Current Affairs

EU opposes Lithuania’s ‘Section 28’ homosexuality law

Jessica Geen September 17, 2009
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The European Union today voted to adopt a resolution criticising a recent law passed by Lithuania which prohibits any mention of 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.

It has been compared to Section 28, the law which prohibited discussion of homosexuality in UK schools.

In June, President Adamkus vetoed the law, but parliament has the power to override him and did so on July 14th with a vote of 87-6. It is expected the law will come into force on March 1st 2010.

Gay rights campaigners said it would lead to increased homophobic bulling and discrimination against gay people. They also raised concerns that LGBT young people would not be able to access the information they need.

In July, Amnesty International said it was a “bad day for LGBT rights”, while Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill described the move as a “tragedy”.

Michael Cashman, the openly gay president of the European Parliament’s LGBT intergroup, said of the law: “The ideology behind the text is pure homophobia. It is crucial to allow young people to speak, think and act, in the respect of others who are different. Young people need education not isolation.

Recalling Section 28, he said: “We should not allow a similar text to be implemented in another member state. It would be a dangerous step back to the past, for the whole of the European Union.”

The resolution states that the law is in breach of EU and international treaties and anti-discrimination texts. It calls for the Agency for Fundamental Rights to give an opinion on the law in light of them.

“This new parliament has showed today that it will not accept intolerance and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and we will fight on to keep this stance alive,” concluded Cashman.

A working-group has been set up by the Lithuanian president and a final vote will be taken before the end of the year. The European Parliament will follow the issue through its Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

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. Howard later expressed his regret in his role of passing the discriminatory law and currently Tory leader David Cameron apologised for it this year.

Related topics: Europe

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