Strasbourg condemns Lithuania for stopping the publication of a children's storybook with LGTBI characters and labeling it harmful
El European Court of Human Rights has considered that labeling a children's book as harmful just because it contains content LGTBI violates freedom of expression, in an unprecedented sentence that responds to a lawsuit opened in Lithuania but that sets a precedent for all the countries integrated under the umbrella of the aforementioned court.
The facts date back to the end of 2013, when a university published a book by the author Neringa Dangvyde Macate, now deceased. The work, which was partially financed by the Ministry of Culture Aimed at children aged nine to ten, it adapted traditional fairy tales to include characters from different ethnic groups or intellectual disabilities with the aim of addressing issues such as stigma, bullying, divorced families or emigration. In addition, two of the six stories recounted same-sex relationships and marriages.
The publication led to complaints to the Ministry and the University, alleging for example that the book “encouraged perversion". The ethics inspection concluded that the text could be “harmful" for children under 14, so when distribution of the book resumed, it was done with a label warning of the content.
After a series of internal lawsuits, the controversy was raised in 2019 to the Strasbourg ECtHR, which finally concluded that the Lithuanian authorities contravened the article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, related to freedom of expression, and limited the access of minors to some stories that were limited to putting marriage between people of the same sex as “equivalent" to heterosexual union.
Preference for certain types of families
For the judges, the restrictions that were applied against the book, which limited its distribution, sought "limit children's access to information that describes same-sex relationships as essentially equivalent to relationships between different-sex couples”. And it "has broad social implications”, they warn in their ruling. In this, they also say "firmly" convinced that restrictive measures such as those adopted by Lithuania with the book of Macate "demonstrate that the authorities have a preference for certain types of relationships and families over others, and that they see relationships between different sexes as more socially acceptable and valuable than those of the same sex, thus contributing to the continued stigmatization of the latter".
The judges do not consider that the text was "sexually explicit” nor that, as he argued Government, a certain type of marriages was being promoted. “On the contrary, the stories advocated for the respect and acceptance of all members of society in a fundamental aspect of their lives., reads the final opinion.
Therefore, lithuanian state has been sentenced to pay $12.000 to the plaintiff's mother for damages, as well as to pay other 5.000 euros for the costs of the process. He ECHR, based in Strasbourg, is independent of the European Union and is responsible for providing a judicial response to violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.