Bodies for the promotion of equal treatment (Article 13 Directive 2000/43)

AuthorSabatauskait?, Birut?
a) Body/bodies designated for the promotion of equal t reatment irrespective of
racial/ethnic origin according to Article 13 of the Racial Equality Directive
The Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson is the main national institution dealing with
equality and non-discrimination and is the national anti-discrimination body established
in order to fulfil th e requirements of the Racial Equality Directive. When the La w on Equal
Treatment cam e into force in 2005, it expanded the mandate of the previous
Ombudsperson for Equal Opportunities of Men and Wom en, which was functioning on the
basis of the Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men. Thus, a new institution
the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson covering all grounds of discrimination contained
in Directives 2000/43/EC and 2000/78/EC as well as the ground of gender, started
operating on 1 January 2005.
Initially, the Ombudsperson monitored the implementation of the Law on Equal
Treatment in the manner prescribed by the Law on Equal Opportunities f or Women and
Men. As of 1 January 2017, both laws have been amended and all procedural aspects
(appointment criteria and procedure, as wel l as competence a nd provisions on
investigations of complaints) have been moved from the Law on Equal Opportunities for
Women and Men to the Law on Equal Treatment.
The national equality body follows the traditional model of an Ombudsman institution. It
is governed by the h ead officer, the Ombudsperson for Equal Opportunities, who is
appointed and accountable to the Parliament and, according to the law, the main activity
of the institution is the handling of complaints. Although awareness raising and
promotion of equality wer e always a part of the Ombudsperson’s activities, these
activities were added as part of the mandate of the institution under amendments to the
Law in 2017. The Law on Equal Treatmen t was amended in 2018 (before enterin g into
force on 1 July 2019), adding the function of monitoring the implementation of the UN
be considered as mixed (functioning as both a tribunal and a promotional body).
b) Political, economic and social context of the des ignated body
The institution of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson was initially established based
on international commitments to the UN regardin g gender equality, and was further
expanded based on th e requirements of the Racia l Equality D irective and the
Employment Equality Directive and, most recen tly, in relation to the UN Con vention on
the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Therefore, the exi stence of the institution is wi dely seen by politicians as a commitment
to international human rights standards and obligations, rather than resulting from a
genuine need for development in equality from within the country. Open hostility to the
existence of the institution has been avoided for a considerable time. Howeve r, in 2018,
the Ombudsperson received a written request and was invited to the Parliament to
provide answers regarding the Supportcampaign, which had been implemented by the
institution with the aims of inspiring the public to support wom en who open up about the
experience of abuse and violence and of avoiding victim-blaming attitudes. Various
different people (a friend, the mother, a judge, a police officer, the children’s rights
protection service and a priest) were depicted in a campaign video as blaming the victim,
using the words victims said they had h eard during research. 281 The Ombud sperson was
invited to a plenary session in the Parliament and had to answer questions on whether,
281 ‘Support’ campaign, video by the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson, available in Lithuanian
at: &v=2KrHsqiwnQY.
through its campaign, the Ombudsperson was not undermining state institutions,
discrediting society’s trust in state institutions and the state itself or violating the rights
of religious persons.282 During the campaign, the Ombudsperson was widely criticised by
church-affiliated groups and NGOs for violating ‘traditional values’. However, following
the criticism, the Ombudsperson has received support from around 50 specialised
centres, women’s organisations and human rights organisations,283 and a number of
politicians, including both Opposition and Government-supporting members of the
Parliament, expressed their support.
The underfunding of various governmental programmes is common practice in Lithuania.
Most of the national anti-discrimination p rogrammes, as well as many public bodies, were
severely underfunded during the years of economic crisis (2008-2012).
The Ombudsperson was gran ted a new role from July 2019 to monitor the UN C onvention
on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In re lation to this function, a new Commission
for Monitoring the Rights of Pers ons with Disabilities was established. The Annual Report
for 2019 states that no sufficient funding was granted for the implementation of the new
function,284 and the additional EUR 22 000 for th e newly granted functions was allocated
to the Ombudspersons Office only from 2020.285
Public support for the national equality body remains rather limited. It is certain that
most of the human rights NGOs support the existenc e of the in stitution as such, but the
general public still lack knowledge and understanding of its role, as reported in previous
reports. More than half of the population in Lithuania say that, if they were discriminated
against or harassed, they would exercise t heir rights and would report the discrimination
to the police (37 %) or to the national Equal Opportunities Office (35 %).286 On the other
hand, when people are actually discriminated against, they rarely report the fact:
according to a public opinion poll, 95 % of individuals who said they had been victims of
human rights violations did not complain to any institution.287
There has been definite improvem ent since the appointment of the Ombudsp erson in
2015 the efficiency of the institution has increased , its work has becom e much more
open to the public, its role has become much more visible in the media and, during the
last few years, it has instigated a few widely discussed a wareness-raising campaigns and
has spoken out against discriminatory attitu des expressed by high-level politicians.
According to the public opinion poll authorised by the Ombudsperson in 2018, 73.7 % of
persons indicated that they had heard of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson, and
28 % responded that they would con tact the Ombudsperson in the case of discrimination.
However, it should be noted that the level of trust in the Ombudsperson has fallen from
29.1 % in 2017 to 24.1 % in 2018.288
282 Transcript of the plenary session of the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania of 13 November 2018,
available in Lithuanian at: https://e- 7f911e894a78279b4c56611.
283 Letter from NGOs to the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania, 13 November 2018, available in Lithuanian
at: /D%C4%97l-LR-Lygi%C5%B3-galimybi%C5%B3-
kontrolieriaus-tarnybos-vykdytos-kamp anijos-%E2%80%9EPalaikyk%E2%80%9C.pdf.
284 Lithuanian Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson (2020), Annual Report for 2019, available in Lithuan ian at: 0/03/lr_lygiu_galimybiu_kontrolieriaus_2019_m._v eiklos_ataskait
285 2019-2020 Changes within state budget appropriations acc ording to appropriation managers (2019-2020
met valstybs biudžeto asignavim pokyčiai paga l asignavim valdytojus ), available in Lithuanian at: s/2020-01-13%202020-2019%20did%20maz.pdf.
286 European Commission, Eurobarometer survey, ‘Discrimination in the EU in 2015, available online at: n/index.cfm/ResultDoc/download/DocumentKy/68110.
287 Human Rights Monitoring Institute, public opinion poll on how society evaluates the situation of human
rights in Lithuania, conducted by Vilmorus from 3 to 12 Oc tober 2014, available online at: isuomenes-nuomones-apklausos/.
288 Lithuanian Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson (2019), Annual Report for 2018, available in Lithuanian at: 9/04/lgk-2018-m.-veiklos-ataskaita-.pdf.

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