LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Vilnius 2007

In this section you will find all information related to our conference in Vilnius on 25-28 October 2007. The theme of this year's conference is “ LGBT Rights are Human Rights – Respect, Recognition and Responsibilities”

ILGA-Europe members gather for annual conference in Vilnius, but their public event is banned by Mayor

On 25-28 October 2007, almost 200 delegates from all over Europe gather in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius for the 11th ILGA-Europe’s Annual Conference. While the Conference goes ahead, the Rainbow Flag public event planned by the Lithuanian hosts during the conference was banned by the Mayor of Vilnius. A legal challenge of the ban has been already initiated.

ILGA-Europe’s Annual Conference is traditionally an opportunity for ILGA –Europe members to gather together to discuss the organisational priorities, strategies and tactics on advancing equality and human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Europe. The Annual Conference is also ILGA-Europe’s annual general meeting when new board members are elected and various organisational issues and documents are discussed and adopted. During this year’s conference the delegates will discuss ILGA-Europe’s strategic plan for 2008-2011.

During the conference’s workshops, plenary panels and sessions, a variety of subjects will be discussed: addressing the rights of LGBT people at the UN level, mental health needs of LGBT people, inclusion of trans issues in lobbying and advocacy work, reacting to religious right, making trade unions LGBT friendly, developing advocacy strategies, using video in monitoring LGBT human rights abuses, reconciling sexuality and spirituality, and many more topics.

Confirmed keynote speakers at the conference include:

  • Belinda Pyke, European Commission, Director, Equality between Men/Women, Action Against Discrimination, Civil Society; DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities,
  • Gesa Boeckermann, European Commission, Anti-Discrimination Unit of DG Employment, Equality and Social Affairs;
  • Anastasia Crickley, OSCE and Fundamental Rights Agency, Personal Representative on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, also focusing on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians and Members of Other Religions, and Chairperson of Fundamental Rights Agency;
  • Michael Cashman, MEP, European Parliament , Chairperson of European Parliament LGBT Inter Group;
  • Hans Ytterberg, The Ombudsman against Discrimination on grounds of Sexual Orientation, Sweden;
  • Laima Vengale, Advisor, Office of the Lithuanian Equal Opportunities Ombudsman;
  • Xavier Verdaguer i Ribe, Catalan Programme on LGBT equality;
  • Ben Baks, Dutch Government LGBT Programme;
  • Professor Michael O’ Flaherty, Rapporteur of Yogyakarta Principles Expert, United Nations.

Unfortunately, the public event to coincide with the Annual Conference and display a 30 meters long rainbow flag was once again banned by the Mayor of Vilnius. Instead the Rainbow Flag Reception inside the Conference hotel is taking place. Following speakers will address the reception:

  • Ausrine Marija Pavilioniene, MP;
  • Oskaras Jusys, Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
  • Michael Cashman, MEP;
  • Johan Tiedemann, Swedish State Secretary.

Deborah Lambillotte, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, said:

“We are appalled that an EU member states repeatedly violates the right to a free and peaceful assembly. We are glad that the Lithuanian Gay League has already initiated legal proceedings against the Vilnius City Council which did not authorised the Rainbow Flag event during our conference. We hope that our conference and our presence in Vilnius will attract international attention and pressure on the Mayor of Vilnius. Our message is simple and clear – LGBT people have the same right to express their views and concerns publicly, and as any other citizen of the European Union, to enjoy the rights guaranteed in the Lithuanian Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. We feel sorry that the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in a similar case does not mean much to the Mayor of Vilnius and that the court rooms will need to be used to get this message to him.

Despite this unfortunate development, we welcome all the participants to Vilnius and hope this is going to be yet another exciting, stimulating and fruitful conference. We particularly hope this conference will provide a great opportunity for the Lithuanian LGBT activists and Lithuanian authorities to improve their dialogue and understanding which will hopefully lead to further elimination of prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people.”

Lithuanian mayor bans gay rally

News item by BBC about the ban of the Rainbow Flag event by the Mayor of Vilnius and our conference in Vilnius. By Mathew Charles, BBC News, Vilnius (26/10/2007)

An annual gay rights conference in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, was attacked with smoke bombs, after a rally in the city was banned.

Over 200 gays, lesbians and transsexuals attended the meeting.

Delegates inside a local bar found it difficult to breathe after the smoke bombs were thrown, but had to stay inside because of safety concerns.

The event was to be part of a week of events organised by ILGA Europe, a gay rights group based in Brussels.

A press officer for Mayor Juozas Imbrasas told the BBC the public gathering had been banned because of what she said were "safety concerns" due to building works.

ILGA Europe rejected the mayor's decision saying no alternative site had been offered to them and described the ruling as appalling.

Executive Director Patricia Prendiville said "It is a positive duty of the city authorities to offer an alternative venue to the applicant and they did not do that. There is no doubt that the City of Vilnius used the construction works as a cover. "

Strasbourg option

Earlier this year a similar ban in Poland dating back to 2005 was found to be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Juris Lavrikos, communications officer for ILGA Europe said, "This ruling also applies to Lithuania. We're very sorry that the Mayor of Vilnius is apparently ignoring this. If we have to take this case to Strasbourg too, it will be a total of waste of Lithuanian tax-payers' money."

Many at the conference see this ban as further evidence of the Lithuanian administration's apparent lack of commitment to equality.

The publication of a recent study from the Vyutas Magnus University in the city of Kaunas, was halted by university officials. A Professor of Sociology in charge of the project said he was convinced this was because it contained four pages exploring homosexuality.

Vladimir Simonko from the Lithuanian Gay League said, "There is unfortunately institutional homophobia in Lithuania. A recent survey of MPs revealed the majority of them have a negative attitude towards the gay community. It's hard work for us."

Education law

The Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas, is currently debating proposed legislation that would ban what they call the "propagation of homosexuality" to minors. Such a move would ban literature or films in schools that were about homosexual relationships.

A representative from the European Commission said these proposals would be contradictory to EU anti-discrimination legislation, not to mention the values of the European Union.

But Rima Baskine, head of the Seimas Commission for Family and Child Affairs emphasised that the proposed law in no way contradicts anti-discrimination measures as the bill is not intended to incur on the tolerance of homosexual and bisexual relationships.

"They should just not be promoted," she maintained.
A vote on the proposals is expected before Christmas.