Yesterday, the Lithuanian Parliament adopted a discriminatory law designed to ban information about sexuality in schools, the media, or any public places where it “could be seen by minors.” The Parliament overturned a previous presidential veto of the law with a vote of 87-6.
This broad-ranging law has major implications on the rights of LGBTQQI youth in Lithuania, and sets a disturbing precedent for future laws that promote censorship and discrimination.
In a recent press release, national and international youth organizations described the legislation as going “against the fundamental human rights of minors and those who work with them.”
“Neither ‘agitation’ nor ‘family values’ are defined in the newly-adopted law. We fear it will allow the prohibition of any non-negative information about homosexuality and bisexuality accessible for minors, such as movies, websites, articles, sexual education and even psychological help, much needed when a significant proportion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people experience mental health problems and attempt suicide.”
The press release goes on to describe some of the negative effects the law will have:
“The law will have a tremendously harmful effect on homosexual and bisexual children and adolescents, and potentially on other young people indirectly affected by the law. It further encourages the marginalisation and stigmatisation of young people from sexual minorities, and restricts their access to adequate information and support.”
And it outlines the policies and agreements this law violates:
“…this piece of legislation is in breach of Article 10 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of expression...The law also breaches the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (Chapter III, Article 21, Part 1), which states that ‘Any discrimination based on any ground such as…sexual orientation shall be prohibited’. Finally, the law is in breach of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child’s Article 13, which guarantees the ‘freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds’.”
The release also briefly acknowledges the progress that has been made towards the protection of sexual minorities, before decrying the law as major step backwards:
“The World Health Organisation took homosexuality off the list of mental disorders in 1990, and national legislations in Europe have steadily progressed in the past 20 years towards greater protection of sexual minorities. The Seimas has taken several steps backwards, doing so against the rights and interests of Lithuanians.”
The letter ends with a call for the Lithuanian government and parliamentarians to acknowledge the harmful effects of the initiative on the socio-economic development of Lithuania and on its international credibility. IWHC joins Lithuanian youth organizations and international human rights groups in condemning this violation of the rights to freedom of expression and information.
For more on the law and its harmful effects, read an Amnesty International press release condemning the law here. For more information on homophobic laws around the world, check out this map of state-sponsored homophobia that we posted on Akimbo last month. And visit our web site for more information on the work that IWHC and its partners are doing to protect human rights and sexuality.
Chelsea Ricker is the Africa Program Assistant at the International Women’s Health Coalition. Read her bio here.