Estonian youth organizations concerned about rise in hostility against minorities

  • 2019-11-01
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Estonian organizations in the field of youth are concerned about human and caring values disappearing from society and said that threats against the Estonian LGBT Associations have crossed the line.

A discussion event on diversity was scheduled for Friday for young LGBT and other people interested in the topic at Lille youth center. The event sparked a reaction on social media and as a result, a demonstration has been organized to take place on the same evening in front of the building where young people were supposed to convene. 

"The aversion and threats have by now really crossed the line -- according to media reports, one participant in the demonstration has even promised to set the youth center on fire. Is this youth center, which should be a safe environment for all young people, about to become a feared place due to some adults' bullying, a place where both children and their parents must now be concerned for their life and safety?" the youth organizations said in a public statement. 

A similar incident occurred recently in the southwestern town of Parnu, where agitated adults showed up at an LGBT event to corner and verbally assault young people. In addition to other hostile action, local youth workers have been threatened since the youth event in Tartu was announced, and negative articles have been published online, accompanied by photos of said youth workers.

Youth workers are guided in their profession by the ethics of youth work, which promotes tolerance and respect towards diversity and seeks to encourage young people to be mutually respectful, understanding and empathetic. Youth workers do not act in a demeaning way towards any young person due to their age, gender, nationality, religion, capability, personal qualities or any other characteristics. These values are also part of our legal environment and social agreement.

A survey carried out in 2018 by the Estonian LGBT Association and a United States-based education organization, GLSEN, shows that of the 561 young LGBT people in Estonia who participated in the poll, 68 percent have fallen victim to psychological harassment due to their sexual or gender identity also in school. For that reason, it is important that youth workers address this topic, the statement reads.

Degrading and bullying treatment of minorities that has been going on in our society for quite a while has raised concerns among Estonian youth work organizations that principles of humanity, kindness, politeness and respect have begun to dissipate. 

"We have observed with regret that at the initiative of adults and the silent passive complicity of politicians and education officials, events are being organized, statements published and threats made against young people based on the color of their skin, their sexual orientation or world view. The bullying has also reached the professionals working with young people -- youth workers, psychologists and teachers," the youth organizations said.

The reasons of the negative reactions may be rooted in it being frightening to some people that young people wish to discuss processes in the society in a safe environment with neutral adults who treat them with respect.

"It would perhaps be easier if young people were simply told what to think and how to feel about the world. This is indeed the society we come from, but why would we want to return there?" the youth organizations said.

Signatories to the statement include the Estonian Association of Youth Workers, Association of Estonia's Open Youth Centers, Estonian Association of Youth Organizations, Federation of Estonian Student Unions, Estonian Association of Student Representative Boards and the Archimedes Youth Agency.