In July, the Lithuanian parliament, or Seimas, passed legislation prohibiting the distribution of information regarding sexual orientation through channels available to children.
Vytautas Valentinavicius, 29, is the head of the Tolerant Youth Association based in Vilnius. He believes this legislation, entitled Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information, will stifle discussion on homosexuality.
“This law reinforces discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation, denies the right to freedom and deprives children access to the support and protection they may need,” Vytautas said.
“The legislation says that the public information ‘distorts family relations, scorns its values’ and also causes detrimental effects to the development of minors. No doubt, this piece of legislation will pave the way for enlarged discrimination towards all LGBTI people.”
The Bill, which comes into force in March 2010, had almost unanimous support in the Seimas with a final vote of 87 in favour, six against and 25 abstentions.
Homosexuality was legalised in the Baltic state in 1993 following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Vytautas believes it was largely external factors which leveraged against the Government.
“The main reason for the decriminalisation was the willingness to be part of the EU. Lithuania signed many papers declaring to respect human rights but I do not believe it has thought about the implementation.”
European Parliamentarians have been relatively vocal in promoting equality in Lithuania.
Regarding the Protection of Minors Bill, Michael Cashman, president of the European Parliament’s LGBT rights group said, “This new law is a spit in the face of the European values. To limit freedom of expression based on homophobia is a clear breach of EU’s fundamental rights and principles.”
While Vytautas appreciates the rhetoric, he is concerned about the lack of action.
“They talked aloud about this cause, they expressed concern over this issue, however, legal measures haven’t been taken towards Lithuania and it worries me a lot. According to the last public opinion poll conducted by [research company] Spinter tyrimai, Lithuania was confirmed as one the most homophobic societies in Europe,” he told SSO.
The survey showed only 12.2 percent of those questioned consider homosexuality a normal form of sexuality. Furthermore, 57.8 percent of Lithuanians agreed with the mayor of Vilnius, Juozas Imbrasas, when he refused to grant permission for an anti-discrimination Europe-wide truck tour to visit the city in May last year. Imbrasas claimed it was a security risk.
The Tolerant Youth Association was established in 2005 to defend human rights, fight against anti-LGBTI discrimination and to hopefully turn around these statistics.
“Our activities include lobbying politicians and cooperating with various governmental institutions. We also arrange social events, film discussions and raise awareness on our situation in the European Union,” Vytautas said.
“Education of society has become the most important means to deal with our situation, however, the Government of Lithuania does not pay attention to these problems so comprehensive sexuality education, as a well as multicultural education, is left behind.”

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