22nd Feb 2019


Europe's shame

  • Marcher at a gay pride event. Lithuanian law forbids "propaganda of homosexuality" to minors (Photo: See-ming Lee 李思明 SML)

Yet again another eastern European country is trying to block a gay pride event. This time it is Lithuania. A Baltic Pride march is due to take place on 8 May, as part of a wider festival celebrating equality for the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community across the region, but the Lithuanian authorities have temporarily suspended the permit.

The Administrative Court of Vilnius has used special measures to "freeze" permission, which had previously been issued by the mayor of the Lithuanian capital. The court believes the public and marchers' security cannot be assured in the face of what they say are planned violent counter-protests. The police force deny this however, and have stated in the past that they are confident security can be assured.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The decision of the court to ban the event came after Raimondas Petrauskas, Lithuania's interim attorney general, and Stanislovas Buskevicius, a member of the Kaunas City Council, made a complaint. Organisers of the event have now lodged an appeal and the outcome is yet to be decided.

I have experienced homophobia in Lithuania first hand. I was in a gay bar that was smoke bombed in Vilnius in 2007. In 2008, I returned to the country to do some filming for my documentary Beyond the Pink Curtain. That year, the mayors of both Vilnius and the second city, Kaunas, banned the EU's anti-discrimination bus tour from holding events in public spaces.

I met and interviewed Stanislovas Buskevicius (who has lodged the case to ban the march) who said he firmly believed homosexuality was immoral. At the time, he was deputy mayor of Kaunas. He told me being gay was the same as theft and prostitution.

Lithuania is also a country where a new law on the "Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information" includes "the propaganda of homosexuality or bisexuality."

On top of that, in 2008, a large number of MPs tried to remove the clause on homosexuality from the Law on Equal Opportunities. This was defeated, but by a very narrow margin.

Any real or proactive commitment to equality is still distinctly lacking across the Baltic States. It was the same in Riga last year. The Latvian authorities' decision to ban the Baltic Pride march was overturned at the very last minute. An appeals court judge finally saw sense and said the ban was unconstitutional. Let's hope the Lithuanian courts do the same.

The biggest shame of all this though, is that the apparent indifference of governments across Europe. How many capitals have made public statements condemning the judgements made this year in Vilnius, and last year in Riga? This is blatant institutional homophobia, and it must be halted.

Homosexuality is still not classed in the same light as race or gender in the eyes of EU legislation. The new so-called horizontal anti-discrimination directive, which was launched with quite a fanfare two years ago, continues to face stiff opposition.

It is therefore not surprising that governments in the Batlics, and indeed across Europe, feel they can openly condemn the gay and lesbian community, and get away with it.

The writer is a freelance journalist and writer/director of Beyond the Pink Curtain

EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland

Viktor Orban of Hungary and Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski seem to share the idea that the rights of some may come at the expense of the rights of others, and public institutions should serve the majority, and not all citizens.

Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?

There can be no more excuses for business. They will be held for responsible for their failure to take action to prevent the risk of human and labour rights through their supply chains.

Brexit vs Grexit: The six stages of losing to the EU

Theresa May's venture seems very similar to the attempt by Alexis Tsipras in 2015 to persuade Brussels to accept his terms for the bail out - a huge negotiation failure, presented to the public as the best possible deal.

Why Brussels' toxic lobbying culture must end

What is revelatory about the study by Corporate Europe Observatory is the sheer number of embassies, committees and advisory groups that lobbyists can target: from the Council all the way down to standing committee on plants, animals, food and feed.

News in Brief

  1. Juncker pledges climate action alongside Swedish activist
  2. Swedbank brings in external help on money laundering revelations
  3. No-deal Brexit danger 'very serious', Corbyn says after Brussels meeting
  4. Tusk to back pro-EU candidates in Polish EP vote
  5. Germany rejects UK appeal on Saudi arms sales
  6. French senators decry 'dysfunction' on Macron security aide affair
  7. France to ban far-right groups over antisemitism
  8. Swedish climate activist to face Juncker in Brussels

What does Poland want from the EU?

We propose several changes to the EU, derived from the political philosophy behind the current Polish government, and what Poles expect from the EU - this could be seen as a manifesto Poland wants the next European Commission to tackle.

Migration and May elections - time to get facts right

If misinformation in the field of migration can bring a government down, as in the recent case of Belgium following the country's adoption of the UN migration pact, then it can doubtless produce a populist majority in the European parliament.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Microsoft warns EU on election hack threat
  2. Brexit talks to continue after May-Juncker meeting
  3. Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all
  4. EU commission appeals Dieselgate ruling
  5. 'No burning crisis' on migrant arrivals, EU agency says
  6. 'No evidence' ECB bond-buying helped euro economy
  7. Juncker: Orban should leave Europe's centre-right
  8. College of Europe alumni ask rector to cut Saudi ties

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us