Lithuania: Protection available to female victims of domestic violence (2005-2006)
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa|
|Publication Date||9 February 2007|
|Citation / Document Symbol||LTU102084.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Lithuania: Protection available to female victims of domestic violence (2005-2006), 9 February 2007, LTU102084.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469cd6c6c.html [accessed 9 March 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
According to recent estimates published on the Web site of Stop Violence Against Women (stopVAW), approximately one third of all Lithuanian women are victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives (stopVAW 4 Dec. 2006; ibid. 27 Aug. 2005). Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005 notes that "[s]ocietal violence against women, particularly alcohol-related domestic violence, was a serious problem" in 2005 (US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5).
Lithuania has no laws that specifically address domestic violence (ibid.; AI 23 May 2006; stopVAW n.d.). In its submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on 17 June 2005, the Government of Lithuania admitted that "[i]n most cases penal and administrative measures for combating violence in the family are not very effective. There still is a shortage of alternative measures of influence to be used against the persons committing acts of violence" (Lithuania 17 June 2005, para. 51).
Changes to the Criminal Process Law, which came into force in 2004, allow for the removal of suspected abusers from the family home in order to protect victims of violence (AI 23 May 2006; stopVAW 30 Sept. 2005). However, in August 2005, stopVAW noted that this measure had yet to be implemented (27 Aug. 2005). Additional information to this effect could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
In its submission to the CEDAW, the Government of Lithuania cited two articles of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania that may be used to convict perpetrators of violence against women (17 June 2005, para. 33-35). For example, Article 143 of the Criminal Code punishes "any person who threatens to kill a human being or cause serious health impairment" with a maximum prison term of three years (ibid., para. 35). The other example is Article 140 of the Criminal Code, which stipulates that:
a person, who has, by beating or otherwise committing acts of violence, caused physical pain to or slightly injured or made ill a person for a short period of time, shall be punished by public service or restriction of liberty, or arrest, or imprisonment for a period of up to one year. (stopVAW n.d.)
However, stopVAW notes that victims of domestic violence must bear the financial costs associated with legal action and must apply to a court "on the basis of private accusation" (27 Aug. 2005). In addition, since during an investigation an accused person may only be arrested for crimes that carry a penalty of over one year imprisonment, victims of domestic violence may be forced to reside with the perpetrator during their trial (stopVAW 27 Aug. 2005; Lithuania 17 June 2005, para. 46-47). As a result, the Ministry of Justice has proposed a draft law that would obligate suspected perpetrators to reside apart from the victim if there is sufficient reason to believe that the alleged criminal activity would otherwise continue (ibid.). Similarly, in December 2006, an article published on the Lithuanian Internet news portal Delfi but posted in English on the Web site of stopVAW, mentions proposed legislation that would allow courts to "unconditionally" separate suspected abusers from their families (4 Dec. 2006).
Citing figures released by the Ministry of Interior on 2 February 2006, stopVAW indicates that between 2000 and 2005, the number of cases registered under Article 140 increased from 111 to 470 (stopVAW 20 Mar. 2006). In the same period, the number of cases "passed in court" increased from 89 in 2000 to 470 in 2005 (ibid.). According to Country Reports 2005, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have recently noted an increase in domestic violence complaints, although they attribute this to greater public awareness of the issue (8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5). According to information published in the Vilnius-based Delfi newspaper, and cited by stopVAW, the Vilnius municipality registered 9,000 complaints of domestic violence in 2005, "but only 2,000 administrative cases and 39 pre-trial investigations on heavy health injuries were initiated" (17 July 2006).
Victims of domestic violence in Lithuania tend to refrain from contacting the police and lack confidence in the court system to address their problems (Country Reports 2005 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5; stopVAW 30 Sept. 2005); however, this could not be corroborated further by the Research Directorate within time constraints. Economic dependence on the perpetrators and lack of information on available protective services further complicate the situation of many female victims of violence in Lithuania (ibid. 17 July 2006). Citing a joint report prepared by several Lithuanian women's NGOs, stopVAW indicates that, because of the lack of legal mechanisms at their disposal, many victims of domestic violence try to collect medical certificates and apply for divorce, but that this often creates new problems for the women related to property division and child custody (27 Aug. 2005).
In March 2006, the Women's Parliamentarians' Group, together with the non-governmental Women's Crisis Center, organized a conference on domestic violence in the Lithuanian Parliament (stopVAW 14 Apr. 2006). Ministers attending the conference announced the development of a new national strategy to combat violence against women, but the specifics of this plan were not immediately revealed (ibid.). However, according to a press release by the Ministry of Social Security and the Interior, the National Strategy for the Reduction of Violence Against Women is to be launched in 2007 (Lithuania 29 Mar. 2006). This project aims to help prevent domestic violence, raise social awareness and sensitivity, improve legislative mechanisms to protect victims (such as the separation between victims and their abusers) and rehabilitate perpetrators (ibid.; see also stopVAW 22 Nov. 2006).
On 6 June 2006, the Lithuanian News Agency ELTA reported that "[m]embers of the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe positively assessed the progress Lithuania has made in reducing violence against women in families," although further or corroborating information on this evaluation could not be found among the sourced consulted by the Research Directorate.
In 2006, the Government of Lithuania set aside 80,000 Litai (LTL) [or approximately 32,600 Canadian dollars (CAD) (OANDA 29 Mar. 2006)] for the year (Lithuania 29 Mar. 2006) to fund some 20 NGO-run projects to support victims of domestic violence (ibid.; ELTA 6 June 2006).
There are conflicting reports on the number of organizations providing assistance to women victims of domestic violence (Lithuania 29 Mar. 2006; ibid. 17 June 2005, para. 52; US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5). In its 2005 submission to CEDAW, the Government of Lithuania lists 20 women's crisis centres in the country offering services such as shelters, psychological and legal assistance, and telephone hotlines (17 June 2005, para. 52). In March 2006, the Lithuanian Ministry of Social Security and Labour listed 25 NGOs and women's crisis centres that provided assistance and shelter to victims of domestic violence (Lithuania 29 Mar. 2006). Country Reports 2005 lists 36 women's shelters in the country which provide assistance to victims of domestic violence (US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5).
Throughout 2005, the Shelter for Children and Mothers in Vilnius helped approximately 1,177 victims of domestic violence (ibid.). Citing data published in Delfi, stopVAW says that every year, about 600 women seek help from psychologists at the Kaunas District Crisis Center (stopVAW 18 July 2006).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Amnesty International (AI). 23 May 2006. "Lithuania." Amnesty International Report 2006.
ELTA [Vilnius]. 6 June 2006. "Lithuanian Highlights No. 2306: Council of Europe Human Rights Officials Positive About Lithuania's Progress." (Factiva)
Lithuania. 29 March 2006. Ministry of Social Security and Labour. "Draft National Strategy for the Reduction of Violence Against Women Will Soon Be Finished."
_____ . 17 June 2005. United Nations (UN). Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: Third Period Report of States Parties – Lithuania.
OANDA Currency Converter. 29 March 2006. "OANDA Customizable Currency Converter."
Stop Violence Against Women (stopVAW). 4 December 2006. "A Violent Spouse Must Be Separated." (Delfi)
_____ . 22 November 2006. "Parliamentarians of Lithuania's Seimas Call for Initiative to Combat Domestic Violence Against Women."
_____ . 18 July 2006. "In the Opinion of the Ombudsman for Equal Opportunities, the Liberal Centrists' Action to 'Combat Violence' Looks Like a Circus." (Delfi)
_____ . 17 July 2006. "Who Will Protect in Cases of Violence." (Delfi)
_____ . 14 April 2006. "Conference 'Women Against Domestic Violence in Lithuania', March 23, 2006."
_____ . 20 March 2006. "Statistics on VAW in Lithuania 1999-2005." (Lithuanian Ministry of Interior)
_____ . 30 September 2005. "Legislative Trends and New Developments."
_____ . 27 August 2005. Vilana Pilinkaite-Sotirovic. "Lithuania: Study of Lithuanian NGOs on Violence Against Women."
_____ . N.d. Vilana Pilinkaite-Sotirovic. "Survey of Legislation on Violence Against Women in Lithuania."
United States (US). 8 March 2006. Department of State. "Lithuania." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005.
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: The Kaunas County Women's Crisis Centre [Kaunas], Vilnius Women's House and Women's Issues Information Centre of Lithuania [Vilnius] did not respond to requests for information within time constraints.
Internet sites: The Baltic Times [Riga], Council of Europe (COE), ecoi.net, Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme (FIDH), Freedom House, Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), Lithuanian Human Rights Association [inaccessible], Lithuanian Ministry of Social Security and Labour, Network of East-West Women, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Peacewomen.org, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Transitions Online [Prague], Women's Issues Information Centre [Vilnius], Women Watch.