Lithuania: Amnesty warns proposed homophobic law would violate European and International law

As the Lithuanian parliament returns for its Autumn session and prepares to debate proposals which would criminalise the promotion of homosexuality, Amnesty International warned today (9 September) that such moves would violate both European and international law.

The proposed amendments would go even further than a Lithuanian law passed in July which criminalised the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in places where Children's rights would be exposed to it – moves which have been compared to Section 28 in the UK.

The new proposals aim to criminalise the promotion of homosexuality in public places more broadly and would potentially criminalise an extremely wide variety of activities - including campaigning on human rights issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity, providing sexual health information to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people or the organization of gay film festivals, or Pride events. These ‘offences’ would be punishable with a fine or imprisonment.

Nicola Duckworth, Europe Director at Amnesty International said:

“These proposals are a new low in Lithuania’s slide to state-sponsored homophobia.”

The proposed amendments would effectively prevent LGBT people from accessing the appropriate information, support and protection to enable them to live their sexual orientation and gender identity. They are also likely to lead to increased discrimination and other human rights abuses in a range of areas, including employment and the access to goods and services.

Nicola Duckworth continued:

“Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin wall the Lithuanian parliament is turning the clock back by imposing draconian limitations on the flow of information and the freedom of expression and stigmatising part of the population.

“It is hard to believe that a member of the European Union should even be considering the adoption of such legislation.”

Background

The two legislative amendments are currently being considered are:

A new Article 310 in the Penal Code entitled “Promotion of homosexual relations in public places” stating that “a person promoting homosexual relations in public places is committing a criminal offence which is punishable with community work or a fine or imprisonment.” The offence can also be committed by legal persons.

A new Article 214 in the Administrative Code, entitled “Promotion of homosexual relations or financing of promotion in public places” stating that “the promotion of homosexual relations or financing of the promotion in public places is to be punished by a fine from one thousand to five thousand litas.”

Lithuania is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), both of which guarantee freedom of expression.

The ICCPR and ECHR, as well as several other international human rights instruments, prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In so far as the proposed amendments restrict the enjoyment of a wide range of rights on this basis, without any objective or reasonable justification, they would clearly violate Lithuania’s non-discrimination obligations.

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