VILNIUS – Wider agreement is needed in the Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas, on the legalization of partnerships for this process to finally "acquire a legal expression", Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda says.
"We have not seen yet any bills the Seimas is starting to consider. We know there are several versions that might be considered, and I do hope for agreement in the Seimas on these bills. 100 percent approval is not necessary but we need to look for as wider agreement as possible as it will also reflect certain agreement within the society," the president told a press conference on Tuesday.
GENDER-NEUTRAL PARTNERSHIP UNDER CONSIDERATION
Earlier in the say, the head of state met with members of the Board of the Seimas to discuss the parliament's spring session agenda, with the legalization of partnerships being one of the planned issues. The bill has not been registered yet.
"As president, I will be closely watching this process and I believe it finally needs to acquire a legal expression, which has not been done so far as we have avoided the resolution of these issues, therefore, I absolutely welcome initiatives to finally bring these issues to the Seimas' plenary sitting and make decisions on them," the president said.
Representing the Liberal Movement, Speaker of the Seimas Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen said earlier a partnership bill would be put before the Lithuanian parliament during the spring session, based on another bill presented by liberal politicians in 2017, which proposed introducing gender-neutral partnerships.
In interview with BNS, Justice Minister Evelina Dobrovolska said earlier the bill's being drafted by the Freedom Party and its representative Tomas Vytautas Raskevicius, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Human Rights. The minister then underlined that this regulation was important not only for same-sex but also heterosexual couples who now have no alternative to marriage.
Meanwhile, four members of the ruling conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats are proposing to the Seimas speaker to bring back another bill from 2017, which would introduce cohabitation agreements, not partnerships.
Partnerships are not legalized in Lithuania, neither for heterosexual couples, not same-sex couples. Several prior attempts by liberal politicians in the parliament to legalize civil partnership failed to reach the adoption stage.
PROPOSES DISCUSSION ON THE ISTANBUL CONVENTION
Commenting on the controversial plans by the Seimas to start considering the Istanbul Convention, the president said a discussion was first necessary on this issue.
The country's Social Security and Labor Ministry planned to propose considering the Istanbul Convention during the parliament's spring session alongside all bills on the prevention of domestic violence now being submitted, but following the subsequent public controversy, Cmilyte-Nielsen said the issue might be postponed until the fall.
"The Istanbul Convention is a serious document that has to do not only with violence against women but also the introduction of the "social gender" concept, which is fairly new thing in the political and other lexis. I am really carefully looking into it, weighing different moments and I believe that certain provisions are related to consequences on our education and even the freedom of speech, therefore, I welcome the decision to discuss it and to decide on the very ratification later," the president said.
Nauseda says he now misses "well-mannered discussions" on the Istanbul Convention", as well as "respect from both sides for those thinking differently".
The Seimas speaker said the convention's consideration in the parliament hall must be the final step and vowed to contribute to public discussions on this issue. Cmilyte-Nielsen said certain concepts should be discussed as "they are probably raising questions, be it a social gender or social role, and that's also a matter of translation".
"This discussion is extremely important, it is undoubtedly meaningful, and I do hope we will have it over the next six months we have until the start of the fall session, and we will have a much more civilized discussion than we had over the first months when this issue got in the public eye," the parliamentary speaker said.
The Seimas' plans to start considering the ratification of the Istanbul Convention have recently sparked public discussions on the issue in Lithuania. The country's former President Dalia Grybauskaite submitted the convention to the Seimas for ratification but the process later stalled due to disagreements over certain provisions of this document.
Experts from the Council of Europe say Lithuania could make use of valuable recommendations on brining domestic violence under control. The Catholic Church and some politicians say the convention might push Lithuania to change its notion of gender and introduce unacceptable provisions on homosexuality.
Lithuania signed the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence in 2013.