Moacir P. de Sá Pereira on July 15th, 2009

Over on Twitter, Jurate has been doing yeoman’s work in trying to put the recent “Section-28-style” law that was passed in Lithuania yesterday into context. Pink news describes the law in this way:

The law, titled ‘Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information’, includes “the propaganda of homosexuality [or] bisexuality” as a detrimental factor on young people.

It has been compared to Section 28, the law which prohibited discussion of homsexuality in UK schools.

And it has caused a shitstorm on Twitter. But is Pink News’s characterisation of the law fair? Nothing in the quoted section above is false, but does it lack context? The law, after all, has a much broader title than just something like “Law to ban public discussion of homosexuality.” The law is, like the YouTube clip above, designed to protect children, not ban discussion of homosexuality. And parenting, Jurate writes in a tweet that includes a link to the actual law, “is a huge issue worldwide.

So let’s hop to Section 4 of the law, which I’ll reproduce in its entirety in Lithuanian here:

  • Neigiamą poveikį nepilnamečių psichikos sveikatai, fiziniam, protiniam ar doroviniam vystymuisi darančia laikoma viešoji informacija:
    1. susijusi su psichinio (psichologinio, emocinio) ar fizinio smurto vaizdavimu: kai detaliai rodomas žmonių ir (ar) gyvūnų žalojimas, kankinimas ar žudymas;
    2. kai rodomas sąmoningas turto gadinimas ar naikinimas;
    3. kai rodomas mirusio, mirštančio arba žiauriai sužaloto žmogaus kūnas, išskyrus atvejus, kai toks rodymas reikalingas asmens tapatybei nustatyti;
    4. erotinio pobūdžio: kai skatinamas lytinis geismas, siūloma lytiškai santykiauti, rodomas lytinis aktas, jo imitacija ar kitoks seksualinis pasitenkinimas, lytiniai organai, seksualiniai reikmenys;
    5. sukelianti baimę ar siaubą;
    6. skatinanti lošti, raginanti, siūlanti dalyvauti azartiniuose lošimuose, loterijose ir kituose žaidimuose, kuriuose sudaromas lengvo laimėjimo įspūdis;
    7. kuria palankiai vertinamas priklausomumas nuo narkotinių, toksinių, psichotropinių medžiagų, tabako ar alkoholio, taip pat kitų medžiagų, kurios vartojamos arba gali būti vartojamos svaiginimosi tikslais, skatinamas jų vartojimas, gamyba, platinimas ar įsigijimas;
    8. skatinanti savęs žalojimą ar savižudybę, detalizuojanti savižudybės priemones ir aplinkybes;
    9. kuria teigiamai vertinama nusikalstama veika ar idealizuojami nusikaltėliai;
    10. susijusi su nusikalstamos veikos modeliavimu;
    11. kuria tyčiojamasi iš žmogaus;
    12. kuria tyčiojamasi ar niekinama dėl tautybės, rasės, lyties, kilmės, neįgalumo, seksualinės orientacijos, socialinės padėties, kalbos, tikėjimo, įsitikinimų ar pažiūrų;
    13. kai demonstruojami paranormalūs reiškiniai, sudarant šių reiškinių tikrumo įspūdį;
    14. kuria propaguojami homoseksualūs, biseksualūs ar poligaminiai santykiai;
    15. kuria iškreipiami šeimos santykiai, paniekinamos jos vertybės;
    16. kai vartojami nešvankūs posakiai, žodžiai ar gestai;
    17. kai patariama, kaip pasigaminti, įsigyti ar naudoti sprogmenis, narkotines ar psichotropines medžiagas, taip pat kitus gyvybei ar sveikatai pavojingus dalykus;
    18. kuria skatinami blogi mitybos, higienos ir fizinio pasyvumo įpročiai;
    19. kai rodomas žmogaus hipnozės seansas;
    20. kuri apibrėžta šio įstatymo 6 straipsnyje.
  • Skleisti informaciją, atitinkančią bent vieną iš šio straipsnio 1 dalies punktų, draudžiama arba ribojama šio įstatymo nustatyta tvarka.
  • Draudžiama skleisti ir kituose įstatymuose uždraustą viešąją informaciją, kuri gali pakenkti nepilnamečių psichikos sveikatai, fiziniam, protiniam ar doroviniam vystymuisi, ypač pornografinio turinio informaciją ir (ar) savitikslį smurtą pateikiančią informaciją.

4.2 explains that distributing information that matches anything in 4.1 is forbidden or regulated by this law. And 4.3 explains that it’s forbidden to distribute information that can harm a minor’s psychological or physical health as well as his or her intellectual or moral maturation. Singled out are pornographic and violent materials.

But 4.1 is fascinating in its own way, since it provides the roadmap. It provides the cheatsheet in which we see what kinds of information the Lithuanian government feels are inappropriate to expose to minors. Here’s a quick translation I’ve done of what’s not allowed:

  1. Anything pertaining to psychological or physical violence, torture, injury, or killing of people or animals;
  2. Anything showing intentional destruction of property;
  3. Anything depicting corpses or mutilated bodies save in situations of identification;
  4. Anything of an erotic nature, including sexual yearning, invitations to bump, depictions of the sexual act, its simulation or any kind of sexual satisfaction, sex organs, sexual accoutrements;
  5. Anything causing fear or horror;
  6. Anything encouraging gambling, cames of chance, or the fantasy of easy winning;
  7. Anything encouraging the use of drugs, tobacco or alcohol, including their manufacture or commerce;
  8. Anything encouraging self-mutilation or suicide;
  9. Anything that promotes a positive image of criminals or crime;
  10. Anything that models criminal behavior;
  11. Anything that mocks someone;
  12. Anything that mocks or denigrates someone based on nation, race, gender, family, disability, sexual orientation, social standing, language, religion, beliefs or views;
  13. Anything interpreting the paranormal;
  14. Anything that advocates homosexual, bisexual, or polygamous relationships;
  15. Anything that encourages the denigration of familial relationships and demeans the importance of family;
  16. Anything using dirty language or gestures;
  17. Anything that explains how to manufacture, acquire, or use explosives, drugs, or anything else that can harm life or health;
  18. Anything that encourages malnourishment or hygienic and physical passivity;
  19. Anything that shows hypnosis or a séance;
  20. Anything outlined in section 6.

Quite a list! But, yes. The advocation of homosexuality is akin to showing a séance, depicting corpses, or encouraging self-mutilation and suicide. (I’ll let that last point, and the implicit irony between forbidding both behaviors sit mostly without comment.) So on the one hand, yes, it’s important to see how the law is about so much more than just banning homosexual discussion from the public sphere. On the other hand, it shows—despite 4.1.12!—the homophobia buried into the foundation of Lithuanian society. But by couching the ban in terms of THINK OF THE CHILDREN, it also shows itself as not particularly different from similar efforts in our very own United States to pursue a covert agenda of hate.

So I’m troubled a bit by the fact that this law, which, with all of its problems, is not that different from what passes for the norm in much of the US, is generating so much heat, considering the fact that there are far worse aspects of public homophobia in Lithuania that require addressing; my “homofobija” tag on delicious has 24 bookmarks, not all of which involve this law. Pink News has piles of articles about the various catastrophes Lithuania has created for itself when it comes to its shocking desire to, over and over, pull out the homophobic bop gun and shoot itself. From the mayoral to the national level, the Lithuanian public sphere simply can’t handle homosexuality.

Given the track record, then (“Lietuva yra itin homofobiška” / “Lithuania is very homophobic” one headline reads, quoting a minister), pretending that this law is not shameful, that it’s merely part of a larger concern regarding parenting, is disingenous in the extreme. But by choosing this moment to have Twitter explode in outrage provides the homophobes a certain level of cover. Where was the outrage when pride parades are persistently being banned?

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