A draft law in Lithuania could worsen the situation for transgender people.
Under pressure of the UN and Europe the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice has proposed new draft legislation where people who have undergone gender reassignment surgery are to be issued with new identity cards without a lengthy court procedure.
But at the same time legislators want to remove existing provisions for state sponsored gender reassignment, and object to including them in the new legislation as they would legitimize ‘immoral’ surgeries in Lithuania. That change appears to go against the spirit of international demands.
Human rights advocates argue that if such proposals are put into law, the situation of transgender persons could become even worse.
Transgender people face two major obstacles in Lithuania. Firstly, gender reassignment surgeries are not properly recognized by law.
Secondly, if a transgender person undergoes gender reassignment abroad, they are refused new documents in Lithuania. To be issued with new documents they must currently apply through a lengthy court process - which is what the Ministry of Justice proposal would have resolved.
Representatives of the Lithuanian government promised to change the current practice at the recent United Nations Human Rights Committee’s session in Geneva, where the country's laws regarding gender identity were criticized.
To this end the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice has put forward a procedure allowing civil registry offices to register gender reassignment upon presentation of a medical statement.
Until now civil registry offices have been able to issue new identity cards, corresponding to the person's gender identity, only with a court order.
While this part of the proposed legislation is an improvement, the proposed draft law also stipulates the removal of existing state provisions for gender reassignment.
Following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), in 2007, Lithuania is obliged to enact a law regulating the procedure and conditions of gender reassignment.
At present, the civil code provides that any unmarried person of full age is entitled to medical gender reassignment if medically feasible, but a law enforcing this, as suggested by the ECtHR, is missing.
To ‘comply’ with the ruling above the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice suggested fully removing support for state sponorsed gender reassignment surgery.
‘With no such law, the reason for the ECtHR’s decision would be eliminated,’ explained Lithuanian Justice Vice Minister Tomas Vaitkevičius.
Right wing politician, Antanas Matulas, chairman of the parliamentary committee on Health Affairs which oversees the reforms, suggested going even further so the draft law must include a clause prohibiting any medical gender reassignment.
His ‘solution’ is that if you are a transgender person you should ‘find another treatment and if nothing else helps and you really believe that nature and God have made a mistake, save some cash, go somewhere else and let someone cut off or attach whatever you might wish.
‘But I will never agree to such surgeries being financed at the expense of actually ill persons – those with cancer, diabetes or heart disease.’
The initiatives by the Ministry of Justice have also been criticized by Vytautas Valentinavičius, board member of the Lithuanian Gay League (LGL), who believes they will make the situation even worse.
‘This proposal by the Ministry of Justice would not implement the decision of the ECtHR and would instead restrict people’s legitimate expectations and further worsen the situation of trans persons in Lithuania,’ argued Valentinavičius.
According to Valentinavičiaus, the suggested amendment eliminating the Civil Code that stipulates the government’s duty to regulate gender reassignment would put transgender people or people in the process of gender reassignment in an uncertain position.
With the absence of such a procedure, the issue of hormonal treatment would remain unsolved and such people would be forced to search for finances to undergo gender reassignment abroad.
Valentinavičius said: ‘According to this draft law, it is only after the completion of gender reassignment process and medical treatment abroad that it will be possible to present the documented proof of gender reassignment in Lithuania, and then again only after presentation of such proof will it be possible to register gender reassignment in Lithuania and be issued with new documents.
'This would create a precedent in Lithuania to “implement” the ECtHR decision by worsening the actual situation – eliminating provisions that allowed people to reasonably expect proper regulation of gender reassignment.'
For the proposals by the Ministry of Justice to be enforced, they must first be approved by the government and the parliament.
Speaking with Gay Star News, veteran LGBT rights advocate Peter Tatchell slammed the proposed draft law: 'Lithuania's stance on transgender issues goes against its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.
'The new policy will place unjustified obstacles and indignities on trans people.'