Current Affairs

Lithuania passes Section 28-style law to ban mention of homosexuality in schools or media

Jessica Geen June 17, 2009
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Lithuania’s parliament has given final approval to a bill banning information on homosexuality in schools or in media accessible by young people.

The law, titled ‘Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information’, includes “the propaganda of homosexuality [or] bisexuality” as a detrimental factor on young people.

Human rights activists say the law will institutionalise homophobia, violate freedom of speech and harm children. They add that it puts homosexuality in the same category as showing images of dead or mutilated bodies and will even ban discussion of homophobic bullying.

The bill has not yet been given presidential approval.

Campaigning group Tolerant Youth Association has said the bill will put Lithuania in breach of international and European human rights legislation.

Henrikas Mickevicius, the head of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute, told Reuters: “It is difficult to say how the law would work in practice … It could be used against teachers who would want to discuss homosexuality with schoolchildren.

“In any case, we are talking about limiting freedom of expression here.”

Earlier this month, 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.”

The bill has been compared to the UK’s Section 28, which banned mention of homosexuality in schools.

It 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. Howard later expressed his regret in his role of passing the discriminatory law.

Related topics: Europe

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