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Lithuania: Parliament Moves to Criminalize Homosexuality
LONDON - Any move by the Lithuanian parliament to
criminalize the promotion of homosexuality would violate the
country’s international obligations to uphold freedom of expression and
fight discrimination, Amnesty International warned today.
This warning comes as the Lithuanian parliament prepares to debate
during its autumn session legislative amendments which would
criminalise the “promotion of homosexual relations in public places”.
“These proposals are a new low in Lithuania’s slide to
state-sponsored homophobia,” said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central
Asia Programme Director.
If adopted, they would permit the prosecution of an extremely wide
variety of activities, including campaigning on human rights issues
relating to sexual orientation and gender identity, providing sexual
health information to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT)
people or the organization of gay film festivals, or Pride events.
“Anyone detained under the proposed amendment to the Penal Code
would be considered by Amnesty International to be a prisoner of
conscience,” said Nicola Duckworth.
The proposed amendments follow the adoption in July this year of the
discriminatory “Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental
Effect of Public Information”. This law bans materials that “agitate
for homosexual, bisexual and polygamous relations” from schools or
public places and media where they could be viewed by children. The new
amendments go even further as they would potentially criminalise almost
any public expression or portrayal of, or information about,
The amendments would effectively prevent LGBT people from accessing
the appropriate information, support and protection to enable them to
live their sexual orientation and gender identity. They are also likely
to lead to increased discrimination and other human rights abuses, in a
range of areas, including employment and the access to goods and
“Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin wall the Lithuanian
parliament is turning the clock back by imposing draconian limitations
on the flow of information and the freedom of expression and
stigmatising part of the population,” Nicola Duckworth said.
“It is hard to believe that a member of the European Union should even be considering the adoption of such legislation.”
“Parliamentarians, as the elected representatives of the people,
should be the leading force in safeguarding the rights of all and
respecting the country’s international obligations.”
The two legislative amendments are currently being considered are:
- A new Article 310 in the Penal Code entitled “Promotion of
homosexual relations in public places” stating that “a person promoting
homosexual relations in public places is committing a criminal offence
which is punishable with community work or a fine or imprisonment.” The
offence can also be committed by legal persons.
- A new Article 214 in the Administrative Code, entitled “Promotion
of homosexual relations or financing of promotion in public places”
stating that “the promotion of homosexual relations or financing of the
promotion in public places is to be punished by a fine from one
thousand to five thousand litas.”
Lithuania is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention on Human Rights
(ECHR), both of which guarantee the freedom of expression. Restrictions
on the freedom of expression must be necessary to achieve a permitted
aim and be clearly prescribed by law. The proposed amendments do not
satisfy either of these criteria.
The ICCPR and ECHR, as well as several other international human
rights instruments, prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual
orientation. In so far as the proposed amendments restrict the
enjoyment of a wide range of rights on this basis without any objective
or reasonable justification, they would clearly violate Lithuania’s
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Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.