Human rights charity Amnesty International has condemned plans by Lithuania to criminalise the “promotion” of homosexuality.
Earlier this year, the European Union member state banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools. The new laws would go further than this, possibly criminalising any mention of homosexuality in public places at all. They would also establish severe penalties for transgressors.
According to Amnesty, punishable offences would include campaigning on human rights issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity, providing sexual health information to lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans people or the organisation of gay film festivals and Pride events.
Those who fall foul of the proposed laws could receive a fine, community service or a prison sentence.
The charity has warned that if passed, the laws will prevent LGBT people from accessing vital services and will increase discrimination, violence and human rights abuses.
Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia programme director, said: “These proposals are a new low in Lithuania’s slide to state-sponsored homophobia
She added that anyone detained under the proposed amendments to the penal code would be considered by Amnesty International to be a prisoner of conscience.
“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,” Duckworth said.
“It is hard to believe that a member of the European Union should even be considering the adoption of such legislation.”
“Parliamentarians, as the elected representatives of the people, should be the leading force in safeguarding the rights of all and respecting the country’s international obligations.”
Amnesty’s warning comes several weeks after MEPs and the gay rights group ILGA-Europe complained to Lithuanian MPs about the proposals, pointing out that they are “a severe limitation of freedom of speech and a breach of the principles of equality and non-discrimination of the European Union and the Council of Europe.”