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Lithuanian Penal Code Draft Includes Sexual Orientation

By Eduardas Platovas, LGL Vilnius

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THE Lithuanian Ministry Of Justice published a revised version of the new draft Penal Code.  Article 160 "Discrimination on the basis of nationality, race, sex, origin, religion or other group membership" provides for imprisonment of up to 3 years for "acts, which were aimed to prevent population group or its member to participate equally in political, economical, social, cultural or work activity because of their nationality, race, sex, sexual orientation, origin, religion or other group membership."  Although the authors omit "sexual orientation" in the article's title it is included in the text for the first time in the legal history of the country.

Article 161 of the draft document "Instigation against national, racial, ethnic, religious or other population group" provides for up to 3 years imprisonment for persons and companies which jeer, disdain or otherwise show bias towards belonging to national, racial, ethnic, religious or other population group.  Lithuanian Vice-Minister`of Justice Gintaras Svedas told BNS news agency , that notion "other population group" also comprises sexual minorities.

Earlier Vice-Minister of Justice also acknowledged that under the current Penal Code of Lithuania the age of consent for heterosexuals and lesbians is 16 and for gay men 18 years of age.  "Such regulation has also caused criticism of Lithuanian lawyers - a voluntary satisfaction of sexual lust between pubescent men can not be rated as a crime, since in this case there is no violation of sexual self-determination or inviolability" Vice-Minister Gintaras Svedas wrote in his explanation to European Committee of Seimas (Parliament).  He told BNS news agency, that the new draft Penal Codedoes not contain such discriminatory regulation.

The first draft of the new Penal Code (published in 1996) did not include "sexual orientation", "other group" or related terms to protect lesbians and gays.  Lithuanian Gay League responded to Parliament and Government institutions with non-discriminatory legislation campaign supported by mainstream media.

It is expected that the new Penal Code will be adopted by the Lithuanian Seimas (Parliament) this year.  Hopefully, the provisions to protect lesbians and gays will be passed although they might be opposed by the Conservative and Christian Democrat majority coalition.

Another Vice-Minister of Justice Rasa Budbergyte recently commented on same sex marriages.  She said, that Lithuanian society is not ready to accept same sex marriages.  A new draft of the Civil Code specifically bans same sex marriage by Article 3.12 of book 3 "Ban to marry for same sex persons".

"The majority of people in Lithuania are Roman Catholics and maintain antagonistic attitude towards homosexuality", she told BNS.