Lithuanian religious leaders have formally opposed a Council of Europe Convention on domestic violence action because the convention includes lesbian, bisexual and trans women.
In a formal statement released on May 9, the Lithuanian Bishop’s Conference (LBC) said it is “concerned” about government plans to sign on to the Convention On Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence because the text contains what the LBC has deemed inappropriate language that categorizes gender as a “social construct” rather than “biological nature.”
The LBC says that, while it praises action on domestic violence, it is concerned in particular about Article 4 of the treaty which states that parties, countries signing on to the convention, are expected to take legislative action to ensure that they protect and promote the right of women to live free of violence, and without discrimination:
on any ground such as sex, gender, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, state of health, disability, marital status, migrant or refugee status, or other status.
The LBC notes that Lithuania does not cover sexual orientation and gender identity in its nondiscrimination laws. Indeed, Lithuania has made several attempts to all but criminalize LGBT identity by passing a homosexuality “propaganda” ban and moving to outlaw gender change medical interventions.
The LBC contends that Article 4 is vague and that it is not apparent how far those protections should extend.
The LBC also found room to disagree with Article 12, titled General Obligations, which sets out several courses of action participating nations must follow and states:
“Promote changes in the social and cultural patterns of behavior of women and men with a view to eradicating prejudices, customs, traditions and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority of women or on stereotyped roles for women and men.”
LBC believes that this paves the way for undermining so-called traditional notions of gender and creating new nondiscrimination provisions that Lithuania does not have.
However, it is Article 14 for which the LBC reserved its most colorful objections. Article 14, titled Education, states:
Parties shall take, where appropriate, the necessary steps to include teaching material on issues such as equality between women and men, non-stereotyped gender roles, mutual respect, non-violent conflict resolution in interpersonal relationships, gender-based violence against women and the right to personal integrity, adapted to the evolving capacity of learners, in formal curricula and at all levels of education.
The LBC says the inclusion of “non-stereotyped gender roles” is an “unfair obligation” because “among other things, [the provision could] also mean [the promotion of] homosexuality and transgenderism.”
The LBC concludes by saying that it urges against ratifying the Convention because it represents “ideological goals that are contrary to the nation’s identity.”
Up to a quarter of women in any given European or “developed” nation can be expected to have experienced some level of domestic violence and austerity throughout Europe appears to be making that problem worse. That lesbian, bisexual, trans and intersex women remain at a heightened risk of suffering violence, domestic assault and gross breaches of human rights in the form of so-called “corrective” rape also remains a great source of concern for many European states.
However, religious conservatives have frequently opposed all attempts at acting to stem this violence because, they say, to do so would be to force them to accept notions of sexuality and gender identity that are against their faith.
Sadly, this echoes many religious conservative voices in the United States who have frequently opposed LGBTI inclusion in domestic violence laws and violence against women legislation, notions that in the past have led to the abandoning of action in South Dekota and several other states.
This kind of prejudice was also apparent earlier this year when it came to Congress dallying over whether to pass the Violence Against Women Act, which every year until now had been stripped of its lesbian, bisexual and transgender women-inclusive language.
Fortunately, however, opposition was not enough to prevent the law, complete with its LBT provisions, from passing this year.
It remains a sad trend, however, that the Religious Right throughout Europe and much of the world is prepared to sacrifice protecting women so that it can further its anti-LGBT agenda.
Image credit: Thinkstock.