COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS OF CHILD EXAMINES REPORT OF LITHUANIA ON SALE OF CHILDREN, CHILD PROSTITUTION AND CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

Committee on the Rights
of the Child
18 September 2008

The Committee on the Rights of the Child this morning reviewed the initial report of Lithuania on how that country is implementing the provisions of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Introducing the report, Violeta Murauskaitë, Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Social Security and Labour of Lithuania, said that in Lithuania one of the top political priorities was safeguarding the rights of the child. Trafficking in human beings, sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography was treated as among the most serious violations of the rights of the child. Lithuania had ratified or acceded to most of the international conventions of the United Nations, the Hague Conference on Private International Law, and the International Labour Organization, which made up the legal framework to protect children from the sale, prostitution or pornography. One of the most essential steps forward for social protection of the most vulnerable groups and a preventative measure that protected children from trafficking or sexual abuse was the establishment of 556 new work establishments for the social workers in every Seniunija (local community) of Lithuania in 2007.

In preliminary concluding remarks, Nevena Vuckovic-Sahovic, the Committee Expert serving as co-Rapporteur for the report of Lithuania, said that Lithuania was doing fine in implementing child rights, and there was no perfect way to improve the situation. However, adjusting and modernizing to deal with emerging problems was necessary. The Committee’s concluding observations would reflect the need to improve some legislation. Also in preliminary concluding remarks, David Brent Parfitt, the Committee Expert serving as Rapporteur for the report of Lithuania, noted that areas that needed to be reformed also included children’s institutions.

Among questions and concerns voiced by several Committee Experts were the need to include definitions of child prostitution and child pornography in Lithuania’s criminal code, and concern that child victims might in some cases be treated as offenders, in particular in the area of child prostitution.

The Committee will release its formal, written concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Lithuania on the Optional Protocol towards the end of its three-week session, which will conclude on Friday, 3 October.

Lithuania’s delegation, which presented the report, included representatives from the Ministry of Social Security and Labour; the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of the Interior’ the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Education and Science; the Criminal Justice Research Department of the Legal Institute; and the Permanent Mission of Lithuania to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

As one of the 193 States parties to the Convention, Lithuania is obliged to present periodic reports to the Committee on its efforts to comply with the provisions of the treaty.


When the Committee next reconvenes in public, on Friday, 18 September at 10 a.m., it will hold a Day of General Discussion on the right of the child to education in emergency situations.


Report of Lithuania

Most victims of violence in Lithuania are children aged 10 to 17, while sexual, physical and psychological violence are all mostly targeted at children aged 10 to 14, notes the initial report of Lithuania on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC/C/OPSC/LTU/1). At the beginning of 2006, the State Child Rights Protection and Adoption Service collected from municipal child protection services statistical data about instances of violence committed against children in 2005, including sexual abuse. According to the data received, 2,311 children suffered from violence in 2005. This figure has not changed much from the respective figure for 2004, when 2,359 instances of violence against children were recorded. Prevalence of abuse as a percentage of population shows that 0.27 per cent of all children living in Lithuania as of 1 January 2005 suffered violence in 2005. The highest prevalence of violence against children is recorded in the counties of Vilnius (0.54 per cent) and Utena (0.32 per cent). Incidents of physical violence accounted for 63.34 percent of the cases reported. Boys suffer from physical violence more frequently than girls, while sexual violence was more often targeted at girls. The report also noted that urban children were affected by violence almost twice as much as rural children.

According to the data of municipal child protection services, sexual abuse is the least prevalent type of violence against children. However, as much as 20.7 per cent (29 cases) of victims of sexual abuse were abused by other minors; 22 of them were sexually abused by strangers, and 7 by minors close to them. Sexual abuse of children refers not only to sexual acts committed to satisfy another person’s sexual desire but also acts by which another person (usually, an adult) derives material benefit (e.g. child pornography and prostitution).

Presentation of Report

VIOLETA MURAUSKAITË, Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Social Security and Labour of Lithuania, introducing the report, said that the initial report on the Optional Protocol had been prepared by a working group set up by the Ministry of Justice and composed of the representatives from different ministries, from the Office of the Ombudsman for the Protection of the Rights of the Child. During the drafting period, relevant non-governmental organizations had been consulted as well. In 2004, Lithuania had become a member of the European Union and NATO.

With reference to the Optional Protocol, Lithuania was a country of transit, final destination and the country of origin, Ms. Murauskaitë said. That was kept in mind, while building international cooperation on human rights, trust, and mutual understanding of neighbouring countries.

In Lithuania one of the top political priorities was safeguarding of the rights of the child. Trafficking in human beings, sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography had been treated as one of the serious violations of the rights of the child. Ms. Murauskaitë said that the Seimas (Parliament) of Lithuania had ratified or acceded to most of the international conventions of the United Nations, the Hague Conference on Private International Law, and the International Labour Organization, which made up the legal framework to protect children from the sale, prostitution or pornography.

The Constitution and the Law of Lithuania on Treaties provided that all international agreements ratified in the country became an integral part of the legal system of the State and had to be applied by the courts directly, Ms. Murauskaitë said. According to the national law, prostitution was illegal in Lithuania and was punished under the Administrative Violation Code.

In Lithuania, as in many other countries in the world, most children who came into prostitution or could become victims of sale or trafficking, or could be used for pornography, were children from families at social risk – such as families who were addicted to alcohol or drugs and had been unemployed in the long term – or from social groups which were most at risk – children from poor families, or children from childcare institutions of boarding schools, Ms. Murauskaitë said. One of the most essential steps forward for social protection of the most vulnerable groups, and a preventative measure that could protect children from trafficking or sexual abuse, was the establishment of 556 new work establishments for the social workers in every Seniunija (local community) of Lithuania in 2007. Salaries and special training for social workers who worked with families at social risk were funded by the State through a special grant. In 2008, the first positive signs had been seen as a result of their work – the list of such families in the country had decreased and the number of children at risk had diminished.

Ms. Murauskaitë said that, after the Optional Protocol had been ratified, criminal and administrative laws had been revised and amended in line with its main provisions. Criminal liability for the use of child prostitution or child pornography in any manner had been increased for natural and legal persons. In addition, on 3 June 2008, the Parliament had approved new amendments to the Civil Code that provided for the legal obligation to the offender, and not the victim, to leave his/her home and family. The active position of the Government in cooperation with lobbying women’s organizations had encouraged the Parliament to adopt this amendment.

In 2002, Lithuania had been the first country in the region to adopt the Specialized Programme on the Prevention and Control of Trafficking in Human Beings and Prostitution. Lithuania experts, including police, prosecutors, judges, social workers, and medical staff, continued to work actively in the field of prosecution of persons engaged in organized crime and in providing assistance for the victims of trafficking at the international level. On regional efforts, Lithuania was taking part in the Nordic Baltic awareness raising campaign against trafficking in women and had long-term international cooperation on the questions of international child trafficking and child prostitution in the framework of the Council of the Baltic Sea States.

The safety of children in relation to the Internet was a serious concern for Lithuania, Ms. Murauskaitë highlighted. Over 60 per cent of children and teenagers used the Internet, 40 per cent of them being between the ages of 10 and 14 years old. The “Safer Internet” programme implemented by the European Commission had been launched in Lithuania in 2005. It was seen as an efficient and useful measure in protecting children from violence on the Internet. The “Hot Line”, created to allow Internet users to report on criminal activities to the national institutions combating them, had also proved to be particularly effective.

More generally, Lithuania sought to protect children from any acts of violence and to decrease the spreading of violence, as well as develop a culture of non-violence. Actions such as “No to Violence Against Children” had been organized in Lithuania on an annual basis since 2004. During those events, qualified specialists trained by the municipal Child Rights Protection Offices participated in the analysis of the risks and problems arising for children using mobile phones, computers and the Internet.

With regard to assistance to victims of trafficking or prostitution, Ms. Murauskaitë reported that only a few cases had been reported in the last few years. While in 2005 there were no cases, there had been 3 cases in 2006, and 17 cases in 2007. The Programme on the Prevention and Control of Trafficking in Human Beings and Prostitution for 2005-2008, and the National Programme for Prevention of Violence against Children and Assistance for 2005-2007 were two specialized programmes funded from the State budget which addressed the support of victims of trafficking in human beings and for children who suffered from violence, sexual abuse or prostitution. In addition, a new Programme and Plan of Action for 2008-2010 had recently been adopted.

According to the Action Plan of the Programme for Prevention of Violence against Children and Assistance 2005-2007, five new specialized interrogation rooms for investigation of children in police stations had been introduced. Special training for different civil servants and members of the judiciary was also planned. The State had allocated 1.5 million Litas to provide short-term and long-term comprehensive assistance for victims of prostitution, sexual abuse and trafficking.

Oral Questions Raised by the Rapporteur and Experts

DAVID BRENT PARFITT, the Committee Expert serving as co-country Rapporteur for the report of Lithuania, welcomed in particular the information that, in the event of conflict between domestic law and the Convention, the Convention’s provisions prevailed in Lithuania. In addition, there was a lot being done for the prevention of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and the recognition of the rights of children.

Among concerns was the lack of a direct definition of child pornography or child prostitution in Lithuanian legislation. Also, what attempts had been made to ensure that children across the country had access to similar services as those in the local communities or municipalities, Mr. Parfitt asked?

Mr. Parfitt commended the creation of the Ombudsman’s Office, as its functions were directly in line with the provisions of the Convention. Regarding the Ombudsman report, which was presented to the media and the Parliament, and included a number of recommendations, what was the status of implementing those recommendations?

Another concern was that the legal protections for children outlined in the report seemed quite discretionary, such as the taping of pre-trial investigations by judges.

A serious concern was the new state family concept that was being approved by the Parliament, Mr. Parfitt stressed. The system of family policy was to be developed on that concept, which defined family very strictly and that might result in women and girls not receiving proper health education, for example, on contraception. Another deep concern for the Committee was the case of girls living at boarding institutions which the report itself recorded as being particularly vulnerable to being victims of sexual exploitation. What was being done to address that?

NEVENA VUCKOVIC-SAHOVIC, the Committee Expert serving as co-Rapporteur for the report, was concerned that the report was not in line with the Committee’s guidelines. The approach taken by the Committee with regard to clustering of issues was in fact a holistic approach, and the fact that Lithuania had not followed the guidelines brought into question Lithuania’s understanding of what was required by the Protocol. For example, the report focused extensively on issues such as trafficking and violence against children, when the there main foci of the Optional Protocol were specifically the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Ms. Vuckovic-Sahovic welcomed the research ongoing in Lithuania, which had produced very interesting findings. Here, she noted that the overall context of poverty and the marginalization of vulnerable groups had not been addressed in the report. Another problematic area was that the report referred to “runaway children, who are also called street children”. That illustrated to the Committee a lack of understanding. There was a whole prejudice inherited from the past, in which there had been a view that children who ran away from home were destined to crime.

Regarding prostitution and pornography, disaggregated statistics would be welcome, Ms. Vuckovic-Sahovic noted.

It was strange to see that there was more violence in Lithuania than any other country in the region. Therefore, more work was encouraged on combating violence, in particular in the family.

Committee Experts then raised questions and made comments on a number of topics, including the need to educate children about the risks they faced as well as about their rights; measures to regulate adoptions; what measures had been taken to punish offenders for violations under the Convention; whether there was a rehabilitation programme for offenders; and whether there were any preventative measures aimed at parents, such as an education programme?

Other questions included the reasons behind low numbers of reports of child abuse, neglect and sexual abuse, which was mandatory in Lithuania; whether victims were treated or regarded socially as offenders; and whether administrative fines had been imposed on girls convicted of prostitution.

A Committee Expert asked if there had been any criminal case brought in which a moral person had been convicted for the sale of children? Also, what measures had been put in place for cases involving the sale of children for the purpose of acquiring their organs?

Response by Delegation to Oral Questions

With respect to the definition of child pornography and prostitution, the delegation said that it depended on traditions of legislation. In Lithuania definitions were not made in cases when there was a clear understanding of the practice. On the other hand, it had been mentioned by the Committee that the term pornography was an evolving definition, and was better left to the ethics experts of the Inspector General's Office. A general definition in the Penal Code was also found not to be of much use. Every case was open to question as to whether it constituted pornography or not, and what was forbidden or not.

Certain exceptions existed in the context of child prostitution for girls involved in such cases, the delegation continued. There was a rule in which liability was imposed on children aged 16 years and up in the form of an administrative fine. The fine was similarly imposed in cases involving boys and girls. According to the law, girls between the ages of 17 to 18 were considered liable.

Exporting and importing pornographic materials was not covered under the Criminal Code, the delegation said. However, liability existed under the Criminal Code for those who obtained, or distributed pornographic material.

Article 157 of the Criminal Code provided criminal liability for the act of purchasing children. Several criminal cases involving legal entities had been prosecuted in which those entities had been held liable. However, whether the Optional Protocol had been invoked, no information was available, the delegation noted.

With respect to the sale of children for the purpose of adoption, in 2005 the Criminal Code had been amended to harmonize its provisions with international law, the Convention and other international instruments. Under scholarly discussion was the expansion of the definition in the Criminal Code to include the sale of children for adoption. The sale of children for the purpose of acquiring their organs was considered an aggravated crime, which carried a penalty of 5 to 15 years’ imprisonment.

There were special provisions concerning adoption, and agencies needed to be accredited, the delegation said. Currently, a total of 15 adoption agencies were in operation in Lithuania. The main task of those agencies was not for profit, and the main goal was to limit the number of international adoptions.

On trafficking in human beings, the Migration Department was responsible for accompanying minors to the borders of other countries. Currently five hearing rooms across five regions in the country had been set up for migration cases, with a plan to set up five more in 2009-2010. In addition, there were also hearing rooms for non-governmental organisations. Cooperation with Europol was extremely important in this effort. Measures also included the use of the Europol database on crimes against children, the Europol task force, in which Lithuania was an active member, and the coordination with Baltic Sea States. And Lithuania planned to ratify the European Convention on Sexual Exploitation in the near future, the delegation added.

Regarding educational measures to better prepare children in dealing with the dangers of violence and sexual exploitation, the delegation said that school programmes included ethics and civics, which dealt with points raised in the Optional Protocol as well as in other legal documents. It was also important to note the programme of family planning and education of children, which had been developed in 2000. Today, a renewed programme was being implemented. The programme had two aims, both preventative and educational. An extremely important part of the programme looked at violence and sexual issues. There was an option for children to choose their programmes.

In September 2008 a law on the monitoring and care of children was adopted, which created monitoring groups in schools to prevent violence and the exploitation of children. On the situation in boarding schools, it was important to note that the teachers working in those institutions were also social workers. Work with those educators was done similarly as that with the public institutions. The educational goal was to prepare children for the dangers that awaited them in the real world. Quite a lot was being done in this area the delegation said.

Preliminary Concluding Observations

NEVENA VUCKOVIC-SAHOVIC, the Committee Expert serving as co- Rapporteur for the report of Lithuania, said that Lithuania was doing fine in implementing child rights, and there was no perfect way to improve the situation. When problems were addressed, new problems emerged. Adjusting and modernizing to emerging problems was necessary. The concluding observations and recommendations the Committee would adopt would reflect today’s dialogue, in particular, the need for improvement of some legislation. The Committee welcomed the limitation of the list of offences so that it was in line with the internationally accepted list, in order to avoid children being responsible for acts in which they should not be.

DAVID BRENT PARFITT, the Committee Expert serving as country Rapporteur for the report of Lithuania, echoed what Ms. Sahovic said and noted that some of the ideas presented by Lithuania had been considered, and the Committee was impressed by the measures taken to implement the Optional Protocol. Some areas which needed to be reformed, among others, included legislation and children’s institutions. Best wishes were extended to Lithuania and the children of Lithuania in particular.
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