation. However, in the area of non-discrimination between people, progress in the EU is not as fast as expected from the old continent. The Commissioner for Human Rights of the European Commission Dunja Mijatović, presenting her 2019 activity report, said scenicly (but at the same time peacefully): “The image that I have created in my work is like Europe’s ever-circled circular junction, without realising its direction and commitment to human rights.” Human rights experts are therefore concerned about the processes that have taken place in the EU in recent years: first of all, on human rights on the ground in state politics. Looking for examples in Lithuania, the question arises — is Lithuania, having successfully ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, also successfully complying with its international obligations? Can it be proud to say that in Lithuania human rights have already “leaved” from the political agendas “pairs”? Secondly, the implementation of certain human rights in a number of EU countries, including Lithuania, has recently experienced an increased backlash of a significant proportion of society. Lithuania is no exception — compliance with the principle of non-discrimination is not fully guaranteed either in legislation or in practice. There is still a lack of a clear and coherent policy direction and action to ensure non-discrimination of persons on the basis of sexual orientation. The main concern is the lack of political will and real efforts to unite the nation, rather than divisions, which could help to overcome the growing resistance of groups in society on this issue. The 2020 report of the US State Office for Democracy on the situation of human rights in Lithuania states that LGBTI persons in Lithuania have been stigmatised, discriminated against and subjected to violence; similarly, public attitudes towards LGBTI people have remained negative in many cases — according to a 2019 Baltic Survey survey, one third of Lithuanians would not want LGBTI people living in their neighbourhood. Transgender people have been vulnerable and have regularly suffered severe violence and threats of coping. They also faced legal barriers and discrimination in accessing medical care. Most LGBTI people did not report sexual harassment because they did not trust the police. Gender identity is still not recognised in law. Another worrying issue is the guarantee of equal rights for men and women. Non-discrimination on grounds of sex includes discrimination against pregnant women and mothers (preparing and lactating women). Older women face poverty because their pensions are not equivalent to pensions received by men. There is also a gender pay gap. Although the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman monitors the implementation of the laws on discrimination, the age for men and women to retire under Lithuanian law is still not equal. In addition, Amnesty International’s 2020 report states that women’s rights are facing new threats, with the COVID pandemic having had more spill-over effects on women. The discussion METU will look for INVITES for Lithuania and Europe, what measures and actions would actually help to eradicate all forms of gender discrimination, so that we “exit from the circular crossroad” and move forward? What should be done to ensure that the principle of equal opportunities in Lithuanian legislation is based on a strong mechanism that guarantees its effectiveness and allows equal opportunities policy to be considered not only a formal matter. What steps should we take in legal regulation, in public education or in other steps, so that in our society, which is like a kaleidoscope, people’s differences create great harmony? There are many different people, opinions, religions and other differences — and all of them need to be protected according to the highest international standards. ON THE CYCLE OF DISCUSSIONS ORGANISED BY MEP JUOZAS OLEKAS AND STEPONAS LEFT FOUNDATION. In order to implement the strategy announced by the EP S&D Group for the Future of the EU and to involve Lithuanian society in the initiatives of the Conference on the Future of Europe, MEP Juozas Olekas and Steponas Kairis Foundation are organising a series of 12 events aimed at involving citizens from different regions of Lithuania in the debate on the future of Europe, raising awareness of Lithuanian society about the EU’s current affairs and considering future prospects. During the events, politicians, academics, experts and civil society will discuss a number of topics of interest to the EU at a single table. The events will start in September 2021 and end in February 2022. These events are expected to bring new ideas on the future of Europe to the European Commission and the European Parliament at a later stage.
D. Bukonto g. 20, LT-32132, Zarasai, Lietuva
Event reportConference "Equality in the European Union: how to eradicate discrimination?" — one of the twelve "Conferences of the Future of Europe" organised in order to implement the strategy announced by the EP S&D Group for the Future of the EU, to raise awareness of Lithuanian public about the EU’s current and future perspectives, and to involve Lithuanian society in the initiatives of the Conference on the Future of Europe. The event took place on 22 October 2021 from 13:30 to 15:30 at Zarasai Public Library and remotely via the ZOOM platform, live streamed via Steponas Kairi Foundation’s Facebook account. The video of the event is also shared in this account. Organiser Juozas Olekas MEP and Association “Steponas Kairis Foundation”. Purpose of the event: to discuss what measures and actions would actually help to eradicate all forms of gender discrimination, what we should take to ensure that the principle of equal opportunities in Lithuanian legislation is based on a strong mechanism that guarantees its effectiveness and allows equal opportunities policy to be considered not only a formal matter. What steps should we take in legal regulation, in public education or in other steps, so that in our society, which is like a kaleidoscope, people’s differences create great harmony? There are many different people, opinions, religions and other differences — and all of them need to be protected according to the highest international standards. Content of the event. During the event, scientists, politicians and civil society discussed one table. We discussed what measures should be taken to end up in the European Union (and Lithuania) any forms of discrimination based on sex, specialty, views, etc. That every member of society feels safe. 80 minutes were devoted to the presentations, followed by a debate and a summary of ideas — 40 minutes. Presentations and debates took place: rapporteur: Dr. Juozas Olekas (MEP), Prof. hab. Dr Dalia Leinartė (Member of CEDAW, former Chair), Prof Dr Jūratė Novagrockienė (Lithuanian Military Academy), Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis (WHO Special Representative in Lithuania). The discussion was moderated by Dovilė Šakalienė (Chairwoman of the Seimas Group on Development Cooperation, Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights, member of the Women’s Parliamentary Group). Organisation/methodology of the event: Following a brief introduction by the moderator to the topic, the content of the debate was moved to short presentations (up to 15 minutes), followed by time for questions. The presentations were followed by a discussion with people present in the room and remotely and answered their questions. Number and type of participants: the five speakers of the debate were experts with different professional backgrounds (two men and three women). The discussion at Zarasai Public Library was attended by 45 people and 28 people participated remotely on the ZOOM platform. A total of 564 views have been received so far (7 December 2021) for video, which is still available today. The main topics of the debate are: at the beginning of the event there was an assessment of whether there is equal opportunities for men and women declared in Lithuania? This was followed by an analysis of gender (non-)bias in the Lithuanian Armed Forces, presenting what change has been achieved in the last decade. Later, the problems of ensuring the principle of non-discrimination in Lithuania, especially in the areas of sexual orientation, were discussed. At the end of the event, a presentation was made about the scientific consensus confirmed by the WHO on what homosexuality is. The presentations were followed by a discussion with people present in the room and remotely and answered their questions. The main ideas of the conference. In Lithuania since 1990, significant progress has been made in the areas of non-discrimination and human rights, but we have not yet achieved the required level of non-discrimination in the various types of non-discrimination today — Lithuania is progressing on this issue, but too slowly. The principle of non-discrimination is not sufficiently guaranteed not only in practice, but also in legislation. Often, human rights are guaranteed only at constitutional level, with proper implementation “without downgrading” to lower-level legislation. During the discussion, all experts agreed that unfortunately in Lithuania the themes of non-discrimination still receive a very “high debate”. Gender stereotypes are still persisting. Participants have repeatedly stressed that liberal democracy must be based on human rights. The participants of the conference actively discussed the choice of Lithuanian citizens who do not support the principles of non-discrimination — they are still “to the east” in value. However, if Lithuania has chosen the path of a progressive state that upholds EU values — we should “see” west and support European values and philosophy. The participants of the discussion expressed the view that the social democrats of Lithuania conducted the process of ensuring gender equality more consistently than today’s ruling majority on the right. The actions of the ruling majority were noted and criticised when special institutional mechanisms such as the Women’s Rights Enforcement Division in the Ministry of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania are being destroyed (female rights enforcement functions are incorporated into the “Equal Opportunities, Equality between Women and Men” section). The participants of the conference said that, when Lithuania was elected to the UN Human Rights Council for the period 2022-2024 by the UN General Assembly on 14 October 2021, efforts must be made to continue the activities that have been the highest priority to date — to protect the rights of women and girls. It was feared that this area had lost its importance to date. The official report of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that Lithuania’s priorities for the period of membership of the UN Human Rights Council will be: special attention to the protection of the rights of children and persons with disabilities, the safety of human rights defenders, human rights in conflict zones, and timely response to human rights violations. And Lithuania’s activities in defending women’s and girls’ rights, freedom of speech, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, safety of journalists, religion and belief will only be “actively continued”. The conference participants believe that a socially democratic progressive approach must continue to stimulate debates on different types of non-discrimination. The Socialist Democrats in the EP have already adopted a gender equality strategy, so active efforts are needed to implement it and to include the necessary legislative provisions in implementing instruments at different levels. The third aspect of improving the situation of non-discrimination in Lithuania — EDUCATION — was very strongly emphasised. There is a need for education in schools on gender equality and on sexual minorities. There is also a need to pay greater attention to public education so that people know all their rights and can defend them properly. The overall atmosphere and the way forward: The atmosphere during the discussion was good and respectful. Intensive discussions took place between the speakers and the participants on the steps to be taken to implement the principles of non-discrimination. No follow-up is currently planned. The report was drawn up by: BG (ret) Algis Vaičeliūnas, Director of the Association “Steponas Kairio fondas”, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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