The number of discrimination cases increased during the pandemic
During the pandemic, the number of inquiries on discrimination increased, as did violations of equal opportunities laws. Last year the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson identified 37 cases of discrimination (8 more than a year ago). After presenting the 2020 annual report to Seimas and the public, Ombudsperson Agneta Skardžiuvienė pointed out that the restrictions of quarantine had an impact on the situation of equal opportunities.
Women turn to the Ombudsperson‘s Office more often
Last year the Office received 944 inquiries due to discrimination. Citizens mostly turned to the Office by writing emails/filling the form and asking various questions (68,2% of all inquiries), and less often by sending complaints (19,8%), or by contacting the Office on Facebook (12%). In addition to that, 721 more individuals were consulted by phone or in person at the premises of the Office. Out of all individuals that turned to the Office, women accounted for 42%, while men 28%. Legal entities (27%) and anonymous individuals (3%) were also consulted.
As every year, discrimination on the basis of sex was reported most frequently (242 times, 26%), while next in line was discrimination based on disability (123 times, 13%) and age (121 times, 23,8%). As the lawyers of the Office noticed, every year they receive complaints due to multiple discrimination when a person is discriminated against on several grounds simultaneously. Such inquiries accounted for almost 6% of all inquiries.
Although most complaints were sent by individuals due to discrimination in the field of employment, the Ombudsperson found the highest number of equal opportunities violations in the field of goods and services (19). While in the field of labor, 10 violations were identified, in the activities of state and municipal institutions and establishments - 6 violations, in the field of education - 2 violations.
The quarantine restrictions undermined the rights of the elderly and people with disabilities
Ensuring the rights of the elderly and people with disabilities in the country during the quarantine has become one of the biggest challenges.
"We faced an unprecedented pandemic last year, and that is definitely reflected in the Office's annual report. We cooperated with state institutions, disseminated recommendations on how to ensure equal opportunities during the epidemic, and participated in the discussion of measures to reduce its consequences. Although we have consistently worked to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic on the most vulnerable groups in society, we have still received a number of inquiries regarding discrimination during quarantine,” says A. Skardžiuvienė.
The quarantine restrictions imposed during the pandemic affected those over 60 years of age the most - they faced discrimination at work, and access to goods or services was often restricted, especially in medical institutions. Access to medical and rehabilitation services for people with disabilities was also restricted, and the exemption from wearing face masks in public places was unjustifiably disregarded.
In the Ombudsperson's opinion, the results of last year's work not only provide an opportunity to rejoice in the fact that the topic of equal opportunities is becoming more and more relevant in society, but also highlight areas where further effort is needed.
The Office encouraged fathers to get involved in childcare
Last year the Office introduced a social campaign called “Being a Father is the Greatest Gift“ that would encourage the early involvement of fathers in childcare. It is estimated that this campaign reached around one million Lithuanian citizens. The experts of the Office are glad that this campaign cached the attention of dads, especially on social media. Men would share their stories of modern fatherhood and explain why this experience is important to them.
The Office also sought to actively change society's attitudes towards LGBT+ community rights, gender-based violence, and the gender-equal work-life balance. The experts delivered training for school communities and consulted organizations on the development of the equal opportunities policy.
Awards to initiatives and people for outstanding achievements in the field of human rights
Despite the unusual circumstances, the seventh National Equality and Diversity Awards were held last year at the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, which has already become the biggest celebration of the year in the field of human rights. At the ceremony, the winners were handed out statuettes created by the artist Ieva Paltanavičiūtė, representing the importance of diversity, and cash prizes established by Swedbank.
Although the awards for the 2020 have been postponed due to the pandemic, this tradition is planned to be continued next year.