Lithuania’s controversial law to limit access by young people to information on homosexuality comes into force today, despite calls for its repeal.

The “Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information” originally prohibited the publication of “information which agitates for homosexual, bisexual and polygamous relations” in places, including schools, public spaces and media, which are accessible to persons under 18 years of age.

The law was amended following criticism by numerous human rights groups as well as the European Parliament, and direct references to the promotion of homosexuality were removed.

However, the law now defines information which “denigrates family values” or which “encourages a concept of marriage and family other than stipulated in the Constitution and the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania” as detrimental to children and bans this from being communicated to them.

As marriage is defined in Lithuanian law as the union of a man and a woman, any public promotion of same-sex partnerships, or advocacy for equality in marriage, would be prohibited under the new law.

“This law will violate freedom of expression and will directly discriminate against people on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said John Dalhuisen, an expert on discrimination at Amnesty International, which has called for the law to be further revised.

“It will stigmatise gay and lesbian people and exposes advocates for their rights to the risk of censorship and financial penalties. This law is an anachronism in the European Union,” he said.

In September last year, South Africa’s African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) praised the original version of the law.

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