For the Seimas Ombudsman Augustinas Normantas, the Draft Law on Domestic Violence (the Draft) raised serious doubts on the possible preconditions it creates for restricting human rights and freedoms. Among other things, when asked to evaluate the Draft, the Seimas Ombudsman did not hide his disappointment at the fact that many provisions enshrined in the Draft should be assessed as inconsistent with the principle of equality, inappropriate and excessive; moreover, discriminating not only women but also members of the LGBT community.
It should be noted that the Draft states the purpose of the Law, i.e. to seek to protect every person from domestic violence and women from domestic violence against women. Assessing this, the Seimas Ombudsman states that the linguistic and logical interpretation of the wording presented in the Draft presupposes that two categories of people (persons and women) are erroneously distinguished; therefore, it can be concluded that women are not considered persons for reasons not mentioned in the explanatory memorandum of the Draft, which, in the opinion of the Seimas Ombudsman, is fundamentally unethical and incompatible with respect for women and their dignity.
“The proposal to establish the concept of domestic violence against women in the Draft seeks to recognize gender inequality that exists throughout the world, including Lithuania, and which often results in domestic violence. However, the proposed amendment of the provisions of the Law in its content raises doubts as to its compliance with the principle of equality of persons before the Law. The proposed concepts of the Law and their definitions in the sense of human rights and freedoms are not necessary for a woman, like any other individual, to be considered a person entitled to protection and guarantees,” notes the Seimas Ombudsman Augustinas Normantas.
The Seimas Ombudsman does not question that women experience domestic violence more often than men, since as many as 80 percent of victims of violence are women, and acknowledges that violence against women is a serious violation of human rights. However, in assessing the changes proposed by the Draft, he doubts whether the mere fact that women are statistically more likely to experience domestic violence is a sufficient objective basis for claiming that women are entitled to different measures and guarantees of protection against domestic violence than men.
“A victim of domestic violence can become any person, regardless of his/her gender, age, sexual orientation, disability or other situation. Legislation on measures to combat domestic violence should have a broad understanding of the close environment, i.e. it should encompass not only those with family ties, but also others, including people living in the same place of residence, couples that keep in touch but do not live together, unmarried couples as well as homosexual couples,” the Seimas Ombudsman enumerates the problems.
The Seimas Ombudsman explains that persons belonging to the LGBT community experience both domestic violence and discrimination due to inaccessible aid measures. These services and protection for LGBT members are just as necessary as for other victims of violence, and are essential to prevent same-sex violence. The prevailing prejudice that the victim of domestic violence is always a woman and that only a man is an abuser will not effectively address the issue of possible domestic violence by same-sex partners.
In addition to the mentioned doubtful provisions, the Seimas Ombudsman also became concerned about the right of officials to apply repressive measures (temporary removal of a person from his place of residence, obligation not to visit the place of residence of a person, who has experienced violence, etc.) that are not sanctioned by a court. In the opinion of the Seimas Ombudsman, the mere fact that officials are the first to react to cases of domestic violence cannot in itself be a sufficient basis for granting them repressive powers of this extent without the presence of a court. Furthermore, it is not clear what measures would be taken to ensure the protection of the rights and freedoms of victims of violence and how the abuse of power by officials would be prevented.