Lithuania: MPs trying to introduce 'clause 28'

Increasing homophobia in Lithuania of great concern

Amnesty International today condemned the Lithuanian parliament for voting to proceed with a bill that would bring in a similar regime to ‘Clause 28’, which institutionalised homophobia in the UK for 15 years (1988-2003).

Yesterday (2 June), Lithuanian parliamentarians voted by an overwhelming majority to move forward to a final vote on an amendment to the "Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information".

If passed, the amendment will prohibit the discussion of homosexuality in schools and ban any reference to it in public information that can be viewed by Children's rights. The proposed amendment classes homosexuality alongside issues such as the portrayal of physical or psychological violence, the display of a dead or cruelly mutilated body, and information that arouses fear or horror, or encourages self-mutilation or suicide.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“By voting to move forward with this bill, the Lithuanian parliament is threatening to deprive students access to the support and protection they may need.

“It is also saying that the government supports homophobia and discrimination against LGBT people, and risks inciting homophobia in the wider community.

“We had to live with a very similar form of legalised homophobia in the UK for 15 years and we know the damage such laws can do. The UK needs to be among the most vociferous in calling on the Lithuanians not to make this amendment law.”

If the amendment is passed into law, Lithuania would be in breach of its international obligations. Lithuania has an obligation to act in the best interests of the child – including its lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Children's rights.

The new law is part of a growing climate of intimidation and discrimination in Lithuania against lesbians, gay men and bisexual and transgender people. In the past year, municipal authorities have issued derogatory statements and an EU initiative, the “For Diversity, Against Discrimination” touring truck, was banned in the capital Vilnius and the city of Kaunas. The Mayor of Kaunas said that “[the] homosexual festival may cause many negative emotions.”

Yesterday was the first reading of the draft law in a full plenary session. Many parliamentarians were not present for the vote, but of those that were, 57 voted in favour of the law, two against and eight abstained.

The proposed amendment contradicts the joint statement that Lithuania signed at the UN General Assembly in December 2008, which reaffirmed that human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

In 2002, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about the UK’s ‘Clause 28’, which was introduced in 1988 and finally taken off the statute book in September 2003.

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