Section 28 style law likely to be passed in Lithuania to prohibit discussion of homosexuality in schools

PinkNews Staff Writer June 4, 2009
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The Lithuanian Parliament is set to introduce a law to prohibit the discussion of homosexuality in schools. It is similar to the notorious Section 28 law in Britain that for years hampered the ability to teachers to discuss sexuality or help gay students.

Yesterday the Lithuanian Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of moving 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 make it illegal to discuss homosexuality in schools and bans any reference to it in public information that can be viewed by children.

Controversially, the proposed amendment classes homosexuality alongside the portrayal of physical or psychological violence, displaying a dead or mutilated body information that arouses fear or horror or that encourages self abuse or suicide.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told “This legislation is homophobic discrimination. As such, it clearly violates the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. It also violates the equality and anti-discrimination clauses of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“Lithuania has signed up to these international humanitarian declarations but it is now defying them. It wants the rights of EU and UN membership, but not the responsibilities.

“This legislation will be open to legal challenge in the European Court of Human Rights and in the European Court of Justice. But that will take years.

“I hope the EU will take swift and tough action. It must make it clear to Lithuania and other renegade homophobic member states that membership of the EU is conditional on adherence to EU laws and values. Member states cannot be allowed to pick and choose.

“Lithuania has no right to belong to European institutions if it violates their human rights principles.”

Kate Allen Director of Amnesty International UK Director condemns the law: “‘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 passed into law, Lithuania could be in breach of the statement that it signed at the UN General Assembly last years that guaranteed human rights to everyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Last October Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas said: “Lithuania is one of the most homophobic countries in the EU. This has to be viewed as a fact.

“The situation cannot be changed by any one party or minister.”

LGBT advocacy group Tolerant Youth Association (TJA) said: “Neither agitation nor family values are defined in the newly approved law proposal, therefore it would allow to put a ban on basically any non-negative information on homosexuality.

“It would be possible not only to ban websites and films (e.g. Brokeback Mountain) positively presenting homosexual relations, but also discos, exhibitions, demonstrations and other public events related to homosexuality if these could be accessed by minors.”

The UK version, Section 28 was introduced by former Conservative Leader Michael Howard when he was Local Government Minister in 1988. In 2002, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about the law.

It was repealed first in Scotland in 2000 and finally for the rest of the UK in 2003. Mr Howard later expressed his regret in his role of passing the discriminatory law.

More: Europe

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