VILNIUS - Lithuanian lawmakers have received harsh criticism for targeting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community through amendments that would place open displays of homosexuality on par with displays of physical violence.
The proposed amendments to the Law on the Protection of Minors against Detrimental Effect of Public Information may include the line concerning "information which agitates for homosexual relations."
If the Seimas [Lithuanian parliament] approves the new law, homosexuality would be considered "public information that causes physical, mental or moral detriment to the development of minors" together with a portrayal of physical or psychological violence, vandalism and mutilated bodies among others. Ironically, the same law bans information that incites discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
What would be considered a propagation of homosexuality is not clearly outlined. But such information, according to the authors of the amendment, causes negative effects on the physical, mental and moral development of minors.
"The propagation of a non-traditional sexual orientation and exposure to information containing positive coverage of homosexual relations may therefore cause negative consequences for the physical, mental and, first and foremost, moral development of minors," the amendment reads.
The heated discussion about this amendment was caused by the Gender Loops project. The European Union project, financed by the Leonardo da Vinci program, saw partner organizations from Germany, Lithuania, Norway, Spain and Turkey examine gender roles portrayed in educational facilities.
Teaching children about homosexuality was also part of the project's program. After a rumor spread that some kindergartens and teachers used the Gender Loops curriculum without approval from the Education Ministry, numerous politicians and parents expressed outrage at the program. An investigative commission formed by the Education Ministry and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs experts later found the rumors to be false.
Criticism of the Gender Loops project centered on the inclusion of fairy tale about two princes falling in love with each other and getting married. The non-governmental organization (NGO) National Families and Parents Association (NSTA) and Rimantas Dagys, Minister for Social and Labor Affairs, harshly condemned the story. The reaction itself was denounced by other NGOs, such as Tolerant Youth Association (TJA), psychologists and some media.
"We condemn the hatred incitement campaign, which lobby organization NSTA, Respublika media group and high ranking Social and Labor Affairs Ministry officers carried out in March 2009. We think that the reason for the false reports about the Gender Loops project implementation in kindergartens and the hatred incitement campaign after is to induce the Seimas to approve the amendments of the Law on the Protection of Minors against Detrimental Effect of Public Information," said TJA, advocating Lithuania's LGBT rights.
The organization said the new law "contradicts with the Constitution, Republic of Lithuania international agreements and legal system, also received condemnation from international organizations fighting for human rights and attention from European Union institutions."
Liudmila Macajeva, the director of the fund, said in an open letter to Dagys that the organization did not agree that the part related to homosexuals is necessary while developing the project, and should focus on gender equality issues instead.
Dagys also attacked the psychologists, including the President of Lithuania's Psychologists Union Robertas Povilaitis, who the program would not be detrimental to youth. He initiated an investigation into whether psychologists that failed to condemn the project work with children in institutions subject to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.
"Everyone can have their own opinions and express them freely, but when such specialists work with children it's a different thing," said Gediminas Stanisauskas, ministry's public relations specialist.
If the amendment passes, a number of organizations that support gay rights 's including media, discos, arts, etc. 's might be labeled propagators of homosexuality and banned.
Jane Valiukeviciene, a pensioner: "We need to keep those people as far away from the children as possible. I've got two grandsons and I am deeply concerned with what is currently happening with this society. Despite weak government performance regarding the economic situation, I am really glad that it has taken the right steps here."
Agne Jonaitiene, salesperson, mother of two: "I think homosexuals have the right to live the life they want as long as it doesn't cross the lines. By that I mean children, who must be prevented from anything similar to that Gender Loops project, and Gay Prides and the open demonstration of the sexuality."
Tomas Radauskas, attorney: "As usual all this story about gay education is a storm in the teacup. The society is deeply conservative, so what other reaction do you expect? The problem is, people still don't really know much about homosexuality, and are afraid of it. They don't realize that they have at least one closeted gay friend. Hence, the more people getting out of the closet, the better. Teaching children tolerance since the early age would help a lot for this society as well."
Julius, university student: "I agree that gays have the right to be gays, but that must stay behind their bedroom doors. I oppose to any showing off and demanding privileges. Children shouldn't be taught about two princes getting married, because it is just not normal. Now I'll be called homophobic, but I don't consider myself one, I just believe in traditional values, that's all."