Friday

23rd Feb 2018

Lithuania grapples with homophobia

  • Lithuania is ranked 36 out of 49 European countries on how it safeguards the human rights of LGBT people (Photo: Janis Zakis)

Lithuania has recently started discussing its attitudes towards homosexuality, in what remains a novelty for a country ranked among the most homophobic in the EU.

While data shows that attitudes remain largely the same, many agree that the debates are proof that a change may be coming, albeit slowly.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The discussions were largely sparked by Lithuanian DJ Ten Walls (Marijus Adomaitis) who recently equated homosexuals with paedophiles.

His comments led to several festivals cancelling his shows.

Ten Walls‘ apologised for what he said but social media took up the issue. People either felt he had expressed an opinion that "everybody shares" or that his views revealed "completely stupid narrowmindedness".

Music journalist Karolis Vysniauskas, however, notes that the issue became big only after it caught the intention of international media.

“Lithuanian society is used to homophobic statements. That is why people were so shocked to see how seriously such a statement was taken by international audiences,” he told EUobserver.

He noted the incident pointed to two things: Lithuanians’ insecurity about what foreigners think about their country; and the importance of attitudes to LGBT rights in a wider geo-political context.

“We are a part of NATO and EU, we joined the Euro club, we have H&M, Barclays and McDonald's. This was a good wake-up call to remind us that the economy is not enough – we also have to solve social issues and educate society.”

President Dalia Grybauskaite, previously not so vocal on the issue of homophobia, has called the recent discussions “healthy” saying the sooner the country becomes “more open and more tolerant, the better”.

But it will take more than a few public statements to change ingrained attitudes.

Earlier this month, justice minister Juozas Bernatonis said that same-sex couples in Lithuania were ”more of an issue of propaganda than reality“ in reference to a partnership bill which excludes same-sex partnerships.

The amended bill is soon to be put before the cabinet. A statement by the prime minister that final adjustments are being made in consultations with the Catholic Church sparked another round of debate.

“The Lithuanian parliament convenes each session with several homophobic initiatives on the table. In 2014, for example, several Russian-type 'anti-propaganda' draft laws that could effectively restrict dissemination of any information about homosexuality were discussed by our lawmakers,” Natalija Bitiukova, Deputy Direcor of Human Rights Monitoring institute, told this website.

The “Rainbow Map 2015” released by pressure-group ILGA-Europe in May ranked Lithuania at number 36 out of 49 European countries, closer to Azerbaijan and Armenia rather than to the UK or Belgium in terms of safeguarding the fundamental human rights of LGBT people.

The first EU-wide survey conducted by the EU Agency of Fundamental Rights in 2013 revealed that 61 percent of Lithuanian LGBT people who participated in the survey felt discriminated against or harassed in the last 12 months because of their sexual orientation. It was the highest percentage in the EU.

Liutauras Gudžinskas, a political scientist from Vilnius University, says this is due to homophobic discourse being well-established and tacitly supported by leading politicians.

“The most vociferous LGBT-rights opponent MP Petras Grazulis, who repeatedly calls for suppression or even annihilation of gays, has never been held accountable for his actions," he noted.

Some analysts go so far as to see it as a geopolitical issue with neighbouring Russia not supporting gay rights while most western European states do.

However political scientist Liutauras Gudžinskas believes the issue can be exploited by external forces only if local politicians do not feel they have to tackle discrimination against LGBT people in the country.

“The recent scandals show that public pressure on top Lithuanian politicians to fight homophobia and discrimination is increasing, which eventually may be a start for more positive developments.”

Natalija Bitiukova also notes that condemnation of homophobic outbursts by certain public figures became more frequent.

Meanwhile the EuroPride which has just taken place in neighbouring Latvia - the first one to be held in a post-Soviet country - has also prompted some soul-searching in Lithuania about its widespread homophobic attitudes.

Corruption report: Hungary gets worse, Italy makes progress

Italians, Czechs and Latvians perceive less corruption than a few years ago in Transparency International's annual ranking. The Berlin-based NGO said Finland was a 'worrying case', whilst Bulgaria - which holds the EU presidency - is EU's most corrupt.

Corruption report: Hungary gets worse, Italy makes progress

Italians, Czechs and Latvians perceive less corruption than a few years ago in Transparency International's annual ranking. The Berlin-based NGO said Finland was a 'worrying case', whilst Bulgaria - which holds the EU presidency - is EU's most corrupt.

News in Brief

  1. May to unveil EU departure strategy next week
  2. Pregnant workers may be dismissed, EU court rules
  3. Romanian minister demands anti-corruption prosecutor fired
  4. Luxembourg and Ireland pay highest minimum wages
  5. Freedom of expression under threat in Spain, warn MEPs
  6. Report: EU to increase sanctions on Myanmar
  7. Juncker 'worried' by Italian elections
  8. EU migration to UK at lowest since 2012

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  2. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  4. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  5. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  7. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  8. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  10. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  11. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. EU leaders put 'Spitzenkandidat' on summit menu
  2. European far-right political party risks collapse
  3. The key budget issues on EU leaders' table
  4. EU leaders to kick off post-Brexit budget debate
  5. Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme
  6. Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency?
  7. Poland and Greece broke EU environment laws, rules court
  8. Dutch MPs vote on ending 'Ukraine-type' referendums

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  3. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  4. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  5. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  8. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  10. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  12. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?