L. v. Lithuania – a right to private life

2011 / 06 / 01 Tags: ,

“The circumstances of the case reveal a limited legislative gap in gender reassignment surgery, which leaves the applicant in a situation of distressing uncertainty vis-à-vis his private life and the recognition of his true identity.”

– European Court of Human Rights in L. v. Lithuania case

Proceedings initiated: 2007

Proceedings closed: 2011

Nature of the case: due to the State’s failure to enacts laws regulating gender-reassignment procedure, a transgender person L. was not able to complete his surgery and change entries in the legal documents

Outcome of the case: a failure to enact necessary laws amounted to a violation of L’s right to private life (Article 8 of the ECHR), he was awarded damages

Facts of the case:

L. is a Lithuanian citizen born and registered as a girl and given female name. However, L. claims that from an early age he began to see his psychological gender as male, and thus became aware of the contradiction between his physical and psychological gender.

In 1997, L. was diagnosed with transsexuality. The treatment which lasted for several years, including a surgical treatment, was discontinued due to the failure by the State to adopt a legal act outlining the conditions and procedures of gender reassignment. For the same reason, the ongoing change of personal identity documents was also discontinued – the applicant managed to get his name, surname and sex changed, but his personal code remained unchanged and identified him as female. As a result, L. was facing significant challenges in his daily life: he was prevented from applying for jobs, paying social insurance, seeking medical treatment, applying for bank loan, interacting with public officials, crossing the border, etc.

Legal proceedings:

In 2007, Human  Rights Monitoring Institute submitted an application on behalf of L. to the European Court of Human Rights alleging a violation of a right to respect to private life.

On 11 September 2007, the ECHR found that Lithuania has violated the right to private and family life by failing to provide legal framework for gender reassignment procedure. The Court has ordered Lithuania to adopt the necessary legislation on gender reassignment in 3 months after the judgment comes into effect. In case the necessary legislation would not be adopted in due time, the Court ordered to reward the applicant with 40 000 EUR in pecuniary  and 5000 EUR in non-pecuniary damages.

Lithuanian government appealed the decision to the Grand Chamber. On 31 March 2008, the admissibility committee has rejected the appeal and the judgement came into force.

Follow-up to the case:

Lithuania paid the damages to the applicant, but has not adopted the required legislation up to this date. In 2014, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe “noted with concern that all efforts made to enact the necessary legislation have been unsuccessful to date” and tranferred the case to the enhanced supervision procedure. Human Rights Monitoring Institute and the Lithuanian Gay League continue to advocate for the full implementation of the Court’s judgment.

Although the ECHR decision was favourable to the applicant, L. continued to face difficulties in changing his civil status records. In 2009 he completed a full gender reassignment surgery abroad. However, the Lithuanian civil registry office refused to change his ID number (which indicates the sex) and L. had to appeal this decision to the court. In 2011, the Court ordered the civil registry office to change his birth certificate records, and the Residents’ Register Service to change his ID number.

Case files:

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

Documents related to the execution of the judgment