GAY RIGHTS IN LITHUANIA: ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK (PART 2)

Article published on Jan. 15, 2014
Article published on Jan. 15, 2014

The second part of Judith Sinnige's report on homophobia in Lithuania

In a coun­try where 80% of the pop­u­la­tion is Catholic, the Church has a con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence over the lives of ho­mo­sex­u­als in Lithua­nia. 'Last year on two oc­ca­sions the Church called for fac­ul­ties of med­i­cine to stop teach­ing about IVF treat­ment and abor­tion,' Mar­ija Pavil­ion­ienė tells us, a lec­turer and a fem­i­nist. Fur­ther­more, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Church can reg­u­larly be found in Par­lia­men­tary tri­bunals where they med­dle in eth­i­cal dis­cus­sions. 'Dur­ing the 2008 elec­tions some churches stuck posters on their walls of ‘black listed’ can­di­dates who must not be voted for. My name was on that list,' adds Pavil­ion­ienė. 'It’s com­pletely il­le­gal. It’s a country where there is supposed to be a sep­a­ra­tion between the Church and the State!' 

the prin­ci­ple of non dis­crim­i­na­tion

The media don’t ex­actly help the sit­u­a­tion. Al­most all news­pa­pers are openly anti-gay. 'They mock ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity and speak about it in a vul­gar way,' says Pavil­ion­ienė. 'They do it to at­tract read­ers.' Jour­nal­ist Min­dau­gas Jack­evičius con­firms this at­ti­tude on his news site Delfi. 'Gen­er­ally the way the media speak about ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is based on stereo­types and the imag­i­nary threat it poses such as being a dan­ger to tra­di­tional fam­ily val­ues.' Also, ‘Gražulis' jeans’ (please refer to the first part of our re­port) were greatly ap­pre­ci­ated by the Lithuan­ian media. Delfi was the only news site to con­demn his ac­tions, de­scrib­ing GražulisGražulisGražulisGražulisGražulisGražulisvvGražulis as 'an em­bar­rass­ment to Lithua­nia', Jack­evičius tells us. Si­monko re­minds us that, 'Lithua­nia is close to Rus­sia where there is real hys­te­ria to­wards ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. In Lithua­nia we also pick up sev­eral Russ­ian TV chan­nels, many peo­ple un­der­stand Russ­ian here, so we don’t hear many pos­i­tive perspectives on ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity,' he ex­plains. 

What can Eu­rope do for Lithua­nia, one of its mem­ber states since 2004? The prin­ci­pal of non-dis­crim­i­na­tion is an im­por­tant el­e­ment of Eu­ro­pean leg­is­la­tion. The Treaty of the Eu­ro­pean Union as well as the Char­ter of Fun­da­men­tal Rights of the Eu­ro­pean Union re­ject dis­crim­i­na­tion on the base of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion. De­spite this, the rights of ho­mo­sex­u­als do not seem to be mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion. In this con­text, mil­i­tant Juris Lavrikovs be­lieves that the EU is 'blind' to ho­mo­pho­bia Lithua­nia. In a col­umn pub­lished in EU­ob­server, he claims that the EU does not have the legal in­stru­ments to rep­ri­mand a coun­try vi­o­lat­ing these rights, nor a re­al­is­tic strat­egy for Mem­ber States even though such a strat­egy ex­ists for the found­ing coun­tries. Si­monko also re­grets the sit­u­a­tion: 'Two years ago I did an in­ter­view with Vi­viane Red­ing (Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion­er for Jus­tice, Eu­ropan Rights and Cit­i­zen­ship). She promised to keep a close eye on the sit­u­a­tion in Lithua­nia, but hasn't take any ac­tion.' Ahead of the East­ern Part­ner­ship Sum­mit, held at the end of No­vem­ber in Vil­nius, the EU, under the Lithuan­ian Pres­i­dency, put pres­sure on Ukraine to com­bat the dis­crim­i­na­tion against ho­mo­sex­u­als, yet the sit­u­a­tion in Lithua­nia is hardly any bet­ter.

lithua­nia's at­ti­tude is hypocry­t­i­cal

It was only in Oc­to­ber 2013 that the Lithuan­ian Gov­ern­ment stopped op­pos­ing the anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion di­rec­tive put in place by the EU in 2008 to com­ple­ment the ex­ist­ing leg­is­la­tion. For the past 3 years Lithua­nia has op­posed  this leg­is­la­tion but  when it took on the EU Pres­i­dency, it was dif­fi­cult for it to main­tain its op­po­si­tion. 'It’s hyp­o­crit­i­cal,' says Si­monko. So what does Gražulis have to say about all this ? He thinks that the EU is to blame for 'dic­tat­ing ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity to us' and for, 'steal­ing the souls of our peo­ple. The EU will end up col­laps­ing be­cause of it, it’s just a mat­ter of time.'

read the first part of our re­port here

Tous pro­pos re­cueil­lis par Ju­dith Sin­nige