Lithuanian Gay Pride parade defies homophobic hysteria

8 May 2010 saw Lithuania’s first ever Gay Pride Parade, Baltic Pride. The parade was clearly inspired by similar annual parades elsewhere, such as the Mardi Gras parade  in Sydney, held since 1978 and now the largest pride parade in the world, and Joburg Pride, Africa’s only pride parade, and these events were in turn inspired by the success of the Gay Rights Movement  of the mid-sixties. There were several attempts to stop the parade from going ahead, and when it did due to pressure from Amnesty International and the EU, as well as because of a ruling by the Lithanian Supreme Administrative Court, hundreds on counter-demonstrators shouted abuse, threw smoke bombs, and attempted to attack the participants of the parade. Lithuania has recently implemented discriminatory legislation against homosexuals, that amongst other things makes the “promoting homosexual relations” a punishable offense,  and the country is well known for its intolerance towards sexual minorities.

Lithuania is by no means the only country that discriminates against homosexuals, however. 80 countries,  most of which are in Africa, The Middle East and The Caribbean, consider homosexuality unlawful, and five of these have laws that punish homosexuality with the death penalty:  Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen, as well as parts of Nigeria and Somalia. This is in violation of several international treaties, including The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,  that declares that “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status” and The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a multilateral treaty adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966, that declares that “the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”. The former treaty is non-binding, but 174 countries have signed the latter, and of the countries that carry the death penalty for homosexuality, only Saudi Arabia has not signed.

As for EU-countries such as Lithuania, the EU Charter that enshrines Human Rights into European law became legally binding in December 2009 with the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon, so there is no excuse whatsoever for not protecting the Human Rights of homosexual citizens. Chapter 3, article 21 of the Charter states that: “Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited”.

Links:

International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission

Africa: More Than A Name – State Sponsored Homophobia and Its Consequences in Southern Africa, Human Rights Watch & The International gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

About Homophobia, at Avert

African homophobia has complex roots, The Guardian, 21 May 2010

African myths about homosexuals, The Guardian, 23 March 2010

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