54 NGOs demand Latvian Welfare Minister’s resignation

  • 2012-09-26

RIGA - 54 non-governmental organizations in Latvia submitted a joint letter to Latvian top officials, protesting the Welfare Ministry’s support for the publication and distribution of children's books that are "ruinous to gender identity" and "tendentious," demanding that Welfare Minister Ilze Vinkele (pictured) to step down.

Representing the non-governmental organizations, Natalija Magazeina told LETA that the organizations that had signed the letter were demanding that distribution of the books be immediately halted, as well as distribution of related methodological materials for teachers.

The organizations want all state officials who have participated in the preparation and distribution of this "unlawful" material to be held responsible.

The organizations are surprised that the Welfare Ministry approved translations and distribution of these books, and that society was not involved in the process.

Any teaching materials, before they are distributed and adopted at educational establishments, must be made available to the public, and the process of the endorsement of such materials must be transparent and in the interest of society. Parents' disbelief and shock at the new books is evident from comments posted at news portals.

"We believe that the publication and distribution of these books violates the laws and regulations of Latvia and pose a threat to the very foundations of the state – the family as a special union between a man and a woman, as well as to children's right to their traditional identity, clearly based in spiritual values," says the letter.

The letter notes that, under the law, children require special protection and care, and that children have the right to individuality and identity.

The protest letter says that society of Latvia is historically based on Christian and conservative values. The books in question mix up gender identity matters, and show that it is normal for boys to play with toys for girls and for girls to play boys' games and to behave like boys. The letter is also indignant at the methodological materials for teachers published along with the books.

The letter emphasizes that gender roles and sex differences are natural and self-explanatory. Society needs to have girls who are aware of their femininity and beauty, who understand their function and role of a woman and a mother. Boys, on the other hand, must develop their manhood, learn to be responsible for their families and be brave enough to protect their country if need be.

The letter notes that in these books, boys are given girls' names, and vice versa, therefore implying sex change and being generally in line with the "continuing efforts to popularize homosexual trends."

The organizations inform that during discussions with Vinkele, where the minister was reminded about the critical need for strengthening traditional family values and measures to solve the demographic crisis. That is why the organizations are all the more surprised at the books, which, in essence, are damaging to the institute of marriage and family.

The letter also notes several controversial statements made by Vinkele concerning the number of marriages in Latvia, which the minister said did not need to be increased as it would mean discrimination against unmarried couples and single-parent families, and others. Under the law, public institutions must work in the interest of society and inform society about their work – Vinkele has been disregarding both these provisions for a long period of time, letter says.

The letter has been signed by the association "Gimene" (Family), which unites 20 non-governmental organizations, Janis Cakste Fund for Democracy and Sustainable Development, Latvian Teachers' Council, Association of Latvian Christian Teachers, foundation "Moral Revolution", Latvian Evangelical Alliance, which unites 27 non-governmental organizations, and others.

The letter has been sent to Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (Unity), Saeima Presidium, Ombudsman Juris Jansons, Justice Minister Janis Bordans (All For Latvia-For Fatherland And Freedom), State Children's Rights Protection Inspectorate.

The books and the methodology for teachers were translated in Latvian from Danish as a part of a joint project of the Welfare Ministry and the Nordic Council of Ministers.