Right to Freedom of Expression, Association and Religion

III. Restriction of the Freedom of Expression to Protect Minors

After new criteria were added to the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information in 2010,  information promoting a concept of marriage and the creation of a family different than provided for in the Constitution or the Civil Code was also deemed to be harmful to minors. The Constitution provides that marriage is concluded between a man and a woman,[1] while the Civil Code provides that marriage may only be contracted with a person of the opposite gender.[2] This provision, which was previously very rarely applied in practice, in 2013-2014 frequently became the basis for limiting the freedom of expression of homosexual individuals.

Due to the aforementioned provision of the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information,[3] in 2013 a public broadcaster refused to air social advertisements, which depicted openly homosexual people inviting others to participate in the Baltic Pride 2013 in Vilnius, during the day.[4] A year later, some commercial televisions were reluctant to air another social advertisement for the same reason. This time, the social ad promoted a change in public attitudes towards homosexual individuals.[5]

Book of fairy tales for children “Amber Heart”, 15min.lt photo.

In both cases, the Office of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics concluded that the refusals were reasonable for the purposes of protecting minors.[6] This conclusion was challenged in court, but the court decided not to examine the case, acknowledging that the expert opinion was advisory.[7]

The book of fairy tales released at the beginning of 2014 titled "Amber Heart" was also deemed to be unsuitable to minors under the age of 14. Several tales in the book were about same-sex couples (families) and their relationship. After discerning the presence of "homosexual propaganda",[8] the distribution of the book was stopped, with the remaining copies being returned to the publishing house.[9]  In this case as well, the Office of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics came to the conclusion that the book of fairy tales for children constituted information that was detrimental to minors.[10]


 In its conclusion, the Inspector of Journalist Ethics stated that fairy tales, which “presented such relationships as normal and self-explanatory, were harmful to the fragile world-view of children, too invasive, direct and manipulative”, and as such were detrimental to individuals under 14 years of age.[11]

Such decisions, as well as the legal provisions on which they are based, are contrary to the provisions of the Law on Equal Opportunities – the prohibition of the dissemination of information on homosexual people or their families, as well as on them informing the public of their own existence, is discriminatory.

In May of 2014, the draft Law Amending the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information was registered in Parliament, proposing to exclude information that restricts the freedom of self-expression of homosexual persons from the list of information detrimental to minors.[12]

The Law regulating the protection of minors has been criticized for years for, on the one hand, hindering the self-expression of LGBT individuals and unreasonably interfering with the right of this social group to disseminate information about itself to the public, and, on the other, aiming to change public attitudes towards same-sex couples (families).[13]

Lithuania is characterized by very high rates of teen suicides and suicide attempts, as well as a high incidence of bullying; as such, the restriction of availability of information on sexual orientation doubtlessly contributes to the predominance of homophobic bullying in educational institutions, which in turn becomes a risk factor for suicide.

In 2014, Lithuanian non-governmental human rights organizations and the Lithuanian Psychological Association joined Amnesty International,[14]  Human Rights Watch and ILGA-Europe, who had previously condemned the law. The Lithuanian Psychological Association noted that children are harmed more not by social advertisements, but by a prohibition of information concerning homosexual individuals.[15]

As noted by the European Commission, "there is a lot of evidence of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in schools, primarily related to homophobic insults."[16]  Lithuania is characterized by very high rates of teen suicides and suicide attempts, as well as a high incidence of bullying; as such, the restriction of availability of information on sexual orientation doubtlessly contributes to the predominance of homophobic bullying in educational institutions, which in turn becomes a risk factor for suicide.

Findings and Recommendations 

  • The criteria set by the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information for determining which information is detrimental to minors hinders the self-expression of LGBT individuals, discriminates against them and interferes with their right to disseminate information, which is why it is necessary to amend the law and do away with the aforementioned criterion.

[1] Constitution, 25 October 1992, Article 38(3), http://www3.lrs.lt/home/Konstitucija/Konstitucija.htm

[2] Civil Code, 18 July 2000, No. VIII-1864, Article 3.12, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=493999

[3] Law Amending and Supplementing Articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9 of the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information, 22 December 2009, No. XI-594, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=410367&p_tr2=2

[4] Eglė Digrytė, "Vladimiras Simonko, leader of the Lithuanian Gay League: LRT compared social ads for "Baltic Pride" to communications about tobacco and alcohol", 15min.lt, 12 July 2013, http://www.15min.lt/naujiena/aktualu/lietuva/lietuvos-geju-lygos-vadovas-vladimiras-simonko-lrt-socialine-baltic-pride-reklama-prilygino-pranesimams-apie-alkoholi-ir-tabaka-56-353141

[5] Eglė Digrytė, "Gay League video about sexual minorities fails to overcome television filters once again", 15min.lt, 19 August 2014, http://www.15min.lt/naujiena/aktualu/lietuva/geju-lygos-klipas-apie-seksualines-mazumas-vel-neiveike-televiziju-filtro-56-447743

[6] The Office of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics, "Inspector of Journalist Ethics Zita Zamžickienė decided that the complaint of the Lithuanian Gay League concerning the restrictions placed on advertising for the march of sexual minorities was unfounded", 23 September 2013, http://www.lrs.lt/intl/zeit.show?theme=662&lang=1&doc=2130; "Inspector of Journalist Ethics provided the findings of expert concerning the information harmful to minors that was contained in the Lithuanian Gay League (LGL) social ad video", 25 September 2014, http://www.lrs.lt/intl/zeit.show?theme=662&lang=1&doc=5761

[7] 24 October 2014 ruling of the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court in administrative proceedings No. I-10326-643/2014

[8] Rūta Juknevičiūtė, "New dose of propaganda for children", respublika.lt, 4 March 2014, http://www.respublika.lt/lt/naujienos/lietuva/lietuvos_politika/nauja_propagandos_doze_vaikams/,coments.1

[9] Mindaugas Jackevičius, "Back to Soviet times: the state will regulate not only what we do, but also what we read", delfi.lt, 8 May 2014, http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/education/atgal-i-sovietmeti-valstybe-reguliuos-ne-tik-ka-darom-bet-ir-ka-skaitom.d?id=64737393

[10] "Decision to not distribute a fairy tale book about homosexual couples appealed to the courts", ve.lt, 5 November 2014, http://www.ve.lt/naujienos/lietuva/lietuvos-naujienos/teismui-apskustas-sprendimas-neplatinti-pasaku-knygos-apie-homoseksualias-poras-1259341/

[11] "Complaint regarding the book "Heart of Amber" examined: these fairy tales could be harm children", 15min.lt, 4 September 2014, http://www.15min.lt/naujiena/kultura/literatura/istirtas-skundas-del-knygos-gintarine-sirdis-sios-pasakos-vaikams-gali-kenkti-286-451062

[12] Draft Law Amending Article 4 of Law No. IX-1067 on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information, 9 May 2014, No. XIIP-1789, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=470730&p_tr2=2

[13] ARC International, Statements by States and other Stakeholders (Lithuanian Gay League, COC Netherlands and ILGA-Europe), 12th UPR session, 11 October 2011, http://arc-international.net/global-advocacy/universal-periodic-review/l/lithuania/

[14] Amnesty International, "Homophobic law to enter into force in Lithuania", 26 February 2010, http://www.lgl.lt/en/news/about-lgl/homophobic-law-to-enter-into-force-in-lithuania/

[15] Lithuanian Psychological Association, "Opinion of the Lithuanian Psychological Association on the Lithuanian Gay League's social advertisement's effect on minors", 25 November 2014, http://www.psichologusajunga.lt/index.php?p=407&lng=lt

[16] SEC(2008) 2180, 2008 07 02, p. 18.