Gays of the world watch Lithuania

A homophobic country where gays and lesbians often have to hide their sexual orientation, cannot kiss in public or otherwise demonstrate their romantic feelings; and due to intolerance in society, they are often forced to emigrate—this is how Lithuania is described by leaders of the oldest gay and lesbian organization COC Netherlands. Currently, the organization is targeting its efforts towards the Baltic countries in order to try and help homosexuals living there defend their rights. According to the leaders of COC Netherlands, the situation for sexual minorities living in Lithuania is unenviable.
Are Lithuanians tolerant enough?
Chairman of COC Netherlands Frank van Dalen returned from Lithuania to Amsterdam with negative impressions of our country. The Dutchman, who had a Lithuanian boyfriend, was surprised by the intolerance of local people towards sexual minorities on each occasion when he visited Vilnius. “I had a Lithuanian boyfriend but in Lithuania we could not take the liberty of doing normal and natural things: hold each others hands or otherwise show our feelings for each other. We had to do so in private”, Frank van Dalen remembered.
The Dutch gay leader noted that the situation today for sexual minorities living in Lithuania has improved a little; however, this has only been achieved by the initiative of homosexuals themselves.
“Younger gays follow the Dutch example and go public. I wonder how things will proceed in the future”, Frank van Dalen said.
Chief political consultant of COC Netherlands Rene van Soeren is much more pessimistic about the situation for gays and lesbians living in Lithuania. He cannot understand discussions in the Seimas (Parliament) on whether discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation should be permitted. He and the entire gay community of Vilnius were shocked, and impelled to doubt the tolerance of Lithuanians when participants of an international conference of homosexuals were attacked with gas bombs in Vilnius, and the European Union bus for equal rights was not allowed into the capital. “Such actions make us worry. Lithuanian society and politicians cannot behave as if the Europe that acknowledged the rights of homosexuals long ago had never existed. The whole world is concerned about the situation in your country”, Rene van Soeren said.
Forced to emigrate
According to Frank van Dalen, it is not only politicians, but society is also sending homophobic signals to the Lithuanian gay and lesbian community. Homosexuals who find it impossible to live in such a situation are forced to emigrate. “In order to live openly and without fear, Lithuanian gays have to emigrate. Looking for a quiet life, they go to London, Amsterdam or Barcelona. Lithuanian society must change, otherwise it will lose many wonderful people”, Frank van Dalen stated.
President of the Lithuanian Gay League Vladimir Simonko agreed with Dalen’s observations that sexual minorities are leaving the country en masse. “My closest friends left Lithuania long ago. Now another flow is on the way. It is awful that Lithuania does not want young, promising people to stay”, Vladimir Simonko said, as he failed to hide his disappointment.
The Lithuanian gay leader looks at the communities of sexual minorities in other Western European countries with envy. According to him, the situation for Lithuanian homosexuals is particularly bad. “When I go to civilized countries and look at Lithuania from their perspective, I see that our situation is just awful. Sexual minorities are discriminated against; the Seimas is like a circus of homophobes where some of the clowns offend individuals of a different orientation without any scruples. To civilized people such actions seem unbelievable”, said Simonko as he criticized politicians and society.
International consideration
During various international events for homosexuals, Simonko and the Lithuanian gay community are shown compassion for the homophobic situation in Lithuania. The Seimas Committee on Human Rights regularly receives reports regarding this situation. Previously, chairman of the Seimas Committee on Human Rights Arminas Lydeka used to receive a few letters from various international non-governmental organizations regarding this problem. Now the letters come in like an avalanche—“an Enormous flow”. Before, we used to receive perhaps ten letters, and now there are 100 or even more! They are full of dissatisfaction for the abnormal and uncivilized situation in respect of sexual minorities”, Arminas Lydeka explained.
Although some parliamentarians have expressed their negative attitudes toward gays, according to Lydeka, reproaches from organizations that defend the rights of homosexuals should not only be addressed to the Seimas. “Laws defending the rights of homosexuals already exist. In my opinion, in order to improve the situation for people of different orientation we should address the Ministry of Education and Science—they should revise certain curricula. A positive contribution from the media is also necessary”, Lydeka stated.
Translated from Lietuvos zinios