Lithuania’s parliament has recently passed a new law aimed at censoring information available for children.
The legislation, called the ‘Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information’ identifies nineteen separate fields of information that are to be censored in order to protect the “mental well-being” and “intellectual or moral development” of the countries youth. These nineteen fields include information ‘that agitates for homosexual, bisexual, and polygamous relations’, images of heterosexual sex, the rendering of explosives, information on the paranormal and hypnosis and depictions of bad eating habits. In other words, from next year (when the law comes into effect) it will be illegal for the Lithuanian media and other information providers to depict positive images of homosexuality and bisexuality as well as 18 other fields of information.
Although passed by a large majority in June, the legislation has and continues to face an uncertain road to its eventual enforcement. When first passed, it was vetoed by the then President Valdas Adamkus. This meant that the legislation had to be sent back to the parliament, where the veto was overridden and a new law was passed (that strengthened the anti-queer measures) by a vote of 87-6. This new law was then sent to the new President Dalia Grybauskaité, who has constantly criticised the legislation and refused to sign the bill.
According to the constitution Grybauskaité will now be forced to sign the law, although it is unclear how she will react to its presentation, with talks of her attempting to amend the legislation and/or challenge it at a constitutional court sometime in the future.
However, even if it comes into force, there are still major problems with the legislation that could make it defunct. The two biggest of these are that the law does not define what the most important term in the legislation, ‘public dissemination’, means and it does not provide any penalties for those who participate in these act. In effect, this could mean that the law has no effect. Even with these problems, however, one cannot ignore the seriousness of this law. As an assault on the fundamental rights of freedom of press, speech and sexual identity, this law is an extremely serious attack on the Lithuanian population (focused on queer people). Apart from its initial effects this will mean a continued oppression of Lithuanian queer people who will be forced further underground in order to live safe and happy lives.
Unfortunately, this law is a sign of what looks like a new wave of anti-queer sentiment in the Lithuanian state. This major piece of legislation could possibly be the first in a series of anti queer actions, with a growing movement discussing the banning of homosexuality in the country. Whilst this probably won’t occur in the near future and would definitely receive a veto from countries president, it certainly is a possibility and one that cannot be ignored.